United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
JOHN C. KNAUS, Plaintiff,
TOWN OF LEDGEVIEW & MARK S. ROBERTS, Defendants.
WILLIAM C. GRIESBACH, CHIEF JUDGE.
plaintiff, who is currently representing himself, filed a
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his
civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the
court on plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without
prepaying the full filing fee and to screen the complaint.
to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee
plaintiff is required to pay a $350.00 statutory filing fee
for bringing an action. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) If a
plaintiff does not have the money to pay the filing fee, he
can request leave to proceed without prepayment of the full
filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The
Court has reviewed the affidavit submitted in support of the
motion and concludes that plaintiff lacks sufficient income
and/or assets to pay the filing fee. The plaintiff's
motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the filing fee
will be granted.
of the Complaint
court is required to screen complaints brought by individuals
proceeding without prepayment of the filing fee. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2). The court must dismiss a complaint or
portion thereof if the plaintiff 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. § 1915(e)(2). 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).
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). The
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “that
is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court accepts
the factual allegations as true and liberally construes them
in the plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729
F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2013). Nevertheless, the
complaint's allegations “must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).
of the Complaint
alleges that the Town of Ledgeview and its code enforcement
officer Mark Roberts have been issuing citations and
harassing letters to plaintiff for over twelve years,
including letters about his van, building inspections,
trailers, the coverings on his home, and motorcycles in his
driveway. Although he gives no dates, plaintiff alleges the
most recent letter pertained to a van in his front yard,
which plaintiff has painted red, white, and blue and
considers to be a lawn ornament. Plaintiff also complains of
a raze order he received, which he successfully fought in
state circuit court, and a “raid” of his home by
officers. Plaintiff believes these actions are in violation
of his constitutional rights.
has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
because his complaint lacks sufficient details to put the
defendants on notice of the claims he is bringing. In
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
identify “the 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. Although pro se filings are to be read
liberally, plaintiff's complaint does not provide enough
facts to determine whether he states a claim upon which
relief may be granted. The complaint does not allow any of
the named defendants or the court to understand what they are
alleged to have actually done, when, where, and what injury
or damage their actions allegedly caused the plaintiff. The
essential function of a complaint is to provides such notice,
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), and neither the
defendants, nor the taxpayers who employ them, should be
forced to incur the cost of defending themselves in a federal
lawsuit absent some indication that the plaintiff has a
cognizable federal claim and enough information so they know
what his claim is about.
because plaintiff offers no dates or specific details about
these alleged letters, it is impossible to determine whether
plaintiff's complaints are timely or whether they are
barred by the doctrine of issue and claim preclusion. This is
not plaintiff's first lawsuit against defendants. Rather,
plaintiff first sued the Town of Ledgeview and code
enforcement office Mark Roberts in 2010. See Knaus v.
Town of Ledgeview, No. 10-C-502 (E.D. Wis. June 16,
2010). This case was dismissed for failure to state a claim
and plaintiff did not appeal. See Knaus v. Town of
Ledgeview, No. 10-C-502, 2010 WL 3021918 (E.D. Wis. July
2012, plaintiff brought suit against the Town of Ledgeview
and Mark Roberts again. See Knaus v. Town of
Ledgeview, No. 12-C-1082 (E.D. Wis. Oct. 24, 2012). In
this suit, plaintiff brought a “class of one”
discrimination claim, alleging that the Town of Ledgeview and
Mark Roberts, violated his constitutional rights by treating
him differently than other similarly situated homeowners.
See Knaus v. Town of Ledgeview, 561 Fed.Appx. 510
(7th Cir. 2014). Plaintiff alleged that he received citations
and warning letters about the van in his yard. Id.
at 512. Additionally, plaintiff complained about a search
warrant that was issued and executed on plaintiff's house
for building violations, which showed violations such as
improper insulation, fire hazards, a lack of permanent
electrical wiring, and an insufficiently supported second
floor. Id. at 512. Plaintiff also complained of the
raze order that he successfully defended against.
Id. at 513. This Court found that plaintiff had
failed to put forth sufficient evidence to state a
“class of one claim” against defendants, and that
plaintiff's 2010 federal suit precluded his remaining
claims; thus, it granted summary judgment in favor of the
defendants. Id. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
affirmed the Court's grant of summary judgment.
Id. at 515. It appears from plaintiff's
complaint, that he is complaining again about similar actions
taken by defendants. Moreover, because plaintiff includes no
dates within his current complaint, it is unclear whether
plaintiff is complaining of new violations by defendants or
the same violations that formed the basis of plaintiff's
2010 and 2012 claims.
plaintiff wants to proceed, he must file an amended complaint
curing the deficiencies in the original complaint as
described herein. Such amended complaint must be filed within
30 days. Failure to file an amended complaint within this
time period may result in dismissal of this action. In
plaintiff's amended complaint, he must describe who took