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Michel v. Clarkson

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

November 16, 2018

Travis Andrew Michel, Plaintiff,
Detective Clarkson, Bismarck Police Department, Defendants.


          Charles S. Miller, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, Travis Andrew Michel, an inmate at the James River Correctional Center in Jamestown, North Dakota, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. This matter is now before the undersigned for initial review as required by 28U.S.C. § 1915A[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on June 12, 2018, with the filing of a complaint dated May 15, 2018. (Doc. No. 7). On August 23, 2018, plaintiff filed another document dated August 17, 2018, repeating the allegations in the complaint and including photographs of text messages that plaintiff argues support his claim. (Doc. No. 9). Since plaintiff is proceeding pro se and the case has not proceeded further, the court will treat both filings as plaintiffs complaint.

         In this action, plaintiff attempts to sue Dean Clarkson, a detective of the Bismarck Police Department. Plaintiff appears to put forth two allegations against the defendant. First, plaintiff alleges defendant illegally arrested plaintiff. Second, plaintiff alleges defendant lied at plaintiffs preliminary hearing regarding the contents of text messages that possibly implicated plaintiff in the charged aggravated assault. Plaintiff appears to argue that the text messages attached to his August 17th letter were an important factor in his arrest and at the subsequent preliminary hearing. However, in terms of the arrest, it is not clear whether it was pursuant to a warrant and, if it was, who presented the information to support a finding of probable cause and what evidence was presented. Further, with respect to the preliminary hearing, it is not clear what information was presented to support the finding of probable cause at that level. Finally, there is no allegation that the charge upon which the arrest was made has been dismissed.

         Plaintiff seeks money damages against defendant in the amount of $5, 000, 000. The complaint is silent in terms of whether plaintiff is suing the defendant in his individual capacity, his official capacity, or both.


         The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires federal courts to review all prisoner complaints filed against a government entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. On review, the courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua sponte dismiss those that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 203-04 (2007); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006).

         A claim is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolous claims are those that are clearly baseless, fanciful, fantastic, or delusional. An action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp v. Iwomblx, 550 U.S. 544(2007) ''stage that success on the merits is more than a'sheer possibility.'' Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009). To meet the minimal pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) for stating a cognizable claim, something more is required than simply expressing a desire for relief and declaring an entitlement to it. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 n.3 (2007). The complaint must state enough to "give the defendant fair notice of what the. . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         In screening a pro se prisoner complaint, the court is obligated to construe it liberally and hold it to a less stringent standard than what normally would be required of attorneys. Id.; see also Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 402 (2008); Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777. 787 (8th Cir. 2015) ("When we say that a pro se complaint should be given liberal construction, we mean that if the essence of an allegation is discernible... then the district court should construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework.") (internal quotation marks omitted). But, this does not mean that the court must accept everything or anything that is filed by a prisoner proceeding pro se.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must normally allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States and that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Walker v. Reed, 104 F.3d 156, 157 (8th Cir. 1997); West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Even under liberal pleading standards, a. pro se litigant must, at the very least, invoke rights under the Constitution or federal law in order to plead a § 1983 claim. Walker, 104 F.3d at 157-58. A complaint states a plausible claim for relief when its "factual content... allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iabal, 556U.S. At 678. The pleading must allege a sufficient causal link between the alleged violation and the basis upon which the particular defendant is to be held responsible, keeping in mind that persons sued in their individual capacities must be personally involved or directly responsible since § 1983 does not impose respondeat superior liability. Iqbal, 556U.S. at 676-77. Gordon v. Hansen. l68F.3d 1109, 1113 (8th Cir. 1999).

         Lastly, the court is not required to ignore facts that are pled by a prisoner when they undermine the prisoner's claim. The court may accept as true all facts pled in the complaint and conclude from them that there is no claim as a matter of law. Kg., Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof 1 Regulation. 300 F.3d 750, 753-54 (7th Cir. 2002).


         A. The named defendant is send only in his official capacity and plaintiff fails to state a claim of ...

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