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Kellogg v. Chattanooga Police Department

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

September 20, 2019

PATRICK KELLOGG, Plaintiff,
v.
CHATTANOOGA POLICE DEPARTMENT, And AFTON YATES, Chattanooga Police Officer, in her official capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Plaintiff Patrick Kellogg, acting pro se, brings this action against the Chattanooga Police Department and Officer Afton Yates alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution arising from his arrest on August 17, 2016.

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), stating the statute of limitations has expired on Kellogg’s false arrest and false imprisonment claims. In addition, the existence of probable cause defeats Kellogg’s malicious prosecution claim. Finally, the City asserts it cannot be held liable based on respondeat superior. Defendants’ arguments have merit and for the reasons stated, defendants’ motion will be granted and this action dismissed.

         I. Background

         Kellogg filed his initial Complaint on July 12, 2018. After an initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Magistrate Judge found the Complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted and ordered Kellogg to file an amended complaint to include specific dates, material allegations, and requests for relief. Kellogg filed an Amended Complaint on September 7, 2018.

         The Amended Complaint is sparse on facts and merely recites the elements of each cause of action. Kellogg states that he was arrested on August 17, 2016, at Ross Landing in Hamilton County. He had an initial appearance on August 22, 2016, and the case was bound over by the magistrate. A probable cause hearing was held on May 23, 2017. The case was ultimately dismissed on October 18, 2017. Kellogg alleges he was wrongfully arrested, wrongfully detained, and there was a wrongful institution of legal process against him.

         II. Standard of Review

         Generally, complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs are liberally construed; however, in a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must still consider the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Powell v. Denton, 2010 WL 1491550 at *2 (E.D.Tenn. Apr. 12, 2010). Under the standard articulated by the United States Supreme Court, courts are to engage in a two-step process when considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Id.

         First, the court separates the complaint’s factual allegations from its legal conclusions. All factual allegations, and only the factual allegations, are taken as true. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Second, the court asks whether these factual allegations amount to a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 555. The allegations do not need to be highly detailed, but they must do more than simply recite the elements of the offense. Id. Specifically, the complaint must plead facts permitting a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged conduct. Id. If this is not done, the claim will be dismissed. Id. at 570.

         While a pro se plaintiff’s complaint is liberally construed in determining whether it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, lenient treatment generally accorded to pro se litigants has limits. Walker v. Corwell, 2017 WL 663093 at *3 (E.D.Tenn. Feb. 15, 2017). The federal courts do not abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se actions. Id. For instance, federal pleading standards do not permit pro se litigants to proceed on pleadings that are not readily comprehensible. Id. Complaints containing “vague and conclusory allegations” unsupported by material facts are subject to dismissal. Becker v. Ohio State Legal Servs Ass’n, 19 Fed.Appx. 321, 322 (6th Cir. 2001).

         III. Discussion

         A. Chattanooga Police Department

         Because the Chattanooga Police Department is not a suable entity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but is a subdivision of the City of Chattanooga, it will be dismissed from this action. See Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994) (a police department is not an entity which can be sued under § 1983). Accordingly, the Chattanooga Police Department is DISMISSED as a defendant, and the City of Chattanooga will be submitted in its place.

         B. Afton Yates

         Afton Yates is sued in her official capacity as a Chattanooga Police Officer. An “official capacity” claim is in all respects treated as a suit against the City of Chattanooga. See Kentucky v. Graham,473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). Accordingly, Afton Yates is DISMI ...


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