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Smith v. Gilbert

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

April 13, 2018

DWAYNE M. SMITH, Plaintiff,
B. GILBERT, et al., Defendants.

          Patricia T. Morris Judge



         Plaintiff, Dwayne M. Smith, a state inmate, filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, along with an application to proceed in forma pauperis. This matter is before the Court for a screen of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed without prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff names as Defendants (1) the Clinton Township Police Department (“CTPD”), (2) CTPD Detective B. Gilbert, (3) the Oakland County Sheriff, (4) the Waterford Police Department (“WPD”), (5) WPD Detective Larry Novak, and (6) an unknown administrative officer of the Oakland County Circuit Court. The facts in his complaint all relate to two separate armed robberies: one in Clinton Township and one in Waterford Township. The facts in Plaintiff's complaint will be accepted as true for the purposes of this § 1915(e)(2) screen.

         On December 31, 2015, Plaintiff, along with three other people, was arrested as a suspect in the robbery of a Family Dollar in Clinton Township. The CTPD recovered five cell phones from one of the suspect's vehicles. In addition, the CTPD confiscated Plaintiff's property of $752 in cash, two watches, and a necklace. Plaintiff alleges that on January 8, 2016, Detective Novak obtained Plaintiff's phone records without a warrant, by submitting false and misleading information in an application pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d). Detective Gilbert contacted CTPD on January 6, 2016 informing them they arrested four individuals in a robbery and indicated that a suspect from the Clinton Township Robbery was the same as in an earlier Waterford Township robbery. Plaintiff was identified as the suspect. Detective Gilbert also provided Detective Novak with two cell phone numbers.

         On January 11, 2016, when Plaintiff was in the Oakland County Jail on a probation violation, Detective Novak stated that he received a call from Oakland County indicating that Plaintiff refused to participate in a corporeal lineup. Plaintiff denies this allegation and asserts that either Detective Novak lied about his refusal to appear in-person or the Oakland County Jail failed to notify him of the lineup. Plaintiff asserts that Detective Novak manipulated the evidence to arrest him for robbery.

         At some point, CTPD dropped all of the charges against Plaintiff, but failed to return his property. Instead, a representative of the CTPD indicated that the property would be kept until a separate Oakland County case was resolved. Plaintiff contends that Detectives Gilbert and Novak conspired to forward the confiscated property to Oakland County for restitution in a separate matter. Plaintiff was not afforded a hearing to determine ownership of the property.

         Plaintiff brings four claims: 1) his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when Defendants unlawfully searched and seized his property; 2) he was permanently deprived of his property without a hearing in violation of Due Process; 3) Defendants deprived him of notice of an impartial lineup and right to counsel; and 4) the unverified waiver of his right to a corporeal lineup violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff asks the Court to order a new trial, award damages in the amount of one million dollars, and to return the confiscated property. He also seeks declaratory relief, in the form of a Court order declaring that Defendants violated the constitution by failing to implement a procedure to verify waiver of a corporeal lineup, that his property was unlawfully searched and seized, and that the information collected from his phone records was unlawfully seized.

         II. Standard

         Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 1915 seeking to “lower judicial access barriers to the indigent.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). In doing so, however, “Congress recognized that ‘a litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits.'” Id. at 31 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)). To address this concern, Congress included subsection (e) as part of the statute, which requires sua sponte dismissal of an action upon the court's determination that the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)

         (i) & (ii); Denton, 504 U.S. at 31. As a result, “[d]istrict courts are required to screen all civil cases brought by prisoners, regardless of whether the inmate paid the full filing fee, is a pauper, is pro se, or is represented by counsel, as the statute does not differentiate between civil actions brought by prisoners.” In re Prison Litigation Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1997).

         To state a claim upon which relief may be granted, a plaintiff must satisfy the basic federal pleading requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). See also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard of review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)). Rule 8(a) requires that a complaint set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as well as “a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) & (3). While this pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, ' . . . [a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Put another way, Plaintiff must, at a minimum, make sufficient allegations to give defendants fair notice of the claims against them.

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. “A complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim if the allegations, taken as true, show the plaintiff is ...

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