Suah v. City of Sioux Falls et al
1915A SCREENING ORDER FOR DISMISSAL. Signed by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier on March 30, 2021. (DLC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
KAROTEH K. SUAH,
1915A SCREENING ORDER FOR
CITY OF SIOUX FALLS, UNKNOWN
DETECTIVE, in his/her official
capacity, UNKNOWN OFFICER, in
his/her official capacity, and
UNKNOWN OFFICER, in his/her official
Plaintiff, Karoteh K. Suah, filed a pro se lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Docket 1. This court granted Suah leave to proceed in forma pauperis and he
paid his initial partial filing fee on March 19, 2021. Docket 5.
The facts alleged in Suah’s complaint are: that on March 2, 2020, Billy
Thompson broke into Suah’s storage unit and called the police to report
narcotics. Docket 1 at 14. Two unknown officers searched the unit without a
warrant. Id. An unknown detective was contacted, and he/she assembled a
raid squad. Id.
The unknown detective received a phone warrant and searched
“Apartment 301.” Id. at 15. Suah claims that when he exited the apartment he
was handcuffed and detained. Id. He asserts that his phone was seized, and
the unknown detective questioned him without reading his Miranda rights to
him. Id. Suah claims that Thompson was not criminally charged for his alleged
burglary of the storage unit. Id. Suah alleges violations of the Fourth, Fifth,
and Fourteenth Amendments and seeks $1.5 million as damages. Id. at 14-16.
The court must assume as true all facts well pleaded in the complaint.
Estate of Rosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 36 (8th Cir. 1995). Civil rights and
pro se complaints must be liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007); Bediako v. Stein Mart, Inc., 354 F.3d 835, 839 (8th Cir. 2004). Even
with this construction, “a pro se complaint must contain specific facts
supporting its conclusions.” Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir.
1985); see also Ellis v. City of Minneapolis, 518 F. App’x 502, 504 (8th Cir.
2013). Civil rights complaints cannot be merely conclusory. Davis v. Hall, 992
F.2d 151, 152 (8th Cir. 1993); Parker v. Porter, 221 F. App’x 481, 482 (8th Cir.
A complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations . . . [but] requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). If it does not contain these bare essentials, dismissal is appropriate.
Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985). Twombly requires that
a complaint’s “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the complaint’s
allegations are true.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also Abdullah v.
Minnesota, 261 F. App’x 926, 927 (8th Cir. 2008) (noting that a complaint must
contain either direct or inferential allegations regarding all material elements
necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory). Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, the court must screen prisoner complaints and dismiss them if they
“[are] (1) frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or (2) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Claims against the City of Sioux Falls
Suah names the City of Sioux Falls as a defendant. Docket 1 at 2. A
municipal government may only be sued “when execution of a government’s
policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or
acts may fairly be said to represent official policy,” deprives a plaintiff of a
federal right. Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Suah
does not allege that the City of Sioux Falls has unconstitutional policies or
customs, thus his claims against the City of Sioux Falls are dismissed under
28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-ii) and 1915A(b)(1).
Official Capacity Claims 1
Suah sues SFPD defendants in their official capacities. Docket 1 at 2-3.
Claims against SFPD defendants in their official capacities are the equivalent of
The court will refer to the unknown police officers and the unknown detective
collectively as “SFPD defendants”.
a lawsuit against the City of Sioux Falls. See Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home,
627 F.3d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 2010). Because Suah does not state a claim
against the City of Sioux Falls, his claims against SFPD defendants in their
official capacities are dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-ii) and
Individual Capacity Claims
Fourth and Fifth Amendment
Suah claims that the SFPD defendants violated his Fourth and Fifth
Amendment rights. See Docket 1 at 14-15. Suah asserts that these alleged
actions led to him being charged and convicted in state court in docket
41CRI-20-000169. 2 Suah alleges that if the underlying evidence used to convict
him was obtained in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, his
conviction is unconstitutional. He also seeks monetary damages. Id. at 16.
Under the Heck doctrine “in order to recover damages for [an] allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or . . . for other harm caused by actions whose
unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid” a plaintiff must
show that the “conviction or sentence [was] reversed, expunged, invalidated, or
impugned by the grant of a writ of habeas corpus.” Heck v. Humphrey. 512 U.S.
477, 486-87, 489 (1994). Suah has not claimed that his conviction has been
On October 30, 2020, Second Judicial Circuit Judge for the state of South
Dakota, Rachel R. Rasmussen, sentenced Suah to eight years’ imprisonment to
run concurrent to the sentence imposed in 49CRI19-1958. State v. Suah,
41CRI20-000169. Suah pleaded guilty to distribution or possession with intent
to distribute marijuana in violation of SDCL § 22-42-7. Id. Suah moved to
withdraw his guilty plea but Judge Rasmussen denied the motion to withdraw.
reversed, expunged, declared invalid or impugned by the granting of a writ.
Thus, his Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims are barred by Heck and
dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1).
Liberally construing Suah’s complaint, he alleges that his right to equal
protection under the law was violated when SFPD defendants allegedly
misconstrued their reports and arrested Suah and not Thompson. See Docket
1. “[T]he Constitution prohibits selective enforcement of the law based on
considerations such as race [or a suspect classification].” Whren v. United
States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996) (noting that a selective enforcement of the law
claim arises under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment).
A plaintiff must show that the officer exercised discretion to enforce the law on
account of a suspect classification “which requires proof of both discriminatory
effect and discriminatory purpose.” Johnson v. Crooks, 326 F.3d 995, 1000 (8th
Cir. 2003) (stating that when a plaintiff alleged the officer’s traffic stop was due
to his race, he had stated a “cognizable equal protection claim.”) (citing United
States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 465 (1996)).
Here, Suah asserts that SFPD defendants “misconstrued the police
report in order to not charge Billy Thompson for his criminal acts against my
property,” and because charges were not filed against Thompson this shows
that Suah and Thompson were “not bestowed [equal] protection of [the] law.”
Docket 1 at 15. Suah has not alleged facts to support that the SFPD
defendants engaged in selective enforcement of the law based on a suspect
classification. Thus, his equal protection claim is dismissed under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-ii) and 1915A(b)(1)..
28 U.S.C. 1915(g) Strike
Suah’s complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Section 1915(g) states as follows:
In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment
in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has,
on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any
facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States
that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the
prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). This order is Suah’s first strike under § 1915(g).
Thus, it is ORDERED:
1. That Suah’s complaint is dismissed without prejudice under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-ii) and 1915A(b)(1). This is Suah’s first strike
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
2. That Suah’s motion for “subpoena duces tecum” (Docket 6) is denied
Dated March 30, 2021.
BY THE COURT:
Karen E. Schreier
KAREN E. SCHREIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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