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Stewart v. Shelby County

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

August 13, 2019

SHELBY COUNTY, ET AL., Defendants.



         On July 27, 2018, Plaintiff Adrian Stewart, who is incarcerated at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center in Memphis, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court issued an order on August 2, 2019, granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Shelby County, [1] the City of Memphis, Sergeant F. Frias of the Memphis Police Department (MPD), and Amy Weirich, the Shelby County District Attorney.[2]

         Stewart's complaint generally asserts claims of false arrest and false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, conspiracy, and various state-law claims. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 1.) His claims are based on a March 2017 interrogation-during which he alleges Defendant Frias did not allow him to speak with an attorney or his family and held him for sixteen hours-and his arrest earlier the same month. (Id. at PageID 3-7.) Stewart alleges that Frias “presented deliberate false hoods [sic] to the tribunal” in a statement of probable cause, which Stewart says incorrectly stated that he had been identified by a witness as a participant in the alleged crimes. (Id. at PageID 6.) Stewart challenges the identification procedure as “impermissably [sic] suggestive.” (Id.)

         Stewart also challenges evidence used to identify and convict him in a 2014 case. (Id. at PageID at 7-8.) He alleges that he was misidentified because of “police department's policy and procedure that's intentionally designed to prejudice the accused or suspect.” (Id. at PageID 8.) He alleges that Defendant Weirich conspired with “other unnamed defendants” to violate his civil rights because of his race. (Id. at PageID 8.) Stewart contends that Weirich knew that her subordinates intended to discriminate against him and other unnamed persons but failed to stop it from happening. (Id. at PageID 9.)

         Stewart also takes issues with his indictment, alleging that he was indicted using a “Rubber-Stamp Procedure” to falsify the grand jury foreperson's signature and use the name of someone who “doesn't posess [sic] all qualifications of a juror.” (Id.) He alleges that Defendant Weirich has in some way “influenced the decision of the ‘Grand Jury,' [and] and [sic] the ‘Grand Jury Foreman' in returning true bill indictments.” (Id. at PageID 10.) Stewart further alleges that unnamed “Criminal Court judges all participate and affirm these civil rights violations . . . [and] condone and acknowledge this violative procedure.” (Id. at Page ID 11.)

         Stewart further alleges that the MPD “has a policy and procedure of arresting the accused for further investigation without probable cause” and that Defendant Weirich “sanctioned and condoned” this policy. (Id. at PageID 12.) He alleges that the MPD had a defamatory article published in a local newspaper that falsely stated Stewart was identified as the person responsible for crimes that he alleges he did not commit. (Id. at PageID 13.) According to Stewart, these false reports have left him “financially ruined.” (Id. at PageID 14.)

         Stewart sues Defendant Weirich in her official and individual capacities. (Id. at PageID 2.) He does not specify the capacity in which he sues the other Defendants. Stewart seeks a declaratory judgment, a permanent injunction and order compelling Defendant Weirich and the MPD to cease the practice of detaining and questioning individuals without probable cause merely for the purpose of investigation, and compelling Weirich and the MPD to cease their alleged “Rubber Stamp” and racial-profiling policies. (Id. at PageID 16-18.) He further seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at PageID 17-18.)

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court accepts the complaint's “well-pleaded” factual allegations as true and then determines whether the allegations “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). Conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” and legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), Rule 8 nevertheless requires factual allegations to make a “‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 612, 613 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'” (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975))).

         Stewart filed his complaint pursuant to various statutes, including 42 U.S.C. ...

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