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Ledford v. Rutledge

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 28, 2018

CARL LEE LEDFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
DUSTIN RUTLEDGE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE.

         On October 18, 2017, Plaintiff Carl Lee Ledford, proceeding pro se, filed his Complaint [ECF No. 1] against Defendants Dustin Rutledge, Rogelio Escutia, Andrew D. Hahn, Bradley Balasa, A. Shefferly, R. Nystuen, Shane LaMartz, E.M., and the Sheriff of the City of Knox[1]. Defendant Balasa filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim [ECF No. 34] on January 27, 2018. Defendants Escutia, LaMartz, and Rutledge jointly filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction [ECF No. 36] on January 31, 2018. Defendant Hahn filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim [ECF No. 38] on February 1, 2018. Defendant E.M. filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim [ECF No. 41] on February 2, 2018. The Plaintiff filed a Motion for Entry of Default and Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 43] on February 6, 2018, in which he also appears to respond to some of the Defendants' arguments. Defendants Shefferly, Nystuen, E.M., Balasa, and Hahn filed Responses to the Plaintiff's Motion [ECF Nos. 45, 46, 47] on February 20, 2018. Defendants Escutia, LaMartz, and Rutledge filed a Motion for Extension of Time [ECF No. 49] to respond to the Plaintiff's Motion on March 6, 2018. The Plaintiff filed an “Answer” [ECF No. 50] on March 14, 2018, [2] in response to the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss and the Defendants' Responses to his Motion for Entry of Default and Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants Hahn, Escutia, LaMartz, Rutledge, Balasa, and Shefferly filed Replies [ECF Nos.56-59] on March 21, 2018.

         THE PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         In his Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges violations of the “Civil Rights Act Section 1983[, ] 4th, 5th, 9th Amendment Rights, Right to Due Process, Right to Civic Liberty, Right to Freedom From Racial Profiling & Harassment, [and the] Right to travel.” (Compl. 4.) The Plaintiff claims that his rights have been “constantly and consistently” violated through a pattern of discrimination, harassment, false arrest, and excessive force exerted by numerous traffic and highway law enforcement officers from multiple police agencies located across three Indiana counties. (See Compl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-1.) He alleges that he has been “unjustly detained on numerous occasions” as a result of racial profiling. (Id. at 5.) According to the Plaintiff, these detentions have ultimately resulted in over $15, 000.00 in fines, costs, and fees, and he suffers severe emotional stress from the harassment. (Id.)

         As a basis for his allegations, the Plaintiff details four traffic stops. One was conducted by Defendant LaMartz, which resulted in a citation that was ultimately dismissed. A second was conducted by Defendant Rutledge, which resulted in a finding of guilty after a bench trial in state court. The third was conducted by Defendants Shefferly and Nystuen, which resulted in the Plaintiff's arrest, although the case was ultimately dismissed. The Fourth was conducted by E.M. and resulted in a warning.

         ANALYSIS

         A. The Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment

         The Plaintiff argues that the Court should enter default against Defendants Shefferly, Nystuen, E.M., Hahn, and the Sheriff. Primarily, the Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred by granting Defendants Shefferly, Nystuen, E.M., and Hahn an extension of time to file responses to his Complaint. He further argues that default is proper against Defendants Shefferly, Nystuen, E.M., Hahn, and the Sheriff because none of them responded to the Plaintiff's Complaint by the deadlines imposed by the Magistrate Judge. The Court notes that throughout his argument, the Plaintiff cites to the Indiana Trial Rules rather than the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern this federal proceeding.

         1. Failure to Respond

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, the Court must enter default judgment “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). The Plaintiff contends that entry of default is warranted because Defendants Shefferly, Nystuen, E.M., Hahn, and the Sheriff failed to timely respond to his Complaint. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, a defendant may file one of several motions in lieu of filing an answer to a plaintiff's complaint, which has the effect of extending the defendant's time to answer the complaint until after a court has ruled on the pending motions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a)(4). Defendant Hahn was required to respond by February 1, 2018, and on February 1, 2018, he filed a Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 38], pursuant to Rule 12. Defendants Shefferly, Nystuen, and E.M. were required to respond by February 2, 2018. Defendant E.M. filed a Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 41], pursuant to Rule 12 on February 2, 2018, and Defendants Shefferly and Nystuen filed an Answer [ECF No. 40] on February 2, 2018. Therefore, these Defendants timely responded to the Plaintiff's Complaint, and an entry of default against them on this ground would be improper.

