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White v. Dowd

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 28, 2014

CHARLES PATRICK WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN DOWD, et. al., Defendants.

ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION TO DISMISS AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

SARAH EVANS BARKER, District Judge.

In February of 2012, plaintiff Charles White, the former Secretary of State of Indiana, was convicted of procuring or submitting a false/fictitious/fraudulent voter registration application, voting outside precinct of residence, procuring/casting/tabulating a false/fictitious/fraudulent ballot, theft, and two counts of perjury. He was also charged with fraud on a financial institution, but was found not guilty of that charge. In his complaint filed on March 4, 2013, he raises several federal and state law claims with respect to that prosecution. He names the following defendants: the State of Indiana, the Indiana State Police, Special Prosecutors John Dowd and Daniel J. Sigler, Jr., Prosecutors Daniel J. Sigler, Sr., Sonia Leerkamp, D. Lee Buckingham, III, and Jeffrey Wehmueller, and Indiana State Police Detective Paul Hansard.

White asserts the following claims: Claim I - violation of his right to equal protection against defendants Dowd, Sigler, Jr., Sigler, and Hansard; Claim II - malicious prosecution regarding indictment for fraud against a financial institution against defendants Dowd, Sigler, Jr., Sigler, and Hansard; Claim III - intentional infliction of emotional distress against defendants Dowd, Sigler, Sigler, Jr., and Hansard; Claim IV - conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986 against defendant Buckingham; Claim V - violation of his First Amendment rights against defendant Leerkamp; and Claim VI - conspiracy to violate 42 U.S.C. § 1985 against defendants Leerkamp, Wehmueller, Dowd, Sigler, Sr., Sigler, Jr., and Hansard. The defendants move to dismiss each of White's claims. For the reasons set forth in this Entry, the defendants' motion to dismiss [Dkt. No. 15] is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Standard of Review

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the suit. Triad Assocs., Inc. v. Chi. Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). The standard for assessing the procedural sufficiency of pleadings is imposed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Thus, although the complaint need not recite "detailed factual allegations, " it must state enough facts that, when accepted as true, "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts sufficient for the Court to infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Twombly/Iqbal standard "is not akin to a probability requirement', but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). By comparison, a complaint that merely contains "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" does not satisfy the factual plausibility standard. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences from those allegations in favor of the plaintiff. Lee v. City of Chi., 330 F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 2003). Thus, a complaint should only be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007). Additionally, the Court may not rely upon evidence and facts outside of those alleged in the complaint in ruling on a motion to dismiss.

II. Discussion

The defendants move to dismiss White's claims, arguing, among other things, (1) that claims against the State of Indiana, the Indiana State Police, and the individual defendants in their official capacities must be dismissed based on their Eleventh Amendment immunity; (2) White's claims are barred by the doctrine recognized in Heck v. Humphrey ; (3) the prosecutor defendants are entitled to absolute immunity from White's claims; and (4) White fails to state a claim for conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A. Official Capacity Claims

The defendants first argue that White's claims against the State of Indiana, the Indiana State Police, and the defendants in their official capacities must be dismissed as barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

It is well settled that absent the State's consent, the Eleventh Amendment bars suits by private parties against States and their agencies. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 58 (1996); Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 102 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). The State of Indiana has not so consented. Elliott v. Hinds, 573 F.Supp. 571, 575 (N.D. Ind. 1983). See also Ind. Code §§ 34-13-3-5(f)(1) and (2), 34-13-4-3.

An official capacity claim is effectively a suit against the governmental entity employing the defendant. Scott v. O'Grady, 975 F.2d 366, 369 (7th Cir. 1992). In this case, therefore, an official capacity claim against the defendant individuals as employees of the State of Indiana would in essence be against the State of Indiana. Such claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the doctrine of sovereign immunity. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-67 and n.14 (1985) (suit for damages against state officer in official capacity is barred by the Eleventh Amendment). Accordingly, the claims against the State of Indiana, Indiana State Police, and the individual defendants in their official capacities are each dismissed.

B. Heck v. Humphrey

The defendants next argue that all of White's claims are barred by the doctrine recognized in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), that a claim for damages for "allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid" is not cognizable until "the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus." Id. White's convictions have not been reversed or otherwise declared invalid. His state court petition for post-conviction relief was denied. State v. White, 29D02-1302-PC-002053 (Dec. 23, 2013). Accordingly, Heck bars each of White's claims that would call into question to the charges on which he was convicted. Those claims must therefore be dismissed without prejudice to the extent they are based specifically on the charges, investigation, and prosecution against him for procuring or submitting a ...


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