Brown v. Thomas et al
OPINION AND ORDER. Signed by Honorable Timothy L. Brooks on February 12, 2016. (rg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 5:15-CV-05302
TYLER THOMAS, Mountain Man
Pawn; BUTCH THOMAS, Mountain
Man Pawn; and CLINT GOBER,
Mountain Man Pawn
OPINION AND ORDER
This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff Justin Brown . Plaintiff is proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis (IFP) . The Court has conducted a pre-service screening of the
Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), which provides statutory authority for the
pre-service screening of any case in which an individual has sought leave to proceed IFP.
According to the allegations of the Compla int, on November 2, 2015, Plaintiff was
at Mountain Man Pawn in Fayetteville , Arkansas , when he was falsely accused of stealing .
Plaintiff alleges he was approached by Tyler Thomas and a couple of other unidentified
men . Plaintiff alleges he ran because he did not know who the men were and whether they
were a threat.
Prior to exiting the store , Plaintiff alleges he was grabbed and/or tackled from behind
by Tyler Thomas, choked by Clint Gober and a couple of other men, and struck on the
temple and in the ribs . Plaintiff was handcuffed by Butch Thomas.
physical force continued to be used against him although he was handcuffed and not
resisting . Plaintiff maintains Butch Thomas appl ied the handcuffs too tightly causing the
circulation to be cut off and bruising around his right wrist bone . The Fayetteville Police
Department was called . Plaintiff does not allege if any charges were brought against him.
Plaintiff has sued each Defendant in his personal capacity only. As relief, Plaintiff
seeks compensatory damages.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), the Court is obligated to screen the
case prior to service of process being issued . The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any
portion of it, if it contains claims that: (a) are frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted ; or (c) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C . § 1915A(b).
A claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. " Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319 , 325 (1989) . A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face." Bell At/. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 , 570 (2007) .
"In evaluating whether a prose plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim,
we hold 'a prose complaint, however inartfully pleaded , ... to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. '" Jackson v. Nixon , 747 F.3d 537 , 541 (8th Cir.
2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89 , 94 (2007)) .
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction . See e.g., Godfrey v. Pulitzer Publ'g
Co., 161F.3d1137 , 1141 (SthCir. 1998). Generally, thefederaldistrictcourtsmayonly
exercise jurisdiction over cases in which diversity of citizenship exists and the requisite
amount in controversy is involved and those cases in which a federal question is
presented; that is, those cases involving violations of federal constitutional or statutory law.
See e.g. , Sw. Bell Tel. Co. v. Connect Commc 'ns Corp., 225 F.3d 942 , 945 (8th Cir. 2000) .
"The requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter 'spring[s] from the
nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States' and is 'inflexible and without
exception ."' Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83 (1998) (quoting Mansfield,
C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379 , 382 (1884)) (alteration in original)) . If it appears
that jurisdiction is lacking , the Court will raise the issue sua sponte. Dieser v. Cont'/ Gas.
Co., 440 F.3d 920 , 923 (8th Cir. 2006) .
Diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 exists if there is complete diversity
of citizenship and the amount in controversy is more than $75 ,000.
Servicing of Ark. v. Mcginnis , 526 F.3d 1170, 1172 (8th Cir. 2008) . In this case, both the
Plaintiff and Defendants are citizens of the State of Arkansas .
The only other basis of federal court jurisdiction apparent from the complaint arises
from 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for the
deprivation , under color of law, of a citizen 's "righ ts, privileges , or immunities secured by
the Constitution and laws" of the United States. In order to state a claim under§ 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that the defendant acted under color of state law and that he violated
a right secured by the Constitution . West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988); Dunham v.
Wadley, 195 F.3d 1007, 1009 (8th Cir. 1999). The deprivation must be intentional; mere
negligence will not suffice to state a claim for dep rivation of a constitutional right under
§ 1983. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986) ; Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344
While there are limited circumstances in which a private party may be considered
to be a state actor, Plaintiff has not alleged the Defendants conspired with the State and
its agents or that these Defendants willfully participated in joint activity with the State and
its agents. See e.g. , Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970) . "[A] private
party's mere invocation of state legal procedures does not constitute state action."
Youngblood v. Hy-Vee Food Stores, Inc., 226 F.3d 851 , 855 (8th Cir. 2001) (store
employee, who was not employed by the police department, was not a state actor when
employee reported suspected shoplifting and detained the shoplifter until police arrived)
(citing Lugarv. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922 , 939 n.21 (1982)) .
Similarly, a private individual who comp lain s of criminal conduct and is a witness for
the prosecution does not act under color of law. See e.g., Grow v. Fisher, 523 F.2d 875,
879 (7th Cir. 1975) ("The mere fact that the ind ividua l defendants were complainants and
witnesses in an action which itself was prosecuted under color of law does not make their
complaining or testifying other than what it was , i.e., the action of private persons not acting
under color of law.") ; Rodgers v. Lincoln To wing Serv., Inc., 596 F. Supp. 13, 21 (N .D. Ill.
1984), aff'd, 771F .2d194 (7th Cir. 1985) (private citizen does not act under color of law
when reporting a crime) . It is clear Defendants cannot be sued under§ 1983 because they
are private citizens who did not act under colo r of State law. No other basis for federal
court jurisdiction is apparent from the Compla in t.
For the reasons stated , IT IS ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE , as the claims are frivolous and/or the Court does not have jurisdiction over
the claims. A separate judgment will be e~ed this same day.
IT IS SO ORDERED on
this ~ day of February, 20
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