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Jones v. Couvreur

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

April 28, 2017

TIMOTHY JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT COUVREUR et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS STATUS AND SUMMARY ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the court is pro se plaintiff Timothy Jones' motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Having shown proof that he is indigent, the court shall grant Jones' petition to proceed without paying the filing fee. Having done so, the court is required to review his Complaint pursuant to the screening procedures set forth at 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) to determine whether the Complaint should be dismissed because the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). For the reasons set forth below, the Complaint shall be dismissed.

         I. Procedural Background

         The Complaint is not a model of clarity, and it is difficult to discern the claims pled against the various defendants. The court does its best to articulate those claims here. At various places in the Complaint, Jones asserts that he is pursuing claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1986, although it is unclear which civil rights claims pertain to which of the named or unnamed defendants.

         Jones is an African-American who resides at a house on 14003 Puritan in Detroit, Michigan. The three named defendants are (1) Robert Couvreur, alleged to be the Manager Real Estate Services, Office of Land and Facilities of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”), (2) Bernard Youngblood, Wayne County Registrar of Deeds, and (3) Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Sheriff. The four categories of unnamed defendants are (1) unknown DNR clerks/employees, (2) unknown registrar clerks/employees, (3) unknown Detroit Land Bank Authority officials/employees, and (4) unknown Wayne County deputies. It appears that Jones' claims arise out of the sheriff's sale of his property, although it is unclear when, or if, a sheriff's sale has taken place. He seeks $1, 000, 000 in damages and injunctive relief to stop the sale of his home.

         The court summarizes the allegations against the named defendants below:

         A. Robert Couvreur

         Jones alleges that Couvreur, acting in his official and individual capacity, filed a fraudulent “Affidavit of Forgery” with defendant Youngblood in the Wayne County Register of Deeds on February 10, 2006 which allegedly deprived him of his property and deed recorded on April 21, 2005 and “conveying title to the grantee, Michael Williams.” (Complaint, ¶ 9). Jones alleges that Couvreur is liable for “blatantly violating and/or conspiring to violate clearly established Federal Civil Rights, Federal Laws . . . and Federal Constitutional Rights.” (Complaint ¶¶ 4, 8). Jones further alleges that none of the defendants personally served him with a copy of the “Affidavit of Forgery, ” and that defendants are aware he has openly resided and paid utilities for the home on Puritan since 2005. (Complaint, ¶¶ 9-10). Arguably, these general allegations pertain to defendant Couvreur.

         B. Bernard Youngblood

         Jones states that he is suing Youngblood in his official and individual capacity, but does not make any specific allegations that defendant Youngblood was personally involved in the alleged deprivation of Jones' Constitutional rights. It is possible that Jones' general allegations that “defendants” are liable for failing to personally serve him with a copy of the “Affidavit of Forgery, ” and that “defendants” are aware he has openly resided and paid utilities for the home on Puritan since 2005, are meant to pertain to him. For purposes of this order, the court shall assume that Jones so intends.

         C. Benny Napoleon

         Jones alleges that Sheriff Napoleon is liable in his official and individual capacities for gross negligence and deliberate indifference as a result of his alleged failure to hire, train, and or to discipline unknown sheriff deputies regarding the sheriff sale of Jones' property, and for depriving Jones of his right to property and access to courts, in violation of Jones' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Complaint, ¶¶ 7, 11).

         II. Standard for Dismissal

         Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the district court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law or fact when it is premised on an indisputably meritless legal theory or when the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted when it lacks “plausibility in the complaint.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). “‘[N]aked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual ...


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