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Sinclair v. Jimenez

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

June 14, 2017

James Sinclair, Patricia Sinclair, Rebel Scrap Metal LLC, And Parts-A-Plenty Inc., Plaintiff,
P.O. Alfredo Jimenez, Sgt. Jonathan Parnell, P.O. Derek Owens, And Det. Frank Lenz, Defendants.

          David R. Grand United States Magistrate Judge.



         I. Introduction

         On July 31, 2015, James Sinclair, Patricia Sinclair, Rebel Scrap Metal, LLC, and Parts-A-Plenty, Inc. filed this lawsuit against four police officers alleging that their constitutional rights were violated when property was seized from their business during a criminal raid. Dkt. No. 1.

         The matter is presently before the Court on Defendant Frank Lenz's Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), filed on April 25, 2017. Dkt. No. 32. Plaintiffs did not file a response. City of Detroit Defendants filed a response on June 6, 2017, arguing that claims raised by Defendant Lenz apply equally to City of Detroit police officers. Dkt. No. 40. On June 8, 2017, the Court conducted a hearing on the motion and heard oral arguments. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court GRANTS Defendant Lenz's Motion to Dismiss [32], DISMISSES Plaintiffs' federal claims, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' remaining state law claims.

         II. Background

         On August 1, 2012, the Detroit Police Department received an anonymous phone tip that there were stolen cars on the property of Rebel Scrap Metal, LLC. Dkt. No. 1, p. 5 (Pg. ID 5). James Sinclair had not yet obtained licensing from the State of Michigan and City of Detroit for Rebel Scrap. Id. at 4-5. The following day, Detroit police officers set up surveillance and observed a pick-up truck with a broken window and missing license plate pull into the business. Id. at 5. Approximately thirty minutes later, Detroit police advised James Sinclair that they would be conducting a business inspection of Rebel Scrap. Id. at 6.

         James Sinclair informed the officers that the business was not yet open because licensure applications were still pending. Id. at 6-7. There were about 150 vehicles in the yard, which James Sinclair had been purchasing and storing. Id. Officers ran a VIN check on the pick-up truck they had observed driving onto the premises that afternoon and found it had been reported stolen. Id. at 7. Officers then arrested James Sinclair and took him to the 2nd Precinct police station. Id.

         Around 6:00 p.m. that day, Defendant Frank Lenz, an Oakland County Sheriff's Department Detective working with the Commercial Auto Theft Section of the Detroit Police Department, prepared a search warrant. Id. Lenz spoke with a prosecutor, and then called Magistrate Sherman of the 36th District Court to obtain a search warrant. Id. at 8. At the Magistrate's direction, Lenz signed the warrant. Id. Lenz then radioed officers at the business that he had a signed search warrant, at which point the officers resumed searching the property. Id.

         Tow trucks began arriving at the property to remove vehicles. Lenz was allegedly in charge of inventorying vehicles that left the property, which included vehicles owned by James and Patricia Sinclair that were purchased and registered prior to Rebel Scrap's existence. Id. On the direction of a Detroit police officer, all vehicles located on the property were seized and towed. Id. at 9. James and Patricia Sinclair's personal vehicles were seized for possible forfeiture in connection with criminal charges. Id. Police removed property from Rebel Scrap all night, concluding at 1:30 a.m. the next day. Id. at 10.

         James Sinclair was subsequently charged with Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, contrary to Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.159i; Operating a Chop Shop, contrary to Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.535a; and twenty-three counts of Receiving and Concealing Stolen Property, contrary to Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.535(7). Id. James Sinclair filed a motion to suppress evidence, quash the information, and return personal property during the criminal proceedings. Id.; Dkt. No. 32-2, p. 4 (Pg. ID 177). The trial court found the search and seizure, including the search warrant and administrative search, were lawful. Id. at 14-15 (Pg. ID 187-88). The judge further concluded that the seizure of property for criminal forfeiture was meritorious and the State of Michigan did not need to immediately return the property. Id. at 16 (Pg. ID 189).

         James Sinclair took an interlocutory appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, challenging the lawfulness of both the administrative search and the seizure of property. Dkt. No. 32-3, p. 1 (Pg. ID 196). The appeal was denied on December 30, 2013. Id. James Sinclair then sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. Dkt. No. 32-4, p. 1 (Pg. ID 197). This request was denied on February 3, 2015. Id. On January 19, 2016, James Sinclair entered a plea of nolo contendere. Dkt. No. 32-5, p. 1 (Pg. ID 198). He was sentenced on April 18, 2016. Id.

         III. Legal Standard

         A district court's denial of a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Civil Rule 12(c) is “analyzed under the same de novo standard as motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).” Sensations, Inc. v. City of Grand Rapids, 526 F.3d 291, 295 (6th Cir. 2008). This Court is required to “accept all well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff” when scrutinizing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). Dubay v. Wells, 506 F.3d 422, 426 (6th Cir. 2007). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it “contain[s] 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). “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.

         When ruling on a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court may take “matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint” into account. Barany-Snyder v. Weiner, 539 F.3d 327, 332 (6th Cir. 2008). The Court “need not accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences as true.” Commercial Money Ctr., Inc. v. Illinois Union Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 336 (6th Cir. 2007). To withstand a Rule 12(c) motion, “a complaint must contain direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements under some viable legal theory.” Id.

         IV. Discussion

         In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege eight claims. Dkt. No. 1, pp. 11-19 (Pg. ID 11-19). Claims against the City of Detroit-specifically Count V, the Monell claim-and police officers in their official ...

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