United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division
May 19, 2015
JAMES ALANDIES LILLARD, Plaintiff,
MARK CAMPBELL, SIOUX CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, HEATHER ALBRECHT, JASON FLECKENSTEIN, BRUCE HOKEL, MULLER, Defendants.
MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.
This matter is before the court on the plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (docket no. 2). The plaintiff filed such application on December 3, 2014. Prior to submitting his application to proceed in forma pauperis, the plaintiff submitted a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (docket no. 1), which the clerk's office filed on November 26, 2014.
I. IN FORMA PAUPERIS UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1915
Based on the plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis, the court concludes that the plaintiff is indigent. Thus, in forma pauperis status shall be granted to the plaintiff. See generally 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Because the plaintiff already paid the required $400.00 filing fee, there is no need for the plaintiff to make payments on an installment basis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); see also In re Tyler, 110 F.3d 528, 529-30 (8th Cir. 1997) ("[T]he [Prisoner Litigation Reform Act] makes prisoners responsible for their filing fees the moment the prisoner brings a civil action or files an appeal.").
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A pro se complaint must be liberally construed. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Smith v. St. Bernards Reg'l Med. Ctr., 19 F.3d 1254, 1255 (8th Cir. 1994). In addition, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless, they must be weighed in favor of the plaintiff. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). A court, however, can dismiss at any time a complaint filed in forma pauperis if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). A claim is "frivolous" if it "lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); accord Cokeley v. Endell, 27 F.3d 331, 332 (8th Cir. 1994). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Accordingly, a court may review the complaint and dismiss sua sponte those claims that fail "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level....'", see Parkhurst v. Tabor, 569 F.3d 861, 865 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555), or that are premised on meritless legal theories or clearly lack any factual basis, see Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. See, e.g., Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. at 27 (considering frivolousness); Myers v. Vogal, 960 F.2d 750, 751 (8th Cir. 1992) (concluding that a district court may dismiss an action if an affirmative defense exists).
III. CLAIM ASSERTED
Currently confined at the Woodbury County Jail in Sioux City, Iowa, the plaintiff, proceeding pro se, submitted a complaint to redress issues that are related to his arrest and confinement. Jurisdiction is predicated on 28 U.S.C. § 1343. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), venue appears to be proper as the events giving rise to the instant action occurred in this district and the defendants are located in this district.
The statement of claim portion of the complaint is as follows:
[Officers of the Sioux City Police Department, that is, Heather Albrecht, Jason Fleckenstein, Bruce Hokel and Muller, ] on or about March 14, 2008, arrested and charged me with attempted murder. I was wrongfully imprisoned from [March 14, 2008 to July 15, 2008]. I lost my job, place of residence and [the ability to be with] my wife, and kids and family. I have a new case that I'm currently fighting in the Northern District of Iowa and Officer Heather Albrecht of the Sioux City Police Department is still... harassing [me] and slandering my name [by] bringing up that case in court, even though I was acquitted of all charges. She is violating my 6th Amendment.
As relief, the plaintiff states that he wants: (1) monetary compensation for pain and suffering that he experienced as a result of losing his job and place of residence and for false imprisonment from March 14, 2008 to July 15, 2008, and (2) Heather Albrecht to be suspended and/or fired.
A. Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides, in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress...
