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Stumm v. Town of Pittsboro

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 8, 2018

JASON A STUMM, MATTHEW W STUMM, BRIAN T HELMER, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF PITTSBORO, CHRISTI PATTERSON, LIEUTENANT SCOTT KING, CARRI WEBER, [1] Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         The Plaintiffs in this case - Matthew Stumm, Jason Stumm, and Brian Helmer - are current or former Pittsboro Police officers who allege that the Chief of Police and a Police Major recorded their conversations without their knowledge and without a court order in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Relatedly, Plaintiffs allege that Carri Weber, a Captain with the Plainfield Police Department, violated the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2510, et seq., when she used and disclosed the recorded conversations while conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct on the part of Matthew Stumm. Presently pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Captain Weber. [Filing No. 12.] For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim that does not state a right to relief. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide the defendant with “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (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). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss asks whether the complaint “contain[s] 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). 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). This plausibility determination is “a context- specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         II. Background

         The following are the factual allegations in the Complaint, which the Court must accept as true at this time:

Sometime prior to the end of 2016, Pittsboro Chief of Police Christi Patterson directed Major Scott King to install video surveillance cameras in the front area of the building that houses the Pittsboro Police Department (the “Department”). [Filing No. 1 at 3.] Chief Patterson and Major King then informed members of the Department that the front area of the building would be monitored by cameras, but the area would not be subject to audio recording because the cameras were not capable of recording audio. [Filing No. 1 at 3.] For over a year, Chief Patterson and Major King surreptitiously recorded and listened to conversations that occurred in the front area of the Department building between the Department's officers, including Plaintiffs Matthew Stumm, Jason Stumm, and Brian Helmer. [Filing No. 1 at 4.] Chief Patterson and Major King did so without a warrant, a court order, or consent on the part of Plaintiffs. [Filing No. 1 at 5.]

         Meanwhile, in late 2016, Matthew Stumm, who was then employed by the Department, became concerned that Chief Patterson and Major King were being paid for hours that they did not work, and began obtaining documents in an effort to confirm his suspicion. [Filing No. 1 at 3.]

         In February 2017, Chief Patterson prepared a report accusing Matthew Stumm of defaming a fellow officer and making statements that were damaging to morale, and she placed him on administrative leave. [Filing No. 1 at 3.] Chief Patterson then requested that Captain Carri Weber of the Plainfield Police Department conduct an investigation into Matthew Stumm's misconduct. [Filing No. 1 at 4.]

         As part of her investigation, Captain Weber conducted an interview of Matthew Stumm, during which he acknowledged making derogatory statements about Chief Patterson and Major King. [Filing No. 1 at 4.] Captain Weber informed Matthew Stumm that she had listened to recordings of his comments about Chief Patterson and Major King and that he could obtain copies of the conversations from the Pittsboro Police Commission's attorney. [Filing No. 1 at 4.] Matthew Stumm subsequently obtained the recordings. [Filing No. 1 at 4.]

         In October 2017, Chief Patterson informed the Pittsboro Police Commission that she would seek Matthew Stumm's termination. [Filing No. 1 at 4.]

         On November 16, 2017, Plaintiffs filed suit against the Town of Pittsboro acting by and through the Department, Chief Patterson in her official and individual capacities, and Major King and Captain Weber in their individual capacities. [Filing No. 1.] With respect to Pittsboro, Plaintiffs allege that the city maintains an unconstitutional and illegal policy of intercepting, recording, and disclosing conversations. [Filing No. 1 at 5.] In addition, Plaintiffs contend that Chief Patterson and Major King's actions in intercepting, recording, and disclosing their private conversations constitute an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the Federal Wiretap Act. [Filing No. 1 at 5.] Plaintiffs further allege that Captain Weber violated the Federal Wiretap Act by using and disclosing Plaintiffs' recorded conversations. [Filing No. 1 at 5.]

         Captain Weber filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) alleging that the allegations in the Complaint do not state a cause of action against her and her Motion is now ripe for the Court's review.

         III. ...


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