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Coleman v. City of Indianapolis

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

May 7, 2018

CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS Real party, DAVID LICHTENBERGER, in his individual capacity, PAMELA G. SCHNEEMAN, in her individual capacity, Defendants.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         This case arises out of a property dispute between pro se Plaintiff Wayde Coleman and Defendants the City of Indianapolis (the “City”), David Lichtenberger, and Pamela Schneeman (the “Individual Defendants”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Presently pending before the Court is Mr. Coleman's Objection to the Report and Recommendation on Defendants' Motion Dismiss, Defendants' Motion to Transfer Case, and Mr. Coleman's Motion to Amend the Complaint. [Filing No. 58.] For the reasons set forth herein, the Court OVERRULES Mr. Coleman's Objection, and ADOPTS AS MODIFIED the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations.



         This case centers around property owned by Mr. Coleman (the “Property”). Over the span of nearly ten years, Mr. Coleman has been involved in disputes with the City over taxes and fees owed on the Property, including several attempted tax sales. Those actions have been the subject of a number of pro se lawsuits filed by Mr. Coleman in both state and federal court. Mr. Coleman's Complaint in this matter details these various lawsuits, as well as the facts underlying them. In presenting the facts and procedural history, which are intertwined, the Court draws in part from its prior recitation of those facts, Coleman v. City of Indianapolis, et al, 2015 WL 5432131 (S.D. Ind. 2015) (“Coleman I”), and in part from the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations, [Filing No. 49].

         In 2006, Mr. Coleman acquired ownership of the Property. Because of delinquent taxes and unpaid special assessments, penalties, and costs, on March 15, 2010, the Marion Circuit Court issued a “Judgment and Order for Sale” allowing the Property to be offered in the 2009 Marion County Tax Sale, which was held in March 2010. When the Property did not sell in the tax sale, by operation of law, Marion County acquired a tax sale certificate for the Property. In November 2010, the Marion Circuit Court, on the motion of the Marion County Auditor, issued an Order for Issuance of Tax Deed. Although the court's order authorized Marion County to exchange its tax sale certificate for a tax deed to the Property, Marion County did not act until 2014, when it decided to offer the Property for sale in the surplus real estate auction to be held on March 21, 2014. In the meantime, Mr. Coleman attempted to make payments to the County but was told that partial payments were not permitted and that he would have to make the full payment of approximately $12, 000 to keep the Property. Mr. Coleman determined that, through a clerical error, the County Clerk had sent notices to an incorrect address (the Property's address instead of the address at which he resided). He sent several letters of appeal, but received no response.

         After making an inquiry, Mr. Coleman received notice that the Property was to be offered in the surplus real estate auction in March 2014. He then filed suit against the City in the Marion Superior Court (Coleman I), alleging that he never received notice of the transfer of his property in 2010 and that the transfer violated his constitutional rights in numerous respects. On March 12, 2014, the City removed that case to this Court, where it was assigned to Judge William Lawrence.

         Mr. Coleman later amended his complaint to add claims related to the City's alleged failure to provide notice of the tax sale or to respond to his requests for appeal. On March 20, 2014, the County exchanged its tax sale certificate for the tax deed. Unaware that the County had taken ownership of the Property, Mr. Coleman made repairs on it, believing that such repairs might lessen the amount in fees assessed. In late-May 2014, the County sent Mr. Coleman a letter advising him that it had taken ownership of the Property, and that he had no legal right of entry.

         In September 2015, Judge Lawrence dismissed most of Mr. Coleman's claims, concluding under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine that this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over them. Coleman I, 2015 WL 5432131, at *3-4. The Court later granted the City's motion for summary judgment on Mr. Coleman's remaining claims. Coleman I, 2016 WL 7454459, at *3 (S.D. Ind. 2016). In its order granting summary judgment, the Court noted that, following its dismissal of the claims barred by Rooker-Feldman, Mr. Coleman was successful in state court. Id. (“[Mr.] Coleman then pursued those claims in state court. While it does not appear that his claims for damages have been resolved, the state court has issued a ruling setting aside the tax deed, finding it void because Marion County had not provided [Mr.] Coleman with all of the notices due pursuant to statute before the Judgment was obtained. Accordingly, [Mr.] Coleman is once again the owner of record of the Property.”) After Mr. Coleman regained ownership of the Property, he filed a complaint for damages in Marion County Circuit Court. Wayde Coleman v. Treasurer's Office et al, Cause No. 49C01-1606-CT-023136 (“Coleman II”). The court in that action granted the City's motion for summary judgment without a substantive opinion on November 15, 2017, and Mr. Coleman appears to have appealed that decision.

         And that brings the Court to the instant Complaint, filed by Mr. Coleman on May 12, 2017. [Filing No. 1.] On the basis of the factual allegations described above, Mr. Coleman enumerates twelve causes of action: (1) “Right to be secure in his person, personal property, and/or home”; (2) Right to be secure in his person, personal property, and/or home from fraud, concealment or misrepresentation”; (3) “Right to be free from unreasonable seizure of home”; (4) “Right to be free from deprivation of liberty”; (5) “Right to be free from deprivation of property without due process clause”; (6) “Right to petition the government for redress of grievances without being in fear of retaliation”; (7) “Failing to investigate”; (8) “Incorporate due process…Brady Violation 33 U.S. at 83”; (9) “Right to be free from malicious abuse of process”; (10) “Transferring of property without proper notice”; (11) “Monell claim municipality for failure to train and discipline”; and (12) “Due process failure to give proper notice of all tax/surplus sale listings, redemption periods/collecting on tax deed.” [Filing No. 1.]

         Defendants have moved to dismiss Mr. Coleman's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). [Filing No. 24.] Defendants have also filed a Motion to Transfer Mr. Coleman's case to Judge Lawrence, on the basis that he presided over Coleman I. [Filing No. 23.] In response to the Motion to Dismiss, Mr. Coleman filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint. [Filing No. 33.] This Court referred those three motions to the Magistrate Judge, who issued his Report and Recommendations as to each. [Filing No. 49.] The Magistrate Judge recommended granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, denying Mr. Coleman's Motion to Amend, and denying as moot Defendants' Motion to Transfer. [Filing No. 49.] Mr. Coleman timely filed his objection to the Report and Recommendation. [Filing No. 58.]


         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3) provides that the Court will review recommendations on dispositive motions de novo. Under de novo review, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). Although no deference is owed to a magistrate judge's recommendation under the de novo standard, Blake v. Peak Prof. Health Servs. Inc., 1999 WL 527927, *2 (7th Cir. 1999), it is important to remember that this Court is essentially functioning as an appellate court in this context. Thus, even under de novo review, “arguments not made before a magistrate judge are normally waived.” United States v. Melgar, 227 F.3d 1038, 1040 (7th Cir. 2000). As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has observed, “there are good reasons for the rule, ” even in the context of de novo review. Id.Failure to fully develop arguments before the magistrate judge may prejudice a party, and “a willingness to consider new arguments at the district court level would undercut the rule that the findings in a magistrate judge's report and recommendation are taken as established unless the party files objections to them.” Id.

         When a motion is non-dispositive, the Court must modify or set aside any part of the magistrate judge's order that is “clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). “The clear error standard means that the district court can overturn the magistrate judge's ruling only if the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.” Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997). “An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.” Pain Center of SE Indiana, LLC v. Origin Healthcare Solutions, LLC, 2014 WL 6674757, *2 (S.D. Ind. 2014) (citations and quotation marks omitted).



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