42 U.S.C. § 1983 was designed to provide a "broad remedy for violations of federally protected civil rights." Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 685 (1978). However, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides no substantive rights. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994); Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989); Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 617 (1979). "One cannot go into court and claim a violation of [42 U.S.C.] § 1983' - for [42 U.S.C.] § 1983 by itself does not protect anyone against anything." Chapman, 441 U.S. at 617. Rather, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a remedy for violations of all "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws [of the United States]." 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also Albright, 510 U.S. at 271 (42 U.S.C. § 1983 "merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred."); Graham, 490 U.S. at 393-94 (same); Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 4 (1980) ("Constitution and laws" means 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides remedies for violations of rights created by federal statute, as well as those created by the Constitution.). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish: (1) the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) the alleged deprivation of that right was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
B. Plaintiff's Claims
Given the facts that are alleged in the complaint, the court concludes that the plaintiff's assertions do not give rise to a viable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The applicable statute of limitations is the period governing personal injury actions. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276-80 (1985); see also City of Rancho Palos Verdes v. Abrams, 544 U.S. 113, 123 n.5 (2005) (reaffirming that the statute of limitations for a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim is generally the applicable state-law period for personal-injury torts); Wycoff v. Menke, 773 F.2d 983, 984-87 (8th Cir. 1985) (finding it appropriate to apply Iowa's personal injury statute of limitations to actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). In Iowa, the statute of limitations for personal injury actions is two years after accrual. Iowa Code § 614.1(2). While Iowa's statute of limitations for personal injury tort claims determines the length of the statute of limitations for a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, "federal rules conforming in general to common-law tort principles" govern when the cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007).A cause of action accrues "when the plaintiff has a complete and present cause of action, '... that is, when the plaintiff can file suit and obtain relief.'" Id. (quoting Bay Area Laundry & Dry Cleaning Pension Trust Fund v. Ferbar Corp. of Cal., 522 U.S. 192, 201 (1997)). In Wallace, the Supreme Court found:
"Under the traditional ruleof accrual... the tort cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitations commences to run, when the wrongful act or omission results in damages. The cause of action accrues even though the full extent of the injury is not then known or predictable." 1 C. Corman, Limitation of Actions § 7.4.1, pp. 526-527 (1991) (footnote omitted); see also 54 C.J.S., Limitations of Actions § 112, p. 150 (2005).
Id. at 391 (alteration in original).So, under federal law, a cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the harm. See Hall v. Elrod, 399 F.Appx. 136, 137 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Eidson v. State of Tenn. Dept. of Children's Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 635 (6th Cir. 2007), for the proposition that a cause of action accrues when the plaintiffknows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action); cf. Richmond v. Clinton Cnty., 338 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (discussing accrual rule under state law). The plaintiff did not file the instant complaint in a timely manner. The plaintiff alleges that he sustained an injury in 2008, but he waited until November of 2014 to file his civil rights action. Accordingly, the applicable statute of limitations bars the plaintiff's claims. See White v. Kautzky, 494 F.3d 677, 681 (8th Cir. 2007) (applying Iowa's two-year statute of limitation); Myers, 960 F.2d at 751 (concluding that a district court may dismiss an action if an affirmative defense exists, that is, the applicable statute of limitations has run).
Further, to the extent that the plaintiff is complaining about events that are related to United States v. Lillard, Case No. 5:14-cr-04071-DEO (N.D. Iowa 201_), the plaintiff's allegations fail as a matter of law. Nothing prevents law enforcement from inquiring into and relying on an individual's past, and, when litigating new criminal charges, circumstances sometimes require the parties to cite to and rely on prior convictions, charged conduct, dismissed charges and/or acquitted conduct. And, monetary damages in relation to the plaintiff's current confinement are unavailable because nothing indicates that the plaintiff is being unlawfully detained. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (clarifying that a cause of action for damages does not arise until "the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by an authorized state tribunal..., or called into question by the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus").
Additionally, the plaintiff did not assert that he was suing the defendants in their individual capacities. Consequently, the plaintiff only sued the defendants in their official capacities. See Alexander v. Hedback, 718 F.3d 762, 766 n.4 (8th Cir. 2013) (noting that it is assumed that a plaintiff is suing a defendant only in his or her official capacity if a plaintiff does not expressly and unambiguously state that a defendant is being sued in his or her individual capacity). The plaintiff, however, does not assert that the alleged conduct occurred pursuant to an unconstitutional policy or as a result of a failure to properly supervise or train an employee. Given his assertions, the plaintiff's action is subject to dismissal. See id. at 766-67 (determining that plaintiff failed to set forth sufficient facts to show a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation).
Finally, to the extent that the plaintiff is attempting to assert state-law claims, the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. See Brown v. Peterson, 156 F.Appx. 870, 871 (8th Cir. 2005) (concluding decision to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state-law claim is discretionary); see also McLaurin v. Prater, 30 F.3d 982, 985 (8th Cir. 1994) (indicating subsection (c) of 28 U.S.C. § 1367 clearly gives a court discretion to reject jurisdiction over supplemental claims).
In light of the foregoing, the plaintiff's complaint shall be dismissed as frivolous or for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because the court deems it appropriate to dismiss the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and/or 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), the dismissal of this action shall count against the plaintiff for purposes of the three-dismissal rule set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:
(1) The plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis status (docket no. 2) is granted.
(2) The plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and/or 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
(3) The clerk's office is directed to enter judgment in favor of the defendants.
(4) The dismissal of the instant action counts against the plaintiff for purposes of the three-dismissal rule set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).