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Williams v. City of Sheboygan

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 29, 2018

TORRANCE LEON WILLIAMS EL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SHEBOYGAN, SHEBOYGAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER ANNA TAYLOR, SGT. SCOTT REINEKE, and CHRISTOPHER D. DOMAGALSKI, Defendants. TORRANCE LEON WILLIAMS EL, Plaintiff,
v.
SHEBOYGAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE and UNKNOWN SHEBOYGAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE REPRESENTATIVES, Defendants. TORRANCE LEON WILLIAMS EL, Plaintiff,
v.
REGINA CALLOWAY and SHEBOYGAN COUNTY CHILD SUPPORT AGENCY, Defendants. SAMANTHA BASTIL, SHEBOYGAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE, SHEBOYGAN COUNTY IV-D AGENCY, and REGINA CALLOWAY, Plaintiffs,
v.
TORRANCE LEON WILLIAMS EL, Defendant.

          ORDER

          J. P. STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE >

         Torrance Leon Williams El (“Williams El”) filed four civil actions in this Court from February to April 2018. His filings in each of the cases border on being incomprehensible, but the Court has done its best to make sense of them. The first two were filed near in time in late February and early March 2018, and they seem to concern a traffic ticket Williams El received in Sheboygan. No. 18-CV-293, (Docket #1); No. 18-CV-328, (Docket #1). The other two cases were both filed on April 17, 2018, and they concern an adjudication of Williams El's parental rights and child support obligations in Sheboygan County Circuit Court. No. 18-CV-602, (Docket #1); No. 18-CV-603, (Docket #1).

         Below, the Court addresses the first two cases together, and then the second two cases together.

         1. TRAFFIC TICKET CASES

         In both of these cases, Williams El has sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Notwithstanding the payment of any filing fee, the Court must dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it raises claims that are “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. § 1915(e)(2)(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); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). 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. “Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         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)). 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).

         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, second, “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) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. 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)).

         In the first case, Williams El sues various defendants for issuing him a citation for operating a motor vehicle without a valid license or registration. No. 18-CV-293, (Docket #1 at 2-3). This occurred in January 2018. He says this was wrong because he is “a sovereign man” who “did not fall under [their] jurisdiction.” Id. His complaint incoherently discusses financing statements, the Uniform Commercial Code, and a treaty with the “Morroccon Empire.” Id. His vehicle was impounded and the defendants would not return it to him; it appears they were unmoved by his claim that he was outside of their jurisdiction. Id. at 3. Williams El demands twelve million dollars and seeks recognition “as the indigenous man that I am.” Id. at 4.

         The second case appears to be an extension of the first. Williams El appeared in the Sheboygan County Courthouse on February 26, 2018. No. 18-CV-328, (Docket #1 at 2). He does not say why, but a review of Wisconsin's publicly available court docket reveals that he was criminally prosecuted for the above-mentioned citation; it was his third such citation within three years. See State of Wisconsin v. Torrance L. Williams, Sheboygan County Circuit Court, Case No. 2018-CT-67, available at: https://wcca.wicourts.gov/. Williams El says that he tried to interrupt court proceedings to discuss his “estate” and being a “debtor, ” but was not allowed to do so. No. 18-CV-328, (Docket #1 at 2-3). Eventually his case was taken up, and Williams El offered similar ramblings about financing statements, his “estate, ” copyright violations, and the alleged lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 3. He was ordered to appear at a later hearing. Id. It is not clear what happened afterward; Williams El does not describe it well, and the public docket ends on February 26. In this case, Williams El requests five-hundred and nine million dollars, as well as being recognized as an “indigenous” person. Id. at 4.

         Both cases are frivolous. Williams El's primary assertion in each is that the Sheboygan County executive and judicial branches of government lack jurisdiction over him because he is a “sovereign” or “indigenous” person. This theory of avoiding governmental oversight of one's life, known as the “sovereign citizen” movement, is not unique to him:

As explained by the FBI, “Sovereign citizens view the USG [U.S. government] as bankrupt and without tangible assets; therefore, the USG is believed to use citizens to back U.S. currency. Sovereign citizens believe the USG operates solely on a credit system using American citizens as collateral. Sovereign citizens exploit this belief by filing fraudulent financial documents charging their debt to the Treasury Department.” Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Sovereign Citizens: An Introduction for Law Enforcement” 3 (Nov. 2010), http://info.public intelligence.net/FBI- SovereignCitizens.pdf (visited March 6, 2013).

El v. AmeriCredit Fin. Servs., Inc., 710 F.3d 748, 750 (7th Cir. 2013). Sovereign citizens like Williams El often file UCC financing statements for themselves as a person, believing that this grants them immunity from the jurisdiction of government authorities. Gravatt v. United States, 100 Fed.Cl. 279, 282-83 (Ct. Fed.Cl. 2011). Those sovereign citizens of African descent often hold an additional belief that they are descendants of the Moors of North Africa, and are part of the Moorish or Moroccan Empire (which does not exist), thus further insulating them from the United States' jurisdiction. Bey v. State of Ind., 847 F.3d 559 (7th Cir. 2017).

         This belief, sincerely held or not, is not a valid basis for avoiding state or federal jurisdiction. Charlotte v. Hansen, 433 Fed.Appx. 660, 661 (10th Cir. 2011) (in addressing a sovereign citizen's civil suit filed against a county judge regarding a traffic violation, the court noted that “an individual's belief that her status as a ‘sovereign citizen' puts her beyond the jurisdiction of the courts ‘has no conceivable validity in American law.'” (quoting United States v. Schneider, 910 F.2d 1569, 1570 (7th Cir. 1990)). Williams El admits that he was in Sheboygan when he was cited, thus placing himself under the jurisdiction of its police department and courts. His nonsensical references to financial documents, estates, and the Moroccan Empire cannot change that fact. Further, the other purported claims presented in each case, such as copyright violations, violations of “sovereignty, ” violations of constitutional rights, violations of the “rights of ...


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