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Khan v. Martinez

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

June 11, 2018

OSCAR MARTINEZ, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss (DE # 6) and a motion for entry of dismissal (DE # 9) originally filed by John Buncich (“Buncich”), the former Sheriff of Lake County, Indiana, and a former defendant in this matter. Also before the court are plaintiff's objections (DE # 29) to Magistrate Judge John E. Martin's opinion and order dated December 1, 2017 (DE # 28). For the following reasons, the court grants the motion to dismiss (DE # 6), denies the motion for entry of dismissal as moot (DE # 9), and overrules plaintiff's objections (DE # 29).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In October 2014, plaintiff Muhammed Khan was arrested and transported to Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana. (DE # 4 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges he was locked in a cell with another man, Andrew Decrescenzo, who attacked and attempted to rape him. (Id. at 3.) After this incident, plaintiff filed a state court complaint against Buncich in his official capacity as Sheriff and against correctional officers Sam Orlich, D. Hill, Paul Rosa, J. Norcutt, W. Eaton, Charles Hubbell, and Almita Johnson. (Id. at 1-2.) Plaintiff's second amended complaint was filed in state court on August 15, 2017 (DE # 4), and the case was removed to this court on August 31, 2017 (DE # 1).

         On September 13, 2017, Buncich filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim against him, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (DE # 6.) When plaintiff did not respond within 14 days, Buncich filed a further motion for entry of dismissal. (DE # 9.) Although Buncich originally filed these motions, per the order dated October 26, 2017, Oscar Martinez (“Martinez”), the current Sheriff, has been substituted into the case in place of Buncich. (DE # 21.)

         Rather than respond to the motion to dismiss, plaintiff filed a third amended complaint which contained a new “Monell” claim against Buncich. (DE # 10.) However, because this was not plaintiff's first amended complaint, he could not file the new complaint without the court's leave or defendants' consent. (See DE # 25.) Since he had neither, the court struck the third amended complaint. (Id.)

         On November 5, 2017, plaintiff moved for leave to file his third amended complaint. (DE # 26.) This time, Martinez opposed the motion. (DE # 27.) On December 1, 2017, Magistrate Judge John E. Martin issued an opinion and order denying plaintiff's motion for leave to amend on the grounds that amendment would be futile. (DE # 28.) Plaintiff has since objected to Magistrate Judge Martin's order, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). (DE # 29.) Martinez responded to the motion and it is now ripe for review.


         Before the court is a motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A judge reviewing a complaint under a Rule 12(b)(6) standard must construe it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, accept well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all inferences in the non-movant's favor. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007); Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 595 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Under the liberal notice-pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy Rule 8(a), “the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “While the federal pleading standard is quite forgiving, . . . the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ray v. City of Chicago, 629 F.3d 660, 662-63 (7th Cir. 2011); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. A plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). To meet this standard, a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond providing “labels and conclusions” and “be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry & Neurology, 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994) among other authorities).

         Meanwhile, plaintiff has filed objections pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). Rule 72(a) provides that a Magistrate Judge to whom a non-dispositive, pre-trial matter has been referred shall “conduct the required proceedings and, when appropriate, issue a written order stating the decision.” In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, parties are given fourteen (14) days after service of the Magistrate's opinion and order to file any written objections. “The district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).


         The court will first address the pending motion to dismiss originally filed by Buncich. (DE # 6.) In the motion, Buncich moved to dismiss all claims against him that appear in plaintiff's second amended complaint. The second amended complaint contains only one claim (Count I) which alleges a Fourteenth Amendment violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, there are no allegations in the complaint that Buncich was personally involved in the alleged Fourteenth Amendment violation. (See DE # 6.) In fact, the second amended complaint specifically lists Buncich as a defendant only in his official capacity.

         Any claims asserted against Sheriff Buncich in his official capacity are equivalent to claims against the Lake County Sheriff's Department itself. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985). A local government or municipality, such as the Lake County Sheriff's Department, can be subject to suit under § 1983. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). However, in order to state this type of “Monell” claim against a municipality, the complaint must allege that “an official policy or custom” of the municipality “not only caused the violation, but was the moving force behind it.” Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. County of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 514 (7th Cir. 2007). “The caseslaw has identified three instances in which a municipality can be said to have violated the civil rights of a person because of its policy: (1) an express policy, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) a widespread practice that, although not authorized by written law or express municipal policy, is so permanent and well settled as to ...

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