United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
TERRANCE E. LACEY SR., Plaintiff,
WENDY W. DAVIS, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE
E. Lacey, Sr., a prisoner without a lawyer, filed an amended
complaint about various events that occurred between his
arrest and eventual state conviction. “A document filed
pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)
(quotation marks and citations omitted). Nevertheless,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must review the merits
of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief. “In order to
state a claim under [42 U.S.C.] §1983 a plaintiff must
allege: (1) that defendants deprived him of a federal
constitutional right; and (2) that the defendants acted under
color of state law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d
667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
is currently an inmate at the Westville Correctional
Facility. The amended complaint is focused on various events
that took place before he was incarcerated at Westville. On
May 10, 2017, he was arrested pursuant to a warrant. Without
any detail, Lacey complains it was an “insufficient
warrant” based on Fort Wayne Detective Craig Wise's
“inadequate investigation.” ECF 6 at 2. After his
arrest, Lacey was confined in an unidentified jail. Lacey
complains that he was not informed of the charges against
him. Id. He claims that while confined at this jail,
his clothes were ruined when he was forced to sleep on the
floor. Id. He claims that on May 24, 2017, Judge
Samuel Keirns imposed an excessive bond. Id. at 3.
During this time, Lacey claims that his court appointed
attorneys, Bart Arnold and Timothy Lemon, provided
ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at 3, 4. On
September 21, 2017, prosecutors presented him with a plea
agreement, which Lacey believes was unconstitutional.
Id. at 4. He also complains that prosecutors amended
his charges shortly before trial. Id. He further
alleges that during trial “the Judge” coerced him
into silence, violating his First Amendment rights.
Id. at 5. After his conviction, on November 9, 2017,
he claims that he received an unconstitutional sentence.
Lacey's various allegations, the complaint fails to state
a claim against any named defendant. The complaint names six
defendants. The first defendant is Judge Wendy Davis.
However, Judge Davis is not mentioned anywhere in the body of
the complaint. Thus, Lacey has not stated a plausible claim
against her. Nevertheless, even if Lacey had named Judge
Davis, the judge would be entitled to absolute immunity for
her judicial actions, even if Lacey believes the judge acted
improperly. “A judge has absolute immunity for any
judicial actions unless the judge acted in absence of all
jurisdiction.” Polzin v. Gage, 636 F.3d 834,
838 (7th Cir. 2011). “A judge will not be deprived of
immunity because the action he took was in error, was done
maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather, he
will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the
clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978).
the amended complaint names Gregory Ridenour as a defendant.
However, Ridenour is not mentioned in the complaint's
allegations either. Thus, it is unclear who this individual
is or why he is being sued.
Lacey names three Allen County deputy prosecutors as
defendants --Karen Richards, David McClamrock and Alison
Yeager. However, Lacey does not name any of these individuals
in the amended complaint's allegations. Instead, he lumps
all three individuals together and generally complains about
various actions taken by “the prosecutors” in
initiating Lacey's prosecution and during trial. Not
explaining what each individual did is a problem because
“section 1983 does not establish a system of vicarious
responsibility” and “public employees are
responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone
else's.” Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592,
593 (7th Cir. 2009). Thus, Lacey needs to explain what
actions each prosecutor took and go on to discuss how those
actions violated his constitutional rights.
even if Lacey would have individually named any of the
prosecutors in the body of the complaint, that may not have
gotten him any further along. “[I]n initiating a
prosecution and in presenting the State's case, the
prosecutor is immune from a civil suit for damages under
§ 1983.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S.
409, 431 (1976). See also Smith v. Power, 346 F.3d
740, 742 (7th Cir. 2003) (“Absolute immunity shields
prosecutors even if they act maliciously, unreasonably,
without probable cause, or even on the basis of false
testimony or evidence.” (quotation marks and citation
Lacey names Fort Wayne Police Department Detective Craig Wise
as a defendant. Lacey complains that Detective Wise conducted
an “inadequate investigation” which led to an
“insufficient warrant” being issued for
Lacey's arrest. Though it is clear that Lacey does not
believe he should have been arrested based on Detective
Wise's investigation, it is unclear what, exactly, Lacey
is alleging against Detective Wise. It may be that he is
alleging he was falsely arrested. However, the existence of
probable cause is an “absolute bar” to a Fourth
Amendment false arrest claim. McBride v. Grice, 576
F.3d 703, 707 (7th Cir. 2009). An officer has probable cause
to arrest “if a reasonable person would believe, based
on the facts and circumstances known at the time, that a
crime had been committed.” Id. at 707. Here,
Lacey concedes that officers arrested him pursuant to a
warrant. See Juris v. McGowan, 957 F.2d 345, 350,
(7th Cir. 1992) (“Generally, a person arrested pursuant
to a facially valid warrant cannot prevail in a § 1983
suit for false arrest; this is so even if the arrest warrant
is later determined to have an inadequate factual
foundation.”). Thus, he has not plausibly alleged a