         The Plaintiff is correct that the Sheriff has not yet filed a responsive pleading. Summons as to the Sheriff was returned executed on December 22, 2017. (See ECF No. 10.) The Sheriff's response to the Plaintiff's Complaint was due January 2, 2018. (See id.) That deadline has passed, and the Sheriff has neither responded nor requested an extension of time to respond. However, the Court will not enter default judgment against the Sheriff because, as explained more fully below, the Court finds that the Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against the Sheriff. However, the Court will grant the Plaintiff the opportunity to demonstrate why he believes his Complaint has stated a claim against the Sheriff or, alternatively, to amend his Complaint to state a claim against the Sheriff. Therefore, the Court will not enter default judgment against the Sheriff at this time.

         2. Grants of Extensions of Time

         The Plaintiff also argues that the Magistrate Judge abused his discretion by granting the Defendants additional time to respond to the Plaintiff's Complaint. On December 29, 2017, Defendant Balasa timely filed a Motion for Extension of Time [ECF No. 13] to respond to the Plaintiff's Complaint, and on January 2, 2018, Defendants Escutia, LaMartz, and Rutledge timely filed a Motion for Extension of Time [ECF No. 17] to respond to the Plaintiff's Complaint. On January 3, 2018, the Magistrate Judge granted the Defendants' Motions and extended Defendant Balasa's deadline to January 30, 2018, and Defendants Escutia, LaMartz, and Rutledge's deadlines to January 31, 2018.

         On January 4, 2018, Defendant Hahn filed a Motion for Extension of Time [ECF No. 21] to respond to the Plaintiff's Complaint. Originally, Defendant Hahn's response was due on January 2, 2018. (See ECF No. 9.) Thus, his Motion was filed after his deadline to respond. The Magistrate Judge granted his Motion on January 5, 2018 [ECF No. 22], granting him until February 1, 2018, to respond, finding good cause and excusable neglect pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1)(B).

         On January 5, 2018, Defendants E.M., Nystuen, and Shefferly filed a Motion for Extension of Time [ECF No. 27] to respond to the Plaintiff's Complaint. Originally, their responses were due on January 2, 2018. (See ECF Nos. 5, 6, 8.) Thus, this Motion was filed after the Defendants' deadline to respond. The Magistrate Judge granted their Motion on January 8, 2018 [ECF No. 30], granting them until February 2, 2018, to respond, finding good cause and excusable neglect, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1)(B).

         The Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge's decision to grant the Defendants extensions of time based on a finding of excusable neglect was an abuse of discretion. A decision whether to allow a late filing is “at bottom an equitable one, taking account of all relevant circumstances . . . includ[ing] . . . the danger of prejudice . . . the length of the delay and its potential impact on the judicial proceedings, the reason for the delay, including whether it was within the reasonable control of the movant, and whether the movant acted in good faith. Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co., 507 U.S. 390, 395 (1993). Both Motions at issue cited the fact that the Defendants' attorneys had only recently received the Complaint and required more time to respond. In this case, there is no danger of prejudice to the Plaintiff, and the length of the delay is minimal, especially considering that the deadlines imposed fell within two days of the extensions granted to the Defendants that timely filed their Motions. Further, there is no indication that the movants acted in bad faith. Although Defendants Hahn, E.M., Nystuen, and Shefferly “do[] not give much of an explanation of how [they] meet[] the excusable neglect standard, ” the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge did not abuse his discretion in granting an extension of time. See Brock Indus. Servs., LLC v. Laborers Int'l Union of N.A., No. 16-CV-780, 2017 WL 2080989, at *1 (S.D. Ill. May 15, 2017) (granting extension); Comsys, Inc. v. City of Kenosha Wis., No. 16-CV-655, 2017 WL 4083933, at *2 (E.D. Wis. Feb. 13, 2017) (granting extension because “a single inadvertent failure to comply with a deadline is the very sort of conduct that courts regularly excuse”). Because the Magistrate Judge did not abuse his discretion in granting the extensions of time, the Court will deny the Plaintiff's Motion for Default as to Defendants Hahn, E.M., Nystuen, and Shefferly on this ground.

         B. The Defendants' Motions to Dismiss

         The Plaintiff alleges continued harassment and discrimination by multiple police agencies in Indiana for repeated traffic stops in violation of § 1983, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Ninth Amendment, as well as malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. To 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. 2008).

         The Ninth Amendment does not protect any specific right. See Quilici v. Vill. of Morton Grove, 695 F.2d 261, 271 (7th Cir. 1982). “As such, a claim based solely on alleged Ninth Amendment rights must fail because there are no constitutional rights embodied in that amendment.” Jefferson v. Winnebago Cty., No. 94 C 50151, 1995 WL 89064, at *12 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 2, 1985) (citing Gibson v. Matthews, 926 F.2d 532, 537 (7th Cir. 1991)). Rather, “[t]he Ninth Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights to ensure that no fundamental right would be denied merely because it was not specifically enumerated in the ...


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