United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Christopher Lamont Reliford (“Reliford”), who is
presently housed at the Mendota Mental Health Institute,
filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. (Docket
#1). This matter comes before the Court on Reliford's
motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket #2).
Reliford lacks the funds to pay an initial partial filing
fee. (Docket #11); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).
Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the
prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous
or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989); Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302
F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002). The Court may, therefore,
dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual
contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S.
at 327; Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “Malicious,
” although sometimes treated as a synonym for
“frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed
as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum,
352 F.3d 1107, 1109 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted);
accord Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir.
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)); see Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d
879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that offers
“labels and conclusions” or “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). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “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.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(citation omitted); Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first,
“identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the Court must, second, “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and
2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or
persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore
v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir.
2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du
Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also
Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The Court is
obliged to give the plaintiff's 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)).
March 22, 2016, someone complained that Reliford had
assaulted a person at the Atkinson library. (Docket #1 at 4).
Christopher Ottoway (“Ottoway”), a police
officer, was dispatched to the library. Id. When he
arrived, fire department personnel were already treating the
victim's injuries. Id. Ottoway interviewed
witnesses, including the victim, a security guard, and a
librarian. Id. at 5. He also took pictures of the
scene and obtained some video surveillance footage.
Id. Reliford was apparently not present throughout
was arrested two days later by the John and Jane Does, also
police officers, at a different library. Id.
Reliford complains that no warrant was issued for his arrest.
Id. He also states that no witnesses ever positively
identified him prior to his preliminary hearing which
occurred in December 2016. Id. Reliford seems to
believe that the witnesses' identification of him as the
perpetrator in the preliminary hearing was fabricated due to
“officer corruption, ” apparently referencing
alleges that his public defender, Robert E. Haney
(“Haney”), and Jame C. Griffin
(“Griffin”), the district attorney, conspired
together “to process [him] and move [him] forward
without an out of court identification made by [the victim
or] witnesses.” Id. Haney had Reliford
examined by mental health professionals in an attempt to
“[use] incompeten[cy] proceeding[s] to suppress the
above proof.” Id. Reliford alleges that the
“conspiracy” regarding his incompetency included
the doctors who examined him. Id. Though he does not
name those doctors in the body of the complaint, the Court
assumes they are Mary K. Luzi (“Luzi”) and Dr.
Collins (“Collins”), identified as “mental
doctors” in the caption. Id. at 1.
complains about various aspects of Haney's conduct,
including that he withheld relevant documents. Id.
at 6. The Court cannot determine the meaning of the next
relevant sentence, so it transcribes the sentence verbatim:
“Due to these Defendants malice conduct of depriving
the plaintiff of his constitutional rights stated above and
further abusing the process of continuingly using the
psychiatric evaluation in order to plaintiff from having his
request plea without and N.G.I. are the direct and proximate
cause of plaintiff mental suffering and night mare.”
Id. Reliford requests $5, 000, 000 in damages for
“false imprisonment base[d] on mistaken arrest and
detention was i[m]proper because police lacked probable cause
to arrest.” Id. He also references retaliation
for filing grievances, but he alleged no facts related to
such a claim. Id.
the Court can discern, Reliford advances two claims. First is
against Ottoway, and potentially the John and Jane Doe
officers, for arresting him without probable cause.
Specifically, Reliford contends that they have the wrong
person; no witness identified him as the culprit until many
months after the arrest. These allegations state a claim for
false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Williams v. Rodriguez, 509 F.3d 392, 398-99 (7th
this claim may run afoul of the Heck doctrine, which
holds that a claim for damages may not be pursued if its
success would necessarily imply the invalidity of the
criminal conviction or sentence. Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). However, Heck does not
automatically preclude Fourth Amendment claims related to
conduct underlying a conviction. Wallace v. Kato,
549 U.S. 384, 394 (2007). As long as a plaintiff's claims
do not impugn the validity of his conviction or sentence,
courts can entertain Section 1983 suits based on police
investigative conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment.
Gilbert v. Cook, 512 F.3d 899, 901 (7th Cir. 2008).
records indicate that Reliford was charged with battery and
disorderly conduct. See State of Wisconsin v. Christopher
Lamont Reliford, No. 2016-CF-1315, Milwaukee County
Circuit Court, available at:
https://wcca.wicourts.gov. Reliford's claim, if
proven, would necessarily imply the invalidity of a
conviction on these charges; he alleges that police arrested
the wrong person based on insufficient identification, and
thus that he is entirely innocent. The criminal case is still
pending, however. On March 21, 2017, the court conducted a
competency hearing and determined that Reliford was
incompetent to proceed in the case at the time, but was
likely to ...