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Davis v. Schott

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 23, 2017

ONTARIO A. DAVIS, Plaintiff,


          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Sturtevant Transitional Facility, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. (Docket #1). Plaintiff has paid the filing fee in this matter in full. This case comes before the Court on screening Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Notwithstanding the payment of any filing fee, the Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. Id. § 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. Id. § 1915A(b).

         A claim 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. 2011).

         To 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. “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. The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.

         In 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 then “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

         To 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); 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)).

         Plaintiff's complaint concerns his arrest by Defendants, all officers with the Milwaukee Police Department, on April 14, 2015. (Docket #1 at 1). He claims that Defendants conspired to illegally search his residence and vehicle and to arrest him without supporting probable cause to believe he had committed a crime. Id. at 1-3. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that some of the Defendants were conducting surveillance that day on the apartment of a woman, Monita Roundtree (“Roundtree”), in Milwaukee, in hopes of capturing a man, Norman Rhodes (“Rhodes”), for whom an arrest warrant had been issued for violations of his parole conditions. Id. at 2. Defendants observed Plaintiff drive up to the residence in his car accompanied by another woman. Id. Rhodes then drove up to the Roundtree residence in his own car, which was of a different make, model, and color than Plaintiff's. Id. Rhodes had Roundtree and Roundtree's child as passengers. Id. Plaintiff and the others entered the home. Id.

         Defendants allegedly observed Rhodes exit the residence, alone, on at least three occasions that day but decided not to arrest him at those times, despite knowing that they had only an arrest warrant and not a warrant to search the Roundtree residence. Id. Defendants nevertheless surrounded the home and forced their way inside, without the residents' consent, without a warrant or probable cause, and without an exigent need to do so. Id. Upon entering the home, Defendants immediately arrested Plaintiff, without probable cause, and purportedly only because he is African American. Id.

         Defendants then manufactured probable cause to support a search of Plaintiff's car. Id. Not only did they seize his car keys after his arrest, they also employed a K-9 unit in the area. Id. Plaintiff does not say that the K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics or other contraband near his vehicle, but the Court assumes that this occurred, or that Defendants lied and said it did. Id.

         Next, Plaintiff alleges that two of the Defendants made false statements in affidavits used to support a search warrant for Plaintiff's home. Id. at 3. That search warrant was executed the next day, April 15, 2015. Id.

         On April 16, 2015, two other Defendants interrogated Plaintiff at the local police station and attempted, in Plaintiff's estimation, to coerce him into becoming a confidential informant against Rhodes. Id. Plaintiff refused, and he claims that this led to police retaliation in the form of ransacking his apartment and levying false charges against him. Id.

         Publically available Wisconsin court records reveal that Plaintiff was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of Wis.Stat. § 941.29(2), in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Case No. 2015CF002164.[1]That prosecution was initiated by criminal complaint filed May 13, 2015. Trial in Plaintiff's criminal case began on December 19, 2016. On December 21, 2016, a jury acquitted Plaintiff of the charge against him.

         The Court, appreciative of the low bar required of pro se complaints at the screening stage, finds that Plaintiff may proceed on most of the claims implicated in his complaint. Despite the brevity of his complaint, Plaintiff's allegations implicate a wide variety of potential claims. These all arise under the Fourth ...

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