United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ANGELITO C. MERCADO, Plaintiff,
COLUMBUS POLICE DEPARTMENT, LEINHOOP Mayor, ROSS Officer, Defendants.
ENTRY SCREENING, GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS
STATUS, DISMISSING CERTAIN
DEFENDANTS, AND DIRECTING ISSUANCE AND
SERVICE OF PROCESS
William T. Lawrence, Judge
In Forma Pauperis
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dkt.
, is granted. The assessment of an
initial partial filing fee is not feasible at this time.
Notwithstanding the foregoing ruling, plaintiff owes the
filing fee. “All [28 U.S.C.] § 1915 has ever done
is excuse pre-payment of the docket fees; a litigant
remains liable for them, and for other costs, although
poverty may make collection impossible.”
Abdul-Wadood v. Nathan, 91 F.3d 1023, 1025 (7th Cir.
is incarcerated in the Bartholomew County Jail in Columbus,
Indiana. Because plaintiff is a “prisoner” as
defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court has an
obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen his
complaint before service on the defendants. Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint
if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for
relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint
states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when
addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v.
Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive
[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim for 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se
complaints such as that filed by plaintiff are construed
liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch,
517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).
complaint asserts a single cause of action, labeled
“malicious prosecution, ” against Officer Ross of
the Columbus Police Department. He contends that on February
22, 2017, Ross “initiated a criminal complaint from a
traffic stop that was without probable cause.”
Complaint at p. 1 (Dkt. 1). He continues in the next sentence
alleging that this conduct, presumably the initiation of a
criminal complaint, was an “infringement of the
[c]onstitutional [r]ights of the plaintiff and a malicious
threshold matter, Officer Ross is the only person described
in the short complaint to have committed any actionable
conduct. Accordingly, two defendants named only in the
caption -- Columbus Police Department and Mayor Leinhoop --
are dismissed from this action because,
inter alia, the complaint fails to allege any claim
against them. See also Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d
592, 593-94 (7th Cir. 2009) (“Section 1983 does not
establish a system of vicarious responsibility. Liability
depends on each defendant's knowledge and actions, not on
the knowledge or actions of persons they supervise.”)
(internal citation omitted).
claim for malicious prosecution does not state a claim under
18 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under section 1983, a
plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States and must show that
the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting
under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42, 48 (1988). “Federal courts are rarely the
appropriate forum for malicious prosecution claims.”
Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 664 (7th Cir.
2011). This is because “individuals do not have a
federal right not to be summoned into court and prosecuted
without probable cause.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted). Moreover, Indiana law insulates
Ross from malicious prosecution claims. Julian v.
Hanna, 732 F.3d 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (holding the Indiana
Tort Claims Act, Ind. Code § 34-13-3-3(6), grants broad
immunity to government units and employees from malicious
the Seventh Circuit has instructed that malicious prosecution
claims be analyzed for allegations of other constitutional
rights, particularly false arrest claims. While titled as
malicious prosecution claims, often the claims describe false
arrests, unlawful seizures, or unfair trials under other
constitutional theories. See Newsome v. McCabe, 256
F.3d 747, 751 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[I]f a plaintiff can
establish a violation of the fourth (or any other) amendment
there is nothing but confusion to be gained by calling the
legal theory ‘malicious prosecution.'”).
complains that Ross effectuated a traffic stop without
probable cause, which may state a claim for false arrest or
an unlawful search and seizure. Alexander v.
McKinney, 692 F.3d 553, 558 (7th Cir. 2012) (holding
“[t]he Fourth Amendment . . . is the proper basis for
challenging the lawfulness of an arrest”). Therefore,
as re-stated, plaintiff's claim regarding the traffic
stop, but not any malicious prosecution, may proceed against
Ross. If plaintiff believes that additional claims ...