Young v. Lansing Police Department et al
OPINION; Order to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:17-cv-641
Honorable Janet T. Neff
LANSING POLICE DEPARTMENT et al.,
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, PUB. L. NO. 104-134, 110 STAT. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any
prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff’s
pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff’s
allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504
U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint for failure
to state a claim against Defendants Lansing Police Department and Ingham County Probation
Department. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendants Perock and Hamilton.
Plaintiff Anthony Young presently is an inmate of the Ingham County Jail. He sues
the Lansing Police Department and police officer (unknown) Perock, as well as the Ingham County
Probation Department and probation officer Nancy Hamilton.
According to the complaint, on January 12, 2017, Plaintiff went to visit his brother
at his brother’s house on Kate Street in Holt, Michigan. Plaintiff knocked on the door and heard
someone say, “Come in.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.) When he opened the door, Plaintiff saw
two Lansing police officers, Defendant Perock and an unknown officer, as well as Defendant
probation officer Nancy Hamilton. Defendants appeared to be conducting a home search and visit
of Plaintiff’s brother, who was on probation. After seeing the officers, Plaintiff turned and walked
back out, concluding that it was not a good time to visit. As he left, the door then opened behind
him, and all three officers ran out of the house, tackled Plaintiff to the ground, and searched him to
the point of spreading the cheeks of his buttocks.
Plaintiff contends that his brother was on probation, not him. He argues that the
officers had the authority to search his brother’s house and person, but did not have authority to
search Plaintiff. In addition, he asserts that the Lansing police officers had no jurisdiction to search
and seize someone outside a home located in Holt, Michigan, which was not within their
jurisdictional area of Lansing. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Hamilton, as a probation officer,
had no authority to search or seize Plaintiff, who was not under her authority.
For relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Failure to state a claim
A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While
a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s allegations must include more
than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although
the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,’ . . . it asks for more than
a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged – but it has not ‘show[n]’ – that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility
standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1)
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a
right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed
by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr.
Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal
rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify
the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).
Lansing Police Department
Plaintiff sues the Lansing Police Department. It is well settled in Michigan that a
police department is not a legal entity capable of being sued in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Boykin
v. Van Buren Twp., 479 F.3d 444, 450 (6th Cir. 2007); Laise v. City of Utica, 970 F. Supp. 605, 608
(E.D. Mich. 1997) (a city police department is merely an agency of the city, not a legal entity, and
therefore is not a proper defendant in a § 1983 lawsuit). Thus, the Lansing Police Department is an
improper defendant and is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.
However, construing Plaintiff’s pro se complaint with all required liberality, Haines,
404 U.S. at 520, the Court assumes that Plaintiff intends to sue the City of Lansing. The City of
Lansing may not be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees under § 1983. See
Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011); City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989);
Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Instead, a municipality is liable only when
its official policy or custom causes the injury. Id.
Plaintiff makes no factual allegations against the city. His claim rests entirely on a
theory of vicarious liability, which, as discussed, fails to state a claim. Id. Moreover, to the extent
that Plaintiff intends to imply the existence of a custom of unlawful searches, seizures, and arrests,
such an unsupported theory would be wholly conclusory. As the Supreme Court has instructed, to
demonstrate that a municipality had an unlawful custom, a plaintiff must allege that the municipality
was deliberately indifferent to “practices so persistent and widespread as to practically have the
force of law.” Connick, 563 U.S. at 60. Plaintiff cites no prior incidents demonstrating a
widespread pattern. He merely implies that such a pattern exists. Conclusory allegations of
unconstitutional conduct without specific factual allegations fail to state a claim under § 1983. See
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (2007). Plaintiff therefore fails to state a claim
against the City of Lansing. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the City of Lansing and its Police
Further, Plaintiff sues Defendant Officer Perock in his official capacity. A suit
against an individual in his official capacity is equivalent to a suit brought against the governmental
entity: in this case, the City of Lansing. See Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71
(1989); Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 & n.55. For the same reasons Plaintiff fails to state a claim against
Defendant City of Lansing, he fails to state a damages claim against Defendant Perock in his official
An official-capacity action seeking prospective injunctive relief constitutes an
exception to sovereign immunity. See Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159-60 (1908) (Eleventh
Amendment immunity does not bar prospective injunctive relief against a state official). Plaintiff,
however, does not seek injunctive relief. As a consequence, Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant
Perock in his official capacity will be dismissed.
Ingham County Probation Department
Plaintiff sues the Ingham County Probation Department. The Ingham County
Probation Department is a division of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). See MICH.
COMP. LAWS § 791.221 (establishing the bureau of probation within the MDOC); MICH. COMP.
LAWS § 791.204 (establishing the exclusive jurisdiction of the MDOC over all probation officers
of the state); see also Moore v. Michigan, No. 13-11789, 2014 WL 1260702, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Mar.
27, 2014.) Regardless of the form of relief requested, the states and their departments are immune
under the Eleventh Amendment from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived immunity
or Congress has expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst
State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782
(1978); O’Hara v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly
abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979),
and the State of Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick v. Michigan,
803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986). In numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth Circuit has
specifically held that the MDOC is absolutely immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment.
See, e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App’x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No.
00-1182, 2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In addition, the State of Michigan (acting
through the Michigan Department of Corrections) is not a “person” who may be sued under § 1983
for money damages. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep’t
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989)). Therefore, the Court dismisses the Ingham County Probation
Department, a division of the MDOC.
Moreover, because Plaintiff’s damages claim against the Ingham County Probation
Department is barred by sovereign immunity, his damages claim against Defendant Hamilton in her
official capacity also fails to state a claim. See Will, 491 U.S. at 71; Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 & n.55.
Plaintiff does not seek prospective injunctive relief against Defendant Hamilton. He therefore does
not meet the exception to sovereign immunity described in Young, 209 U.S. at159-60.
Defendants Perock and Hamilton – Personal Capacity
Upon initial review, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged claims
against Defendants Perock and Hamilton in their personal capacities. The Court therefore will order
service of the complaint against Defendants Perock and Hamilton.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendants Lansing Police Department and Ingham County Probation Department
will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court also will dismiss the official-capacity claims against Defendants
Perock and Hamilton. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendants Perock and Hamilton
in their personal capacities.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: August 10, 2017
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Janet T. Neff
United States District Judge
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