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Plummer v. Detroit Police Department

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

March 23, 2017



          Sean F. Cox United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         This matter has come before the Court on plaintiff Leroy Pee Wee Plummer's pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is an inmate at the Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. The defendants are the Detroit (Michigan) Police Department, a Detroit towing company known as Gene's Towing, the Michigan Department of State in Lansing, Michigan, and the 36th District Court in Detroit.

         The complaint and exhibits allege that Plaintiff has been incarcerated since November 10, 2012. On July 23, 2014, the Detroit Police Department took custody of Plaintiff's vehicle on Bedford Street in Detroit and then transferred custody of the vehicle to Gene's Towing. On August 14, 2014, the Michigan Department of State notified Lawrence Kroh, who was the titled owner of the vehicle and the first secured party, that the vehicle was taken into custody as an abandoned vehicle and that Kroh had twenty days in which to redeem the vehicle by paying the fees and accrued charges to the custodian of the vehicle, which was Gene's Towing.

         Plaintiff alleges that, when his wife and Kroh went to retrieve the vehicle, the towing company no longer had custody of the vehicle, and the company would not provide any information regarding the location of the vehicle. Plaintiff subsequently received a collection notice for unpaid citations on his vehicle. He claims that no one can tell him where his vehicle is, and without the vehicle, his wife has no transportation to her appointments for the treatment of cancer. He seeks $2.5 million in damages.

         II. Legal Framework

         The Court recently granted Plaintiff's application to proceed without prepayment of the fees and costs for this action. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, federal district courts must screen an indigent prisoner's complaint and dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir. 2010); Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1036 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Mattox v. Edelman, et al., __ F.3d __, __, No. 16-1412, 2017 WL 992510, at *3 n.3 (6th Cir. Mar. 15, 2017) (stating that “28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires a district court to dismiss an [in forma pauperis] complaint if at any point it determines that the complaint ‘fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted' ”).

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “A complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim if the allegations, taken as true, show the plaintiff is not entitled to relief.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007).

         While a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citations omitted). In other words, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (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). Finally, to prevail on a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove two elements: “(1) that he or she was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of law.” Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 614 (6th Cir. 2014).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff's complaint is frivolous and fails to state a plausible claim for relief because it does not allege any violation of federal law. Moreover, for the following reasons, the defendants are not proper parties to this action.

         A. The Michigan Department of State and the 36th District Court

         Although the Michigan Department of State issued the abandoned-vehicle notice regarding Plaintiff's vehicle, the Eleventh Amendment bars suits against a state or one of its agencies or departments unless the state has consented to suit. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). “Eleventh Amendment immunity ‘bars all suits, whether for injunctive, declaratory or monetary relief, against the state and its departments, by citizens of another state, foreigners or its own citizens.' ” McCormick v. Miami Univ., 693 F.3d 654, 661 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376, 381 (6th Cir. 1993)).

         “The state of Michigan . . . has not consented to being sued in civil rights actions in the federal courts, ” Johnson v. Unknown Dellatifa, 357 F.3d 539, 545 (6th Cir. 2004), and “Congress did not intend to abrogate the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity by passing section 1983.” Thiokol Corp., 987 F.2d at 383 (citing Quern v. ...

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