United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Tyquan Tarrell
Stewart's Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 8] and Motion
to Proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 9], filed June 29,
2017, against Defendants Fort Wayne Police Department,
Officer G. Hensler, an unknown officer, Allen County Court
Magistrate Judges Jason C. Custer and David M. Zent, and the
State of Indiana.
case was reassigned to Chief Judge Theresa L. Springmann for
all further proceedings pursuant to General Order 2017-4 [ECF
No. 6], effective May 1, 2017. The Plaintiff submitted a
Complaint [ECF No. 1] against the Defendants Allen County
Police Department, and Officers G. Hensler, T. Hughes,
Nicklow, and T. Strausborger on September 26, 2016, and also
filed his first Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis
[ECF No. 3] on September 28, 2017. The Plaintiff on his own
motion filed an Amended Complaint [ECF No. 4] on November 11,
2016, and filed a letter [ECF No. 5] asking the Court to rule
on this matter on April 21, 2017. The Court granted the
Plaintiff leave to amend, and evaluated his Amended Complaint
accordingly. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2).
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint stated that the defendants,
violated his civil rights on the basis of his race, sex, and
religion. The Court construed the Plaintiff's claims as a
violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, which are
enforceable through a civil action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. When public officers violate the constitutional rights
of citizens, § 1983 provides the vehicle for a legal
claim. Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir.
2006). Section 1983 imposes liability on any
“person” who, while acting under color of state
law, deprives an individual of federally protected rights. 42
U.S.C. § 1983; see Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S.
635, 640 (1980). Section 1983 authorizes claimants to sue
persons in their individual capacities who are alleged to
have violated such rights. Lewis v. Downey, 581 F.3d
467, 472-73 (7th Cir. 2009). Section 1983 also authorizes
claimants to sue persons in their official capacities.
See Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. Cnty. of Bureau,
506 F.3d 509, 514-15 (7th Cir. 2007). Personal involvement is
an element of every claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th
First Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff alleged that Officer
Hensler “testified” about the events that
occurred on September 26, 2016. (First Am. Compl. 2.) Taken
as true for the purposes of that Opinion and Order,
Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d at 776-77,
the Court noted it is not clear what proceeding the Plaintiff
was referring to that resulted in Officer Hensler testifying.
But the introduction of that testimony as a factual
allegation established that the Plaintiff's claims likely
involved an underlying criminal proceeding.
Court stated that if the Plaintiff was arrested following the
breathalyzer test, this action would be construed as a
false-arrest claim under the Fourth Amendment and §
1983. “A finding of probable cause absolutely bars a
claim for false arrest under § 1983.” Reynolds
v. Jamison, 488 F.3d 756, 764-65 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing
Smith v. City of Chi., 913 F.2d 469, 473 (7th Cir.
1990)). “Probable cause to arrest existed if, at the
time the decision was made, ‘the facts and
circumstances within [the officers'] knowledge and of
which they had reasonably trustworthy information were
sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the
[individual] had committed or was committing an
offense.'” Reynolds, 488 F.3d at 765
(quoting Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964)
(brackets and quotations in original)). “The
reasonableness of the seizure turns on what the officer knew,
not whether he knew the truth or whether he should have known
more.” Reynolds, 488 F.3d at 765 (citing
Gramenos v. Jewel Cos., 797 F.2d 432, 439 (7th Cir.
Court dismissed the Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint
without prejudice and denied the Plaintiff's First Motion
for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. The Court also
dismssed the Plaintiff's initial Complaint [ECF No. 1] as
moot. The Court granted the Plaintiff leave to file a second
amended complaint, accompanied by a new Petition to Proceed
Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs or the filing fee. The
Plaintiff has timely done so, and the Court now evaluates the
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint here.
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee to bring an
action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However,
the federal in forma pauperis (IFP) statute, 28 U.S.C. §
1915, provides indigent litigants an opportunity for
meaningful access to the federal courts despite their
inability to pay the costs and fees associated with that
access. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319
(1989). To authorize a litigant to proceed IFP, a court must
make two determinations: first, whether the litigant is
unable to pay the costs of commencing the action, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(1); and second, whether the action is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. §
the first inquiry, an indigent party may commence an action
in federal court, without prepayment of costs and fees, upon
submission of an affidavit asserting an inability “to
pay such fees or give security therefor.” Id.
§ 1915(a). Here, the Plaintiff's Motion establishes
that he is unable to prepay the filing fee.
inquiry does not end there. District courts have the power
under § 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen complaints even before
service of the complaint on the defendants, and must dismiss
the complaint if it fails to state a claim. Rowe v.
Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. 1999). Courts apply
the same standard under § 1915(e)(2)(B) as when
addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1018, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013).
state a claim under the federal notice pleading standards, a
complaint must set forth a “short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations are
accepted as true and need only give “fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc.,
496 F.3d 773, 776-77 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). However, a
plaintiff's allegations must show that his entitlement to
relief is plausible, rather than merely speculative.
Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir.
Plaintiff alleges that “in the month of June, 2016,
” he was traveling in a car with his sister
and brother, when they were pulled over for “allegedly
making an illegal left turn in the far left lane.”
(Second Am. Compl. 3, ECF No. 8) According to the Plaintiff,
he asked what he was being pulled over for. (Id.)
The Plaintiff alleges that he then asked for the
officer's badge numbers and names. (Id.) The
Plaintiff alleges that in response, he was ordered out of the
vehicle. The Plaintiff then alleges the officers
“performed an illegal search on me . . . without
probable cause, ” specifically, a breathalyzer test.
(Id.) The Plaintiff alleges he “passed with
zero's, ” but that the officers chuckled saying
“it must be broke.” (Id.) In response,
the Plaintiff alleges he told the officers he was a Moorish
American. (Id.) The Plaintiff alleges that during
the course of this conversation, one of the officers called
him “a devil.” (Id.)
Plaintiff alleges that because of this exchange, he
“raised [his] hands in the air and looked towards the
east and told Allah [he] was tired of being
mistreated.” (Id.) The Plaintiff alleges that,