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Edwards v. Takaca

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 16, 2016

ROBERT E. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
MELISSA TAKACA, JAMES RAEL, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS (DKT. NO. 2), AND STAYING PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT

HON. PAMELA PEPPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The plaintiff, a state prisoner who is representing himself, filed a complaint alleging that defendants violated his civil rights by tampering with evidence in his pending criminal trial in Milwaukee County case no. 15CF2912. Dkt. No. 1. This order resolves the plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and screens the plaintiff’s complaint.

I. IN FORMA PAUPERIS STATUS

The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this action because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. The law allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his lawsuit without pre-paying the civil case-filing fee, as long as he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is a requirement that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b). Once the plaintiff pays the initial partial filing fee, the court may allow the plaintiff to pay the balance of the $350 filing fee over time, through deductions from his prisoner account. Id.

On November 24, 2015, the court assessed an initial partial filing fee of $21.76. Dkt. No. 4. The plaintiff paid that amount on December 9, 2015. Therefore, the court will grant the plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and will allow the plaintiff to pay the balance of the $350.00 filing fee over time from his prisoner account, as described at the end of this order.

II. SCREENING OF PLAINTIFF’S AMENDED COMPLAINT

A. Standard for Screening Complaints

The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires federal courts to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The Court may dismiss an action or portion thereof if the claims alleged are “frivolous or malicious, ” fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

To state a claim under the federal notice pleading system, plaintiffs must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint need not plead specific facts, and need only provide “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “Labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not do. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

The factual content of the complaint must allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Indeed, allegations must “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations, when accepted as true, must state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Federal courts follow the two step analysis set forth in Twombly to determine whether a complaint states a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. First, the Court determines whether the plaintiff’s legal conclusions are supported by factual allegations. Id. Legal conclusions not support by facts “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. Second, the Court determines whether the well-pleaded factual allegations “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. The court gives pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

B. Facts Alleged in the Proposed Complaint

On June 22, 2015, the police arrested the plaintiff on two outstanding warrants for: (1) Retail Theft, and (2) Possession of a Firearm by a Felon. Dkt. No. 1 at 3. The Milwaukee County Circuit Court held an arraignment on June 24, 2015 and scheduled the preliminary hearing for July 7, 2015. Id. The court then postponed the preliminary hearing to July 14, 2015 because the state did not possess the certificate of conviction. Id.

The plaintiff alleges that the twelve-day delay in scheduling the preliminary hearing violated his right to a speedy trial. Id. He also asserts that police officer Melissa Takaca tampered with evidence and altered witness statements in his criminal case. Id. Finally, the plaintiff alleges that defense counsel James Rael “changed the posture of the case without [his] presence or approval.” Id. The plaintiff’s case went to trial before a jury in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on April 18, 2016; the trial concluded the next day. https://wcca.wicourts.gov/courtRecordEvents.do;jsessionid=3C6651DFCDE88 937CE79FB0DFAB2DB24.render6?caseNo=2015CF002912&countyNo=40&cac ...


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