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Brown v. Buncich

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

October 6, 2016

MAURICE BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BUNCICH d/b/a LAKE COUNTY INDIANA, SHERIFF DEPARTMENT Defendant

          Plaintiff Maurice Brown, pro se

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE PAUL R. CHERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant, John Buncich's, Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [DE 37], filed by Defendant John Buncich on May 26, 2016. Plaintiff, pro se, has not filed a response, and the deadline by which to do so has passed.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 15, 2014, Plaintiff Maurice Brown initiated this cause of action by filing a Complaint, in which he names Sheriff Buncich, Lieutenant Douglas, and unknown officers under Sheriff Buncich as Defendants. Buncich filed his Answer on November 24, 2014. Douglas filed his Answer on January 6, 2015.

         On June 8, 2015, Brown filed an emergency motion which was construed as a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent Defendants from evicting Brown from his home. This Court denied that motion. Brown then filed an Amended Complaint on August 11, 2015, without seeking this Court's leave or Defendants' consent. In the caption of his Amended Complaint, Brown names Buncich as Defendant but does not name Douglas or the unknown officers in the caption. Buncich filed an Answer on August 28, 2015. On May 26, 2016, Buncich filed the instant Motion to Dismiss.

         Brown alleges that officers used unnecessary force when evicting Brown from his home, leading to three days of hospitalization. Brown also alleges that, in a separate incident, Douglas coerced Brown out of the Sheriff's office. Brown alleges that Buncich directed his officers' actions. Brown contends that these actions by Buncich and his officers violated Brown's constitutional rights and that the force used was “unnecessary.” Brown further alleges that Buncich's actions were taken because of Brown's race and disabilities.

         The parties orally agreed on the record to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         ANALYSIS

         Before ruling on the pending Motion to Dismiss, the Court must first address Brown's Amended Complaint, which was not filed in compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, the Court construes the Amended Complaint as a motion for leave to file an amended complaint and grants that motion. After resolving that issue, the Court then turns to the Motion to Dismiss.

         A. Amended Complaint

         Pro se litigants are held to a less stringent standard than licensed attorneys, and their filings are liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, “pro se litigants are not entitled to a general dispensation from the rules of procedure or court-imposed deadlines.” Downs v. Westphal, 78 F.3d 1252, 1257 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Jones v. Phipps, 39 F.3d 158, 163 (7th Cir. 1994)). Still, a court can exercise its discretion and accept a pro se litigant's amended complaint that was not filed in compliance with Rule 15 by construing it as a motion to amend the complaint and then granting the construed motion. See, e.g., Green v. United States, 2:14-cv-119, 2015 WL 5093753, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Aug. 27, 2015); Marshall v. Nickel, 06-cv-617, 2008 WL 2610142, at *1 (W.D. Wis. July 2, 2008).

         In the instant matter, Plaintiff submitted an Amended Complaint more than 21 days after Defendants had submitted Answers to the original complaint and without first seeking Defendants' consent or this Court's leave. Thus, the Amended Complaint was not filed in compliance with Rule 15. However, none of the defendants named in the original complaint objected to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Additionally, Buncich filed an Answer and, later, the instant Motion to Dismiss, directed toward the Amended Complaint, thereby tacitly accepting the Amended Complaint as the controlling complaint in this litigation. In the interests of justice, this Court construes the Amended Complaint as a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, and grants the motion. The Amended Complaint, filed at docket entry 31, is the controlling complaint in this cause of action.

         Next, per Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10, all parties must be named in a complaint's caption. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10. Parties can be dropped from a cause of action through the filing of an amended complaint that does not name the dropped party. Taylor v. Brown, 787 F.3d 851, 858 (7th Cir. 2015). The caption of the Amended Complaint lists only Buncich as a defendant. Therefore, ...


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