United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB, DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff and prisoner Hezekiah Pinson has filed a civil
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that the
“Dane County U.S. Marshal's Investigative
Unit” and Beloit Area Crime Stoppers violated his due
process rights and defamed him by publicly identifying him as
being wanted for armed robberies. His complaint is before the
court for screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, to
determine whether it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
Because I conclude that plaintiff's allegations do not
support a constitutional claim against either defendant and
plaintiff has identified no basis for jurisdiction over his
state law claim, I will dismiss this case.
alleges the following facts in his complaint.
2018, defendants Dane County U.S. Marshal's Investigative
Unit and Beloit Area Crime Stoppers posted plaintiff Hezekiah
Pinson's picture on Facebook and on an electronic
billboard in Janesville, Wisconsin, stating that plaintiff
was wanted for “armed robberies” and that he was
“to be considered armed and dangerous.” Plaintiff
had not committed any armed robberies and was never arrested,
questioned or charged in connection with the armed robberies.
Eventually, another person was charged and convicted of the
armed robberies at issue, and plaintiff's picture was
removed from the Crime Stopper website.
contends that defendants' actions violated his due
process rights. To state a due process claim, plaintiff must
allege facts suggesting that defendants' decision to
place his picture on the Crime Stoppers website and billboard
deprived him of a liberty interest without due process.
Alston v. City of Madison, 853 F.3d 901, 909 (7th
Cir. 2017). “A plaintiff may prove a deprivation of a
protected liberty interest by showing damage to his
‘good name, reputation, honor, or integrity.”
Id. (citations omitted). But not every defamatory
statement by a public official constitutes a deprivation of
liberty within the meaning of the due process clause.
Id. (citing Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693,
702 (1976)). State action that simply harms a plaintiff's
reputation is insufficient; the action must also alter a
previously recognized legal status or right. Hinkle v.
White, 793 F.3d 764, 767-68 (7th Cir. 2015). This is
known as a “stigma-plus” injury. Id. at
allegations are sufficient to satisfy the
“stigma” portion of the stigma-plus test, as he
alleges that being labeled as “wanted for armed
robberies” injured his reputation. However, plaintiff
has not alleged facts suggesting that being identified as a
wanted suspect altered a previously recognized legal status
or right. His allegations are similar to those in Paul v.
Davis, 424 U.S. 693, in which the plaintiff alleged that
his name and photograph had been included on a flyer that was
captioned “Active Shoplifters” and distributed
among merchants by the police. The Supreme Court held that
reputation alone does not implicate any liberty interest
sufficient to invoke the procedural protection of the due
process clause, and that something more than simple
defamation by a state official must be involved to establish
a claim under § 1983. Id. at 711-12. Therefore,
in Paul, the police department's action in
distributing the flyer did not deprive the plaintiff of any
liberty interest. Id. In this instance, being
identified as “wanted for armed robberies” did
not deprive plaintiff of any liberty interest. Therefore, he
has failed to state a due process claim.
also alleges that defendants defamed him. However, a
defamation claim arises under state law, not federal law, and
this court has jurisdiction over state law claims only in
certain circumstances. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, this
court has jurisdiction over state law claims if the parties
are citizens of different states and the amount in
controversy is greater than $75, 000. Because plaintiff
alleges that he and defendants are located in Wisconsin, this
court does not have jurisdiction under § 1332. Under 28
U.S.C. § 1346, this court has jurisdiction over claims
brought against the United States for injury caused by the
negligent or wrongful acts of government employees. Plaintiff
lists “Dane County U.S. Marshal's Investigative
Unit” as a defendant, suggesting that he might be
trying to sue a United States government entity. However,
there is no federal agency called “Dane County U.S.
Marshal's Investigative Unit, ” and plaintiff's
allegations do not suggest that any federal agency or
employee was involved in placing plaintiff's picture on a
local crime stoppers website. Instead, his allegations
suggest that local law enforcement worked with Beloit Area
Crime Stoppers to place plaintiff's pictures on the Crime
Stoppers' website. Therefore, this court does not have
jurisdiction under § 1346 either. Because I can think of
no other possible basis for jurisdiction over plaintiff's
state-law defamation claim, it must be dismissed. Plaintiff
can choose to pursue his defamation claim in state court.
ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED for plaintiff Hezekiah
Pinson's failure to state a federal claim upon which
relief may be granted. A strike shall be recorded in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The clerk of ...