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Sarah Courtney Center v. Chiafos

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

June 4, 2019

SARAH COURTNEY CENTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CARMELA DARRAH CHIAFOS, SGT. JEFF HARTWIG, NICOLE HOTZ, BRIAN FINK, UNNAMED OFFICER, and LINN COUNTY DISTRICT COURT, Defendants. SARAH COURTNEY CENTER, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDGE Y JONES, JUDGE JON HAMMOND, JUDGE PATRICK GRADY, LINN COUNTY DISTRICT COURT, MARION IOWA POLICE DEPARTMENT, NICOLE HOTZ, BRIAN FINK, and DARRAH'S TOWING. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          C.J. WILLIAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on two pro se cases filed by plaintiff Sarah Center. In the first case, 19-CV-0023 CJW, filed January 8, 2019, plaintiff alleges various constitutional violations and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act arising out of an arrest for a traffic violation and the ensuing state court cases. (19-CV-0023 CJW, Doc. 1-1 at 4-5). In the second case, 19-CV-0060 CJW, plaintiff made the same allegations, but included grievances based upon later rulings in the state court cases.[1](19-CV-0060 CJW, Doc. 1-2 at 4-5). Plaintiff also filed motions to proceed in forma pauperis in both cases. (19-CV-0023 CJW, Doc. 1 and 19-CV-0060 CJW, Doc. 1). Finally, plaintiff filed a supplement in the first case. (19-CV-0023 CJW, Doc. 3).[2]

         I. MOTIONS TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

         Plaintiff did not pay the two $400 filing fees and has instead filed the two motions to proceed in forma pauperis referenced above.[3] In order for a court to authorize the commencement of an action without the prepayment of the filing fee, a person must submit an affidavit that includes a statement of all the assets the person possesses. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Additionally, “[s]uch affidavit shall state the nature of the action, defense or appeal and affiant's belief that the person is entitled to redress.” Id. In her filings, plaintiff states she is homeless and has no income. Accordingly, her motions to proceed in forma pauperis (19-CV-0023 CJW, Doc. 1 and 19-CV-0060 CJW, Doc. 1) are granted. The clerk's office is directed to file the two complaints (19-CV-0023 CJW, Doc. 1-1 and 19-CV-0060 CJW, Doc. 1-2) without the prepayment of fees.

         II. INITIAL REVIEW STANDARD

         There is some debate about a court's ability to dismiss, preservice, a meritless case filed by a non-prisoner who is granted in forma pauperis status. When a court allows a prisoner to proceed in forma pauperis, there is clear statutory authorization to conduct an “initial review” to see whether the claim is viable. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Neither § 1915 nor § 1915A explicitly authorizes the court to conduct an initial review in non-prisoner cases. Johnson v. Bloomington Police, 193 F.Supp.3d 1020, 1023 (D. Minn. 2016) (citing Porter v. Fox, 99 F.3d 271, 273 (8th Cir. 1996)). However, courts generally agree that even in the case of a non-prisoner, a court may dismiss a filing if it is clearly frivolous. Id. Frivolousness is higher standard than mere failure to state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. “[A] complaint, containing as it does both factual allegations and legal conclusions, is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Additionally, § 1915 states that a court may dismiss, at any time, an in forma pauperis case that fails to state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Benter v. Iowa, Dep't of Transp., 221 Fed. App'x 471 (8th Cir. 2007) (unpublished). Accordingly, many courts rely § 1915(e)(2) to dismiss, preservice, in forma pauperis complaints that clearly fail to state a claim.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff's Claims

         The claims made by plaintiff in 19-CV-0023 CJW, Doc. No. 1-1 seem to be as follows[4]: 1) defendant Darrah's Towing towed plaintiff's car; 2) the police department defendants towed plaintiff's car; 3) the police department defendants committed crimes “because I'm deaf;” 4) the police department defendants gave plaintiff traffic citations; 5) the police department defendants threatened to use a taser on plaintiff; 6) the Linn County District Court failed to give plaintiff notice of hearings; and 7) the Linn County District Court took away plaintiff's driver's license.

         The claims made by plaintiff in 19-CV-0060 CJW, Doc. No. 1-1 seem to be as follows: 1) The police department defendants are being “brutal” to the plaintiff because she is deaf; 2) the police department defendants committed ‘false arrest' against plaintiff; Judge Hammond ruled against plaintiff in state court; 3) Judge Jones also ruled against plaintiff; 4) both Judges “ignored the fact that [plaintiff] is deaf” and committed a “hate crime”; and 5) the police department defendants lied in court and intimidated the plaintiff.[5]

         Finally, the overarching thread in both of plaintiff's complaints is that the Iowa state courts are violating her rights in ongoing litigation related to traffic offenses.

         B. Standards

         1. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Section 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 . . .

Section 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. See 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. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         2. Americans With Disabilities Act

         The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers and others dealing with the public to provide accommodations to those with certain disabilities. To state:

a prima facie claim under the ADA, a plaintiff must show: 1) [they are] a person with a disability as defined by statute; 2) [they are] otherwise qualified for the benefit in question; and 3) [they were] excluded from the benefit due to discrimination based upon disability. See 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.; see also Gorman, 152 F.3d at 911-12; Doe v. University of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 50 F.3d 1261, 1265 (4th Cir. 1995).

Randolph v. Rodgers, 170 F.3d 850, 858 (8th Cir. 1999).

         C. ...


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