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Jackson-Watson v. Pryor

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

February 23, 2017



          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

         Plaintiff Cynthia Ann Jackson-Watson brought this complaint presumably pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants have violated her civil rights. Defendants Dennis Denney, [1] the Town of Shirley, and the Shirley Police Department (“SPD”)[2] move to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Jackson-Watson has responded and has filed a motion to amend her complaint. The motion to amend, however, is not accompanied by a proposed amended complaint as required by this Court's Local Rule 15-1. The motion to amend [dkt 25] is therefore denied. In addition, for the following reasons, the motion to dismiss [dkt 20] is granted.

         I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. . . . 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quotations omitted). The allegations of the compliant must provide “fair notice” to the defendant of what the claim is and the grounds for the claim. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pro se complaints such as that filed by Jackson-Watson, are construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94; Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).

         II. Allegations of the Complaint

          Jackson-Watson alleges in her complaint that defendant police officer Brian Prior harassed, intimidated, stalked, and slandered her, and that he falsely informed on her to a state agency. She further alleges that she complained to the Town Council and contacted Town Council President Denney, but received no response. She alleges that she attended a Town Council meeting to state her problems. She further alleges that SPD officer Josh Miller falsely arrested her for resisting orders by Brian Pryor. She alleges that Pryor “[h]as advised [officers] to stop [her] green van no matter who's driving” and that she was stopped on Main St., treated rudely, and that paperwork and her license were thrown through the window. She also alleges that SPD has failed to protect her family, and that she applied for two protective orders (in Hancock County and Henry County) and both were denied.

         Jackson-Watson seeks monetary damages, to have criminal charges brought against Pryor, and that Pryor be fired.

         III. Discussion

         Defendants SPD, Town of Shirley, and Denney argue that the claims against them must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Jackson-Watson responds, emphasizing the alleged violations of her rights by defendant Pryor.

         A. SPD

         Defendant SPD argues that the claims against it must be dismissed because it cannot be sued under § 1983. Because it is true that in Indiana, municipal police departments “are not suable entities, ” See Sow v. Fortville Police Dept., 636 F.3d 293, 300 (7th Cir. 2011), the claims against the SPD must be dismissed.

         B. Town of Shirley

         The Town of Shirley also seeks dismissal of the claims against it because Jackson-Watson does not allege any policy or custom that resulted in the alleged deprivation of her rights. A governmental entity cannot be held liable under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees. Monell v. New York Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694-95 (1978); City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989). Thus, to state a municipal liability claim against the Town of Shirley under § 1983, Jackson-Watson must show that the alleged constitutional deprivations were caused by an official policy or custom. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. In other words, a “governmental entity is liable under §1983 only when the entity itself is a ‘moving force' behind the deprivation.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985).

A plaintiff may demonstrate an official policy through: (1) an express policy that causes a constitutional deprivation when enforced; (2) a widespread practice that is so permanent and well-settled that it constitutes a custom or practice; or (3) an allegation that the ...

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