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Cousino v. Township of Marshall

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 7, 2017

LEONARD COUSINO, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF MARSHALL, Defendant.

          HON. JANET T. NEFF JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELLEN S. CARMODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 33), and Defendant's Second Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 45). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the undersigned recommends that Defendant's motions each be granted in part and denied without prejudice in part and this matter terminated.

         BACKGROUND

         The following allegations are contained in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 13). In 1982, Plaintiff formed a business named Auto Parts Co., in Marshall Township. In 1988, one of Plaintiff's neighbors began complaining to the Township about the amount of traffic associated with Plaintiff's business, as well as the many trailers and vehicles that were located on Plaintiff's property. The then-current Township Supervisor found no merit to these complaints. However, “around 1999, ” the Township elected a new Supervisor who instructed Plaintiff that he “had to remove all storage trailers on [his] property and stop running [his] machine shop.” Plaintiff “refused to do so” at which point the Township initiated legal proceedings against Plaintiff which resulted in a state court ordering Plaintiff to close his business. Plaintiff nevertheless continued to operate his business as a “hobby.”

         In 2009, the state court “gave permission to the township to come and do a search of my land.” The day before this search was to take place, however, Plaintiff's “machine shop was mysteriously burned down.” The “township with all its vendettas toward [Plaintiff] had something to do with it.” The township refused to investigate this fire, “despite the presence of unknown tire tracks at the site.” The search of Plaintiff's property was conducted the following day as scheduled. The search revealed the presence of “some tires.” In July 2012, Plaintiff appeared in state court regarding the tires discovered during the 2009 search of his property and was ordered to spend 30 days in jail.

         In December 2015, Plaintiff returned from vacation to discover that his residence “had been burgled in his absence.” The burglars took “various items” including items that were essential to Plaintiff's prosecution of the present action. This burglary “was not merely coincidental, ” and while Plaintiff reported the matter to the Michigan State Police, Plaintiff “is aware of the complicity of the various law enforcement agencies within Michigan jurisdictions to help cover-up the abuses of authority of government officers at all levels.”

         Plaintiff initiated this action against the Township of Marshall alleging violations of his constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and not have property taken without just compensation. Plaintiff also alleges various state law causes of action. Plaintiff seeks 2.5 million dollars in damages as well as an order that the federal government investigate the criminal acts described in his complaint. Defendant, Township of Marshall, now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims and, in the alternative, for summary judgment.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Municipal Liability[1]

         Plaintiff asserts this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which provides, in relevant part, that “[e]very person who, ” under color of law, “subjects, or causes to be subjected, any [person] to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A municipality or other entity of local government may be held liable under § 1983 if “the governmental body itself ‘subjects' a person to a deprivation of rights or ‘causes' a person ‘to be subjected' to such deprivation.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011). Governmental entities, however, “are not vicariously liable under § 1983 for their employees' actions, ” but instead can only be held liable for “their own illegal acts.” Id. To impose liability on a governmental entity, the plaintiff “must prove that action pursuant to official municipal policy caused their injury.” Id. at 60-61. In this context, official municipal policy “includes the decisions of a government's lawmakers, the acts of its policymaking officials, and practices so persistent and widespread as to practically have the force of law.” Id. at 61.

         To prevail on his claims against the Township, Plaintiff must establish the following: (1) a constitutional violation occurred, and (2) Defendant is responsible for that violation. Graham v. County of Washtenaw, 358 F.3d 377, 382 (6th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). With respect to the second element, Plaintiff must “identify the policy, connect the policy to [Defendant] itself and show that the particular injury was incurred because of the execution of that policy.” Id. at 383 (citation omitted). Plaintiff must establish the existence of “a direct causal link” between the policy and the alleged constitutional violation “such that [Defendant's] ‘deliberate conduct' can be deemed the ‘moving force' behind the violation.” Id. (citations omitted). Defendants argue both that Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted and, alternatively, that summary judgment is appropriate because Plaintiff has failed to present any evidence which would entitle him to prevail on his claims.

         A. Failure to State a Claim

         A claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted unless the “[f]actual allegations [are] enough to raise a right for relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). The Court need not accept as true, however, factual allegations ...


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