United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
CURTIS L. WESTBROOK, Plaintiff,
DIANE BENNINGTON, DANIAL HAHN, CITY OF MUNCIE, DELAWARE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, MATTHEW HOLLANS, MUNCIE POLICE DEPARTMENT, MUNCIE CITY COURT OF MUNCIE, INDIANA, UNKNOWN POLICE OFFICERS, Defendants.
ENTRY GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE.
reasons explained below, the motion to dismiss filed by
defendants former Judge Dianna Bennington and the Muncie City
Court (collectively, the “defendants”), Dkt. No.
89, is granted in part and denied in part.
The motion is granted to the extent that Bennington is
entitled to judicial immunity and all claims alleged against
her are dismissed. The motion is denied as to the Muncie City
Court because the defenses asserted are not applicable to
this municipal defendant.
Standard of Review
defendants seek dismissal of the claims against them pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In
reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must
accept all well-pled facts as true and draw all permissible
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Active
Disposal, Inc. v. City of Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th
Cir. 2011). The Court will not accept legal conclusions or
conclusory allegations as sufficient to state a claim for
relief. See McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d
611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual allegations must plausibly
state an entitlement to relief “to a degree that rises
above the speculative level.” Munson v. Gaetz,
673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012). In ruling on this motion
to dismiss, the Court accepts the defendants' unopposed
request to take judicial notice of two documents. Fed.R.Evid.
201. The first is the Chronological Case Summary associated
with Muncie City Court v. Curtis Westbrook, Cause
No. 18H01-1402-MI-000003 (Muncie City Court) (Dkt. No. 90-1).
The second document is Order Accepting Agreed Discipline,
In the Matter of the Honorable Dianna L. Bennington,
Cause No. 18S00-1412-JD-733 (Ind. 2015) (Dkt. No. 90-2).
Curtis L. Westbrook alleges both federal constitutional
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims
against the defendants.
Muncie City Court's Chronological Case Summary
(“CCS”) for Muncie City Court v. Curtis
Westbrook, Cause No. 18H01-1402-MI-000003, shows the
case was opened on February 11, 2014, and that the Court
found Westbrook guilty of contempt of Court on February 10,
2014, for distributing the letters, but that Westbrook left
the courtroom before he could be detained. A bench warrant
was issued for Westbrook's arrest.
February 11, 2014, Westbrook was present in the Muncie City
Court because his son had a hearing scheduled that day. He
was arrested and held in the Delaware County Jail for ten
failed to bring Westbrook before her to inform him of the
alleged nature of the contempt or to otherwise provide him
with an opportunity to explain, apologize, or give additional
information about the alleged contemptuous act(s). Bennington
also failed to inform Westbrook of his right to appeal a
contempt sentence. Bennington failed to orally inform
Westbrook of the length of his contempt sentence and did not
verify that Westbrook was given a copy of a written contempt
order that was inputted on the CCS on February 11, 2014.
alleges that the Court's official records were altered at
the direction of Defendant Bennington to falsely reflect that
a finding of contempt was made on February 10, 2014, and
falsely claim that Westbrook left the courtroom “before
he could be detained.” Bennington was the subject of an
Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission Complaint and
entered into a Statement of Circumstances and Conditional
Agreement. In those proceedings, Bennington stipulated
“that by ordering Westbrook arrested and jailed for
contempt without bringing Westbrook before [Bennington] to
inform Westbrook of the alleged nature of the contempt or to
give him an opportunity to explain, apologize, or given [sic]
additional information about the alleged contemptuous act(s)
and by not providing Westbrook with other sufficient due
process prior to ordering him jailed for contempt,
[Bennington] abused her contempt powers. . . .” Dkt.
No. 90-2 at p. 7. The Supreme Court accepted the stipulated
facts and adopted the statement of circumstances and
conditional agreement for discipline as an Order of the
Indiana Supreme Court. Dkt. No. 90-2 at p. 1.
reasons explained below, Bennington is entitled to judicial
immunity and the Muncie City Court is not entitled to
dismissal for the reasons requested by State Defendants.
fourth amended complaint, Dkt. No. 126, alleges that
Bennington's abuse of her contempt powers resulted in
violations of Westbrook's constitutional rights including
his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh,
and Fourteenth Amendments. Westbrook also brings state law
claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse
of process, false arrest and imprisonment, ...