Cochran v. Wichita, Kansas, City of et al
ORDER. Plaintiff must file an amended complaint no later than October 25, 2017. See Order for details. Signed by Magistrate Judge Gwynne E. Birzer on 8/23/17. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Civil Complaint form)(sj)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
MICHAEL T. COCHRAN,
CITY OF WICHITA, KANSAS, et al.,
Case No. 17-1127-EFM-GEB
ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF
TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT
Simultaneous with the filing of this order, the Court granted Plaintiff’s request to
proceed in this case without prepayment of the filing fee. (Order, ECF No. 6.) However,
the authority to proceed without payment of fees is not without limitation.
reviewing an in forma pauperis application under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, sua sponte dismissal
of the case is required if the court determines that the action 1) is frivolous or malicious,
2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or 3) seeks relief from a
defendant who is immune from suit.1 Furthermore, “[i]f the court determines at any time
that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”2
application of these standards, Plaintiff is ordered to file an amended complaint to avoid a
recommendation of dismissal for the reasons set forth below.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)–(iii).
King v. Huffman, No. 10-4152-JAR, 2010 WL 5463061, at *1 (D. Kan. Dec. 29, 2010) (citing
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3)) (emphasis added).
Plaintiff Michael T. Cochran describes himself as homeless, and contends he is in
Wichita, Kansas, under duress. Although he does not describe himself as a resident of
Wichita or the State of Kansas, he admits having been in Kansas since August 2015.
In August 2015, Plaintiff set up a tent with his belongings on top of a hill in northcentral Wichita. After remaining in that location for six or seven months, he returned
from a temporary work assignment to find his belongings largely missing, save some
broken tent stakes and rope. Plaintiff was forced to find shelter at a local “over-flow
winter shelter.” (ECF No. 1 at 10). Since being involuntarily removed from the location,
Plaintiff asserts his civil rights have been violated in a myriad of vague ways by the
Plaintiff names a total of 51 defendants in his 153-page Complaint, including: the
City of Wichita, the Wichita City Council, City mayor and City Manager (Defs. 1-9)4;
three members of the City of Wichita’s City Prosecutor’s office (Defs. 10-12); multiple
members of the Wichita Police Department (Defs. 13-26, 32-33); five City of Wichita
Municipal Court Judges (Defs. 27-31); multiple members of the Wichita local media,
including KAKE News, the Wichita Eagle newspaper, and KWCH News (Defs. 34-40,
44-45); members of the Meads Neighborhood Association (Defs. 41-42); Kansas State
Unless otherwise indicated, the facts recited in this section are taken from Plaintiff’s Complaint
(ECF No. 1).
The defendants are assigned numbers, for the purpose of clarity, in the order in which they
appear in Plaintiff’s Complaint (ECF No. 1), beginning with the City of Wichita (ECF No.1, at
¶I.B) as well as the order they currently appear on the Court’s electronic case filing system.
Representative Jim Ward (Def. 43); Inter-Faith Ministries/Catholic Charities (Def. 46);
and five individuals bearing some relationship to Inter-Faith Ministries (Defs. 47-51).
Plaintiff’s specific claims against each individual defendant are unclear, as
discussed below. As for his request for relief, in the final pages of his Complaint, he asks
that the City ordinances named in the Complaint be repealed; that the Wichita Police
Department be restrained from enforcing the ordinances; that the City defendants be
ordered to remove all “propaganda”; that criminal charges against the defendants be
referred to the United States Attorney’s office; and he seeks multiple categories of
After review of the Complaint filed by Mr. Cochran, this Court finds the
document, on its face, does not comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8 requires a Complaint to contain:
1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction
2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief; and
3) a demand for the relief sought.5
Rule 8 requires a plaintiff to state his claims “with brevity, conciseness, and clarity.”6
The complaint itself has two primary purposes: 1) to give the opposing parties fair notice
of the basis for the claims against them so that they may respond, and 2) to allow the
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3) (emphasis added).
Green v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., No. 15-1288-EFM-KGG, 2016 WL 913151, at *2 (D. Kan.
