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O'Connor v. Chatfield

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

October 31, 2019

THOMAS P. O'CONNOR, Plaintiff,
v.
LEE CHATFIELD, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Honorable. Paul L. Maloney Judge

         Plaintiff Thomas P. O'Connor, acting pro se, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit against Defendants State of Michigan Representative Lee Chatfield, Chippewa County, Chippewa County Treasurer Marjorie Hank, Chippewa County Prosecuting Attorney Robert L. Stratton, Luce County Public Administrator James W. Robinson, Title-Check, LLC Attorney Lucas Middleton, Title-Check, LCC principle Marty Spaulding, Judge James P. Lambros, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court Bridget Mary McCormack, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian K. Zahra, Michigan Supreme Court Justice David F. Vivian, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth T. Clement, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan K. Cavanagh, and unknown staff members who work for Chippewa County Treasurer Marjorie Hank. Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on October 28, 2019. (ECF No. 5.)

         Plaintiff alleges that this matter was previously litigated in the state courts of Michigan. Plaintiff states that his injuries were “caused by the previous courts, collusion, fraud, and errors in interpretation leading to indentured servitude, denial of life, and rights to liberty.” (ECF No. 1, PageID.6.) Plaintiff asks “[t]o immediately stay the unlawful Tax Auction set to occur by November 1, 2019 until all rights of the Plaintiff can be heard by this court or until exhausted by the nation's Supreme Court.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants are involved in a scheme to defraud property owners of their property for their own personal benefit and/or the benefit of municipalities in the State of Michigan. Plaintiff alleges that because the State of Michigan authorizes counties to take the full value of the property regardless of the tax liability owed, the State created financial incentives for Defendants to foreclose and sell valuable properties rather than to help property owners avoid foreclosure. (ECF No. 1, PageID.8.)

         Plaintiff owns property that consists of several lots in Chippewa County Michigan. Plaintiff failed to pay the taxes on some of his lots and the County of Chippewa began foreclosure proceedings to recover the unpaid taxes on two of the lots. Plaintiff asserts that his failure to pay taxes was an oversight due to a simple error. Plaintiff states that the fraudulent activities of each Defendant in furtherance of a conspiracy caused him to be misinformed about the foreclosure redemption period and violated his rights under the United States Constitution, federal laws, and common law.

         Plaintiff alleges an unlawful taking of his property. Plaintiff asserts that each Defendant conspired to violate the Michigan General Property Tax Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 211.1 et seq, to gain a windfall that will benefit the County. Plaintiff asserts that his property is worth in excess of $200, 000, which is well above the property tax liability amount, and that the County intends to take all the proceeds from the tax sale.

         Plaintiff alleges that through deceit and fraud, the County Treasurer's Office changed the tax notification address for lots 49 and 50 based upon an anonymous phone call from a mentally ill diagnosed individual. (ECF No. 1, PageID.7.) Plaintiff asserts that Title-Check, LLC failed to properly send notifications. (Id.) Plaintiff learned of the improper name change and telephoned the County Treasurer's Office on January 29. On that date, he was assured that he was not in jeopardy of losing his property and was told that the foreclosure proceeding was in the early stage. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that this was an effort to hide the truth that the foreclosure proceeding was actually in the final stages. (Id.) Plaintiff argues that Treasurer Hank and Title-Check, LLC colluded by telling Plaintiff to pay the tax bill in April, knowing that the foreclosure proceeding was in the final stages and that Plaintiff had the means to pay the tax bill at that time. Plaintiff asserts that the auctioneer failed to provide him with notification of the auction. (Id.)

         The collusion continued in the Michigan courts with a “February cause hearing and subsequent tax foreclosure.” (Id. at PageID.7.) The Chippewa County Court entered a judgment of foreclosure on March 29, 2017, to collect the deficiency, plus interest, penalties, and fees. (Id. at PageID.10.) Plaintiff alleges that the Court was misled regarding his notification of the tax liability. Plaintiff asserts that the tax foreclosure sale was successfully delayed by a stay order entered by the Michigan Supreme Court. (Id. at PageID.10.)

         However, Plaintiff claims that the Michigan Supreme Court allowed the corruption to continue without hearing his pro se presentation. (Id. at PageID.8.) Plaintiff asserts that he never received proper notice of the February show cause hearing or the March 31 redemption deadline for his foreclosed property. (Id. at PageID.11.) Plaintiff claims that notices were sent to an improper address and that he did not receive actual notice of the foreclosure until April 8, after the redemption period had expired. (Id. at PageID.11.) Plaintiff's request to set aside the foreclosure was denied in the state courts and by each Michigan Supreme Court justice despite his action of personally reaching out to each Michigan Supreme Court justice in an attempt to point out the illegal actions. (Id.) Plaintiff believes that this proves collusion from the highest members of the judiciary. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Defendants including “members of the bar and judiciary in the appellate with clear collusion attempt to gain a [greater than] $200, 000.00 profit while decreasing the net value” of his remaining contiguous lots. (Id. at PageID.8.)

         Plaintiff brings claims under the Fifth Amendment for an unlawful taking without just compensation, under the Eighth Amendment for excessive fines, and under the Fourteenth Amendment for a violation of his due process rights. In addition, Plaintiff raises state law claims under the Michigan Constitution and for unjust enrichment.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court must dismiss any action brought in forma pauperis if the action is (1) frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement, . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996).

         Plaintiff names a judge and serval Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court as Defendants. Defendants include Chippewa Circuit Court Judge Lambros, and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice McCormack and Justices Markman, Zahra, Vivian, Bernstein, Clement, and Cavanagh. Plaintiff argues that each of the members of the judiciary are part of the conspiracy to wrongfully take his property to gain an improper financial windfall.

         Generally, a judge is absolutely immune from a suit for monetary damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991) (“[I]t is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”) (internal quotations omitted); Barrett v. Harrington, 130 F.3d 246, 254 (6th Cir. 1997); Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997). Absolute judicial immunity may be overcome in only two instances. First, a judge is not immune from liability for non-judicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11; see Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 229 (1988) (noting that immunity is grounded in ...


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