Jones v. The City of Lincoln et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint asserting cognizable claims by September 8, 2016. Failure to file an amended complaint within the time specified by the court will result in the court dismissing this case without furth er notice to Plaintiff. The clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management deadline using the following text: September 8, 2016, check for amended complaint. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (Filing No. 14 ) is denied as moot. Ordered by Senior Judge Richard G. Kopf. (Copy mailed to pro se party) (KLF)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
LAWRENCE E. JONES,
THE CITY OF LINCOLN, in the State of )
Nebraska, and STEGMAN, Detective,
Plaintiff filed his Complaint on April 21, 2016. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff filed an
Amended Complaint on May 9, 2016. (Filing No. 9.) On July 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed
a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint, as well as a proposed second
amended complaint (“Second Amended Complaint”). (Filing No. 14.)
Plaintiff was previously given leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this case.
(Filing No. 7.)
Therefore, at this time, the court will conduct an initial review of
Plaintiff’s claims to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). For purposes of conducting this review, the court will consider
Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint as the operative pleading in this action.
I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint (Filing No. 14) names “The City of
Lincoln, in the State of Nebraska” and “Detective Stegman” as defendants. (Filing No.
14 at CM/ECF p. 2.) Stegman is named in his official and individual capacities. Plaintiff
claims that at all times relevant to this suit, Stegman was a police detective with the
Lincoln Police Department in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Plaintiff, who is incarcerated in the Omaha Correctional Center, alleges that
Stegman violated his constitutional rights by slandering Plaintiff.
Plaintiff maintains that
Stegman falsely reported that Plaintiff made certain statements to Stegman during an
Plaintiff claims that as a result of Stegman’s false report, Plaintiff was
transferred to a “more secure prison,” and was subsequently found guilty of misconduct.
Plaintiff claims that the misconduct finding caused him to be denied parole and to suffer
emotional and physical distress.
Plaintiff also suggests that Stegman is prejudiced
against inmates, which is why Stegman lied about Plaintiff’s interview responses.
Plaintiff seeks to recover monetary damages.
II. STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
The court is required to review prisoner and in forma pauperis complaints seeking
relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity
to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and
1915A. The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous
or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge their claims
across the line from conceivable to plausible,” or “their complaint must be dismissed.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“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.”).
“The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim,
and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.’” Topchian v. JPMorgan
Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders,
199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally
construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.”
Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Liberally construed, Plaintiff alleges federal constitutional claims.
To state a
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by
the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that the
alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir.
Claims Against the State of Nebraska
To the extent Plaintiff attempts to assert claims against the State of Nebraska, the
claims are precluded by the Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment bars claims
for damages by private parties against a state, state instrumentalities, and an employee
of a state sued in the employee’s official capacity. See, e.g., Egerdahl v. Hibbing Cmty.
Coll., 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995); Dov er Elevator Co. v. Arkansas State Univ.,
64 F.3d 442, 446-47 (8th Cir. 1995). Any award of retroactive monetary relief payable
by the state, including for back pay or damages, is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment
absent a waiver of immunity by the state or an override of immunity by Congress.
e.g., id. ; Nevels v. Hanlon, 656 F.2d 372, 377-78 (8th Cir. 1981). Sovereign immunity
does not bar damages claims against state officials acting in their personal capacities, nor
does it bar claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 that seek equitable relief from
state employee defendants acting in their official capacity.
Here, Plaintiff seeks monetary relief. Therefore, to the extent that Plaintiff’s
claims are directed against the State of Nebraska, they are barred.
Claims Against the City of Lincoln, Nebraska
Plaintiff has not stated a viable claim against the City of Lincoln. The City may
only be liable under section 1983 if its “policy” or “custom” caused a violation of
Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.
Doe By and Through Doe v. Washington Cnty., 150
F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing Monell v . Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694
Plaintiff has not presented any allegations even suggesting the existence of an
official policy or custom.
Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims against the City of Lincoln fail
to state a claim.
Claims Against Detective Stegman
Plaintiff has sued Stegman in his official and individual capacities.
alleges that Stegman was a police detective with the Lincoln Police Department. A claim
against an individual in his official capacity is, in reality, a claim against the entity that
employs the official, in this case, the City of Lincoln. See Parrish v. Luckie, 963 F.2d
201, 203 n.1 (8th Cir. 1992) (“Suits against persons in their official capacity are just
another method of filing suit against the entity.
A plaintiff seeking damages in an
official-capacity suit is seeking a judgment against the entity.”) (internal citations
omitted)). The City of Lincoln can only be liable under § 1983 if a municipal policy or
custom caused Plaintiff’s injury. See Monell v. New York Department of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
allegations supporting such a claim.
As explained above, Plaintiff has not made
Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims against Stegman in his
official capacity fail.
Plaintiff asserts that Stegman falsely attributed certain statements to Plaintiff,
which resulted in disciplinary measures being taken against Plaintiff.
that Stegman slandered him “under the guise of doing his job” and violated “the color of
(Filing No. 14 at CM/ECF p. 2.) Plaintiff’s allegations fail to state a
claim. “Damages for defamation are not recoverable under § 1983 because a defamed
person has not been deprived of any right, privilege or immunity secured to him by the
Federal Constitution or laws of the United States.” Ellingburg v. Lucas, 518 F.2d 1196,
1197 (8th Cir. 1975).
Moreover, to the extent that Plaintiff attempts to assert an equal protection claim,
Plaintiff’s conclusory assertion that Stegman generally demonstrated prejudice
towards inmates does not state a cognizable equal protection claim.
Out of an abundance of caution, the court will provide Plaintiff an opportunity to
file an amended complaint that states a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff
shall file his amended complaint no later than September 8, 2016. Failure to file an
amended complaint within the time specified by the court will result in the court
dismissing this case without further notice to Plaintiff.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:
Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint asserting cognizable claims by
September 8, 2016. Failure to file an amended complaint within the time
specified by the court will result in the court dismissing this case without
further notice to Plaintiff.
The clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management deadline
using the following text: September 8, 2016, check for amended complaint.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (Filing
No. 14) is denied as moot.
DATED this 10th day of August, 2016.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge
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