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Robinson v. Pittsfield Charter TWP.

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

May 29, 2019


          Honorable Sean F. Cox, Judge.


          David R. Grand, United States Magistrate Judge.

         On October 22, 2018, pro se Plaintiff Christopher Bernard Robinson (“Robinson”), filed his complaint against Defendants Pittsfield Charter Township, Pittsfield Township Police Department, Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office, Stephan Andrews, Jim Maudlin, Henry Fusik, Shawn Booth, Sean McCormick, Gordon Schick, Matthew Harshberger, Karen Field, Nimish Ganatra, Eric Gutenberg (Field, Ganatra, and Gutenberg collectively referred to as the “Prosecutorial Defendants”), Judge Allan Truesdell, and Judge Joseph Burke (Truesdell and Burke together referred to as the “Judicial Defendants”) (all defendants collectively referred to as “Defendants”), alleging multiple violations of his constitutional rights and seeking five million dollars in damages. (Doc. #1). On December 14, 2018, this case was referred to the undersigned for all pretrial purposes pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). (Doc. #12).

         Presently before the Court are three Motions to Dismiss: the first filed by the Prosecutorial Defendants and Judge Truesdell filed on January 8, 2019, the second filed by Judge Burke on January 14, 2019, and the third filed by Defendants Pittsfield Township, the Pittsfield Township Police Department, Andrews, Maudlin, Booth, Schick, and Harshberger on January 16, 2019. (Docs. #16, #18, and #20, respectively). On March 1, 2019, Robinson filed a response to these motions. (Doc. #25). Defendants filed timely replies. (Docs. #26, #27, #28). Having reviewed the pleadings and other papers on file, the Court finds that the facts and legal issues are adequately presented in the parties' briefs and on the record, and it declines to order a hearing at this time.


         For the reasons set forth below, IT IS RECOMMENDED that Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. #16, #18, #20) be GRANTED, and Robinson's case be dismissed with prejudice.

         II. REPORT

         A. The Allegations in Robinson's Complaint

         Robinson, who is currently released on parole, sues Defendants arising out of an incident that occurred in April 2013. (Doc. #1). Although portions of Robinson's complaint are difficult to comprehend, he alleges approximately nineteen violations of his rights, including violations of the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as multiple federal statutory violations, including 42 U.S.C. §§1982, 1983, 1985, and 1986. (Doc. #1 at 4-7). He seeks five million dollars in relief. (Id. at 11). He sets forth his factual allegations in his Complaint. (Id. at 12-36). Defendants have provided Statements of Material Facts Not in Dispute, which are helpful in understanding Robinson's claims. (Docs. #17, #19, #21).[1]

         The following facts underlie Robinson's complaint (collectively referred to as the “April 2013 Incident”). While on parole on April 23, 2013, Robinson and his parole officers engaged in a verbal confrontation at his parole officer's office, which led to the Pittsfield Township Police responding. (Doc. #1 at 12-13). Defendant Andrews took Robinson to the floor while handcuffed, which gave Robinson a cut on his chin requiring stitches. (Id. at 13-14.) After this incident, Robinson was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer under Michigan law. (Doc. #17 at 2). Defendant Judge Burke found probable cause for the charge, and bound Robinson over to the circuit court. (Doc. #19 at 3). Robinson represented himself at the bench trial, was convicted and sentenced. (Doc. #17 at 3). Robinson appealed his conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which vacated Robinson's conviction on the basis that he had not properly, knowingly, and voluntarily waived his right to an attorney. (Doc. #16-3). Robinson was tried again on remand and convicted on June 23, 2016. (Doc. #17 at 4). Robinson did not appeal that conviction. (Doc. #16-6).