Mar. 9, 2016) (emphasis in original) (citing 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1215, 165 (3d ed. 2004)).
court to determine whether the allegations, if proven, demonstrate the plaintiff is entitled
But Plaintiff’s Complaint is neither brief nor concise. He clearly names and
numbers the defendants in Section I of his Complaint, and in Section II, his jurisdictional
statement is straightforward. He asserts the federal court has original jurisdiction of his
claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331—because he claims the case arises under the Constitution
and laws of the United States; and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)—because he seeks damages
resulting from violations of his civil or equal rights. But the lack of clarity in his
Statement of Claims, found in Section III of the Complaint, makes it impossible for the
Court to assess whether it truly has jurisdiction over (in other words, power to hear)
Plaintiff’s Statement of Claims spans approximately 145 pages and is, at best,
difficult to decipher. Included are portions of city ordinances, multiple links and excerpts
from online media articles, and Wichita Police Department policies; all interspersed with
paragraphs outlining dates and events. He also includes a nearly 70-page section entitled
“Criminal Charges” (ECF No. 1, at p. 78) which consists of a number of federal criminal
statutes outlining what he perceives as the defendants’ criminal deprivation of his rights,
obstruction of justice, conspiracy, retaliation against him as a witness (ECF No. 1, at pp.
79, 94, 101, 109, 125, 130, 141). However, as a private citizen, Plaintiff has no authority
Monument Builders of Greater Kansas City, Inc. v. Am. Cemetery Assn. of Kansas, 891 F.2d
1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989).
to bring a criminal case.8 With regard to his claims of violations of his civil or equal
rights, it is not at all clear which specific claims Plaintiff is asserting against which
named defendants, and what alleged conduct gives rise to each claim.
A party is not required to provide all evidence supporting his claims in his
Complaint; he must only provide a short and plain statement, which provides notice to
the defendants of the claims they must defend.9 But the sheer length of Plaintiff’s
Complaint makes it unintelligible “by scattering and concealing in a morass of
irrelevancies the few allegations that matter.”10 Defendants are “prejudiced by having to
respond to pleadings as wordy and unwieldy”11 as Plaintiff’s Complaint is, in its current
form. And it is simply “not the district court’s job to stitch together cognizable claims for
relief”12 from a pro se plaintiff’s deficient pleading.
Rather than recommending his claims for dismissal, however, the Court extends
latitude to Plaintiff as a pro se litigant, and will permit Plaintiff the opportunity to amend
his Complaint to fully comply with Rule 8. Plaintiff must conform his amendment to the
Noel v. Elliot, No. 12-3116-SAC, 2012 WL 2120761, at *1 (D. Kan. June 12, 2012) (“As a
private citizen, plaintiff simply has no authority to prosecute criminal charges.”) (citing Andrews
v. Heaton, 483 F.3d 1070, 1076 (10th Cir. 2007) and Mamer v. Collie Club of America, Inc., 229
F.3d 1164, *2 (Table)(10th Cir. 2000)(“private citizens cannot prosecute criminal actions”)).
See Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1148 (10th Cir. 2007) (noting “Rule 8 serves the
important purpose of requiring plaintiffs to state their claims intelligibly so as to inform the
defendants of the legal claims being asserted. Something labeled a complaint but written more
as a press release, prolix in evidentiary detail, yet without simplicity, conciseness and clarity as
to whom plaintiffs are suing for what wrongs, fails to perform the essential functions of a
complaint.”)(citing McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 1996)).
Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, at Arapahoe Cty. Justice Ctr., 492 F.3d 1158,
1162–63 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing Mann v. Boatwright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1148 (10th Cir. 2007);
Knox v. First Sec. Bank of Utah, 196 F.2d 112, 117 (10th Cir. 1952)).
Mann, 477 F.3d at 1148.
“short and plain” statement required under Rule 8, meaning his amended complaint must
do the following:
specifically explain what each named defendant did to him;
when each defendant did it;
how each defendant’s action harmed him; and,
what specific legal right Plaintiff believes each defendant violated.13
A suggested form of Civil Complaint is attached hereto as an Exhibit to this Order, and is
available electronically at http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/forms/?f=2#item_2.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that by no later than October 25, 2017,
Plaintiff must file an amended complaint that complies with the pleading requirements of
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 as discussed in this Order.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, although Plaintiff will be notified of this
Order through the Court’s electronic filing system, a paper copy of the Order will also be
available for Plaintiff to retrieve from the clerk’s office on August 25, 2017.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated at Wichita, Kansas this 23rd day of August 2017.
s/ Gwynne E. Birzer
GWYNNE E. BIRZER
United States Magistrate Judge
Id. at 1163.
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