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Dodson v. Carter

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

July 14, 2017

DOUGLAS CARTER, et al., Defendants.



         The action arises out of a series of events that occurred during a traffic stop involving both the Plymouth Police Department and the Indiana State Police on December 29, 2014 in Plymouth, Indiana that resulted in criminal charges against Lane Grant Dodson. While the criminal case against him was pending, Dodson brought this case against the various individuals he alleges were involved in the traffic stop and subsequent criminal prosecution for violating his Constitutional rights. After this case was filed, Dodson was convicted of one count of attempted murder, one count of intimidation, and two counts of domestic battery, and a judgment was entered against him.

         The Defendants from the Plymouth Police Department moved to dismiss the claims against them arguing, in part, that they are barred because a judgment in Dodson's favor would necessarily imply the invalidity of his criminal conviction or sentence, which the United States Supreme Court held in Heck v. Humphrey is impermissible. That is only partially correct, and so, for the reasons discussed below, the Plymouth Defendants' motion is granted in part, and denied in part.


          The facts come from the Complaint, which I accept as true for present purposes. [DE 1.] On December 29, 2014 at or about 6:45pm, Indiana State Trooper William Ennis pulled over Dodson who stopped in a K-Mart parking lot in Plymouth. [DE 1 at ¶1.] Trooper Ennis asked Dodson for his license and the men spoke for several minutes. [Id.] Plymouth Police Officers Matthew Emenhiser and Bridget Hite arrived on the scene and approached Dodson's van. [Id.] Officer Hite approached the front window on the passenger side and was looking in with a flashlight. Officer Emenhiser asked Trooper Ennis if Dodson was carrying a gun and Trooper Ennis responded that Dodson had a gun but he had a permit and so, from Trooper Ennis's point of view, everything was okay. [Id.]

         Exactly what transpired next is a bit difficult to glean from the Complaint. Dodson alleges that Officer Emenhiser suddenly opened the driver's door, telling Dodson to get out of the van and hand over the gun. [Id. at ¶2.] Dodson's foot was in the door jamb of the car when Officer Emenhiser slammed the door, injuring Dodson's toe, as Officer Emenhiser yelled “gun” and drew his gun and started shooting at Dodson while running to the front of the van. [Id.] Officer Emenhiser shot the van and Dodson through the windshield, injuring Dodson's neck, right shoulder, and hand. [Id.] After Officer Emehiser initiated fire, Trooper Ennis shot at Dodson from behind. [Id.]

         After Dodson was shot, he alleges that he was dragged away from the van and handcuffed with his hands behind him and Officer Emenhiser searched Dodson's person and allegedly removed Dodson's gun from the holster under Dodson's left arm saying, “We have to get a story straight.” [Id. at ¶3.] Dodson alleges that the officers walked away, leaving him bleeding and unattended. [Id.] Dodson alleges that when the EMTs arrived and asked the officers to uncuff Dodson, the officers refused several times before finally doing so. [Id.]

         Dodson alleges that nearly two months later, on February 23, 2015, a search was done at his property but without a warrant signed by a judge; it was allegedly signed instead by Indiana State Police Detective Don Curl. [Id. at ¶4.] Dodson alleges that during that search, his $4, 000 gun safe was damaged in an attempt to obtain firearms, firearm clips, and ammunition. [Id.]

         Dodson alleges nothing else regarding these incidents. To understand what happened next, I turn to the Indiana state court dockets and public filings.[1] On March 13, 2015, a probable cause affidavit was filed against Dodson alleging that the December 29, 2014 incident was precipitated by a complaint of domestic violence. The probable cause affidavit states that Dodson attempted to kill Officer Emenhiser by firing a gun at him. The Court found that probable cause existed for the arrest of Dodson on the charges of attempted murder, intimidation, two counts of domestic battery, and one count of battery with moderate bodily injury. [DE 14-1; DE 14-2.] Dodson eventually was charged with one count of attempted murder, one count of intimidation, two counts of domestic battery, and one count of battery with moderate bodily injury. [DE 14-3.]

         Dodson filed this action on November 15, 2016, while the criminal case against him was still pending, alleging that various members of the Indiana State Police Department, the Plymouth Police Department, and the Mayor of Plymouth violated his constitutional rights. [DE 1.] A couple of weeks later, on December 2, 2016, Dodson was found guilty in state court of attempted murder, intimidation, and two counts of domestic battery and judgment was entered against him. [DE 14-4.] On December 21, 2016, the Plymouth Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all claims against them for failure to state a claim. [DE 13.] Dodson did not initially respond to that motion. On January 9, 2017, the Indiana State Defendants filed an Answer and Statement of Defenses. [DE 16.] On February 23, 2017, Dodson filed an appeal of his criminal conviction, which remains pending.

         This case was reassigned to me in May 2017. [DE 18.] That same month, I ordered Dodson to file a response to the Plymouth Defendants' motion to dismiss by June 23, 2017 or face dismissal for want to prosecution. [DE 21.] On June 19, 2017, Dodson filed a Motion to Stay Proceedings claiming that he never received a copy of the motion to dismiss. [DE 29.] That same day, Dodson also filed a response to the motion to dismiss, undermining his claim that he had not received a copy of it. [DE 30.] On June 26, 2017, Dodson filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel. [DE 33.] I will address these motions in turn below.


          I will begin with Dodson's motion for appointment of counsel. [DE 33.] Dodson brought this action as a pro se prisoner and now asks me to appoint him counsel because he claims that he is unable to represent himself because he is ignorant of the law and legal procedures, is under psychiatric care and on psychotropic medication, and is suffering from physical impairments including headaches that require him to be on a ventilator. “There is no right to court-appointed counsel in federal civil litigation.” Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 711 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 649 (7th Cir. 2007)). But in some circumstances, the court may ask an attorney to volunteer to represent indigent parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). “When confronted with a request under § 1915(e)(1) for pro bono counsel, the district court is to make the following inquiries: (1) has the indigent plaintiff made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel or been effectively precluded from doing so; and if so, (2) given the difficulty of the case, does the plaintiff appear competent to litigate it himself?” Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir. 2007) (en banc).

         Here, while I am sympathetic to Dodson's sitaution, he makes no mention of having attempted to obtain counsel on his own. When “the indigent has made no reasonable attempts to secure counsel (unless circumstances prevented him from doing so), the court should deny any [such requests for counsel] outright.” Jackson v. County of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070, 1073 (7th Cir. 1992); see also Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654-55 (7th Cir. 2007) (en banc), Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 852 (7th Cir. 2010). Dodson's failure to make ...

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