Getachew v. Ashland City
Opinion and Order. Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Related doc # 1 ) is granted. This action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e), without prejudice to any claims Plaintiff may have against other individuals with respect to this incident. The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge Christopher A. Boyko on 2/16/2017. (H,CM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
CASE NO. 1:16 CV 2675
JUDGE CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO, J.:
Pro se Plaintiff Alemayehu Getachew filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
the City of Ashalnd, Ohio. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges an Ashland Police Officer
conducted a traffic stop, arrested him for driving with a suspended license, and searched his
vehicle in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He seeks monetary relief and expungement of
his driving record.
Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 1). That Motion is
Plaintiff alleges he was driving south on Interstate 71 near Ashland, Ohio, when he
passed a police cruiser parked by the side of the road. The officer pulled the cruiser onto the
highway, followed Plaintiff for a short distance and then activated his lights to signal Plaintiff to
pull over. Plaintiff states the officer asked for his license and registration and indicated he
would only be a few minutes. Plaintiff alleges that after twenty minutes, the officer returned and
informed Plaintiff that his license was suspended by the State of Florida. The officer asked
Plaintiff to step out of the car and into the cruiser. Plaintiff complied. He states the officer was
intelligent, friendly and honest and just doing his job.
Once Plaintiff was in the police cruiser, the officer conducted a search of Plaintiff’s
automobile and its contents. Plaintiff states the officer ransacked the vehicle and all of his
clothing and documents were dispersed. The officer then searched the vehicle with a police dog.
Another officer arrived on the scene and began questioning Plaintiff about his work schedule.
Plaintiff alleges they obtained this information from his cellular telephone which he had left in
Plaintiff’s vehicle was towed and he received a traffic citation for driving under
suspension. The suspension caused a two point increase to be added to his license. He contends
his insurance premiums quadrupled, causing him to shut down his small transportation business.
He indicates the stop violated his Fourth Amendment rights because the officer did not know
until after he ran Plaintiff’s license information through the computer database that it was
suspended. He also claims he did not know about the suspension believing he had mailed in the
fine to Florida. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and an Order clearing the suspension from his
II. LAW AND ANALYSIS
Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364,
365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the Court is required to
dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of
Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). An action has no arguable basis in law when the
Defendant is immune from suit or when the Plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which
clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. An action has no arguable factual basis when
the allegations are delusional or rise to the level of the irrational or “wholly incredible.” Denton
v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992); Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199.
A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks
“plausibility in the Complaint.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). A
pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). The factual allegations in the
pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the Complaint are true. Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555.
The Plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than
“an unadorned, the-Defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A
pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not meet this pleading standard. Id. In reviewing a Complaint, the Court must construe the
pleading in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Bibbo v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 151
F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998).
Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief against the City of Ashland. Section 1983 does
not permit a Plaintiff to sue a local government entity on the theory of respondeat superior.
Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692- 94 (1978). A Plaintiff may
only hold a local government entity liable under § 1983 for the entity's own wrongdoing. Id. A
local government entity violates § 1983 where its official policy or custom actually serves to
deprive an individual of his or her constitutional rights. Id. A “municipal policy” includes “a
policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated.”
Powers v. Hamilton County Pub. Defender Comm’n, 501 F.3d 592, 607 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Monell, 436 U.S. at 690). A “custom” for purposes of Monell liability is a permanent and wellsettled legal institution not memorialized by written law. Feliciano v. City of Cleveland, 988
F.2d 649, 655 (6th Cir. 1993). To state a claim for relief against a municipality under § 1983,
Plaintiff must: (1) identify the municipal policy or custom, (2) connect the policy to the
municipality, and (3) show that his particular injury was incurred due to execution of that policy.
Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 815 (6th Cir. 2003).
In this case, Plaintiff does not identify a particular policy or custom of the City of
Ashland that caused injury to him. He challenges the officer’s decision to stop his vehicle, the
manner in which the officers searched his vehicle and its contents and the officers’ decision to
arrest him. There are no allegations in the Complaint reasonably suggesting they were acting
pursuant to a specific policy or custom of the City of Ashland.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 1) is granted
and this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e), without prejudice to any claims
Plaintiff may have against other individuals with respect to this incident. The Court certifies,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Christopher A. Boyko
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
DATED: February 16, 2017
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) provides:
An appeal may not be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that it is not
taken in good faith.
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