United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE United States District Court Southern
District of Indiana
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,  the Town of Shirley, and the Shirley
Police Department (“SPD”) 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.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
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).
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.
seeks monetary damages, to have criminal charges brought
against Pryor, and that Pryor be fired.
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.
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.
Town of Shirley
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 ...