         Robinson filed his instant complaint on October 22, 2018. (Doc. #1). As noted, it is somewhat difficult to comprehend the specific claims Robinson is asserting, but he appears to be challenging the actions of the police officers, prosecutors, and judges involved in the April 2013 Incident and his prior related criminal case, alleging, for instance: “Defendant Andrews Fabricated a Police Report and Criminal [] Charges to cover up [the alleged assault against Robinson”; Defendant Judge Truesdell “conspired among defendants by Falsifying inter office court documents”; “Defendant Matthew E. Hershberger Public Safety Director made False Statements to defendant Gordon [] Schick, Deputy Chief of Police”; “Plaintiff contends he had not broken any laws of this state and that Defendants - Police Officers . . . never had probable Cause to be at the said location outside of their jurisdiction”; “Andrews (Police Officer), Gutenberg (Prosecutor), and Judge Burke; Conspired to Willfully violate Plaintiff's Civil Rights”; “Defendant Andrews throughout his [preliminary exam] testimony committed perjury . . . [and] defendant prosecutor Eric M. [] Gutenberg coerced defendant Andrews' false testimony”; and “Defendant Judge Burke intentionally made false statements to bind Plaintiff over for Trial.” (Doc. #1 at ¶ 41-42, 50, 93, 115-16, 135, 138, 142-43, 157). Robinson sums up his claims as essentially a challenge to the very fact of his conviction: “The Justice System in this instance failed, and as a result, [Robinson] suffered a Huge Injustice in this conviction with a loss of Freedom for 5 and a half years.” (Id. at 15). But this is far from Robinson's first attempt to challenge the conduct of those involved in the April 2013 Incident and Robinson's conviction that followed. See Robinson v. Booth, et al., No. 14-10201 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 13, 2014) (Steeh, J.) (dismissing without prejudice to allow Robinson to reassert his claims if his conviction or sentence were later invalidated as to Defendants Booth and Andrews, the Judicial Defendants, Defendants Gutenberg and Fields, and Defendant Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office); Robinson v. Andrews, et al., No. 14-11987 (E.D. Mich. May 19, 2014) (Parker, J.) (dismissing with prejudice as to Defendants Andrews, Booth, Maudlin and the Pittsfield Township, and the Pittsfield Township Police Department); Robinson v. Gutenberg, et al., No. 15-10481 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 5, 2015) (Cohn, J.) (dismissing with prejudice as to the Prosecutorial Defendants and the Judicial Defendants); Robinson v. Field, et al., No. 15-12821 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 5, 2015) (Cox, J.) (dismissing without prejudice as to Defendant Field and the Judicial Defendants after Robinson voluntarily dismissed the case); Robinson v. Field, et. al, No. 16-21244 (E.D. Mich. June 10, 2016) (Cox, J.) (dismissing without prejudice as to the Judicial Defendants, Prosecutorial Defendants, Pittsfield Township, and defendants Andrews, Booth, McCormick, and Fusik after Robinson voluntarily dismissed the case); Robinson v. Field, et. al, No. 16-10207 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 19, 2016) (Steeh, J.) (dismissing as frivolous as to the Prosecutorial Defendants and Judicial Defendants); Robinson v. Schuette, No. 16-13632 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 12, 2016) (Cox, J.) (dismissing with prejudice as to all Defendants); Robinson v. Andrews, et al., No. 17-11557 (E.D. Mich. May 16, 2017) (Ludington, J.) (dismissing without prejudice as to all Defendants after finding that Robinson is prevented from proceeding in forma pauperis under the so-called “three strikes” rule).[2]

         Defendants now move to dismiss Robinson's complaint, arguing that he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The reasons for granting Defendants' motions to dismiss have already been aptly and abundantly stated in the previous actions, but will be addressed for clarity as set forth below.

         B. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests a complaint's legal sufficiency. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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). The plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Put another way, the complaint's allegations “must do more than create speculation or suspicion of a legally cognizable cause of action; they must show entitlement to relief.” League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56).

         In deciding whether a plaintiff has set forth a “plausible” claim, a reviewing court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). This tenet, however, “is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to prevent a complaint from being dismissed on grounds that it fails to sufficiently comport with basic pleading requirements. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Howard v. City of Girard, Ohio, 346 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (6th Cir. 2009). Furthermore, a court is not required to “create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading[.]” Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). Ultimately, “[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will … be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); see also Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). “A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or fact if it ... is based on legal theories that are indisputably meritless.” Brown v. Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 866 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327- 28). While a self-represented litigant's complaint is held to a “less stringent standard” than those drafted by attorneys, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), it must still plead facts sufficient ...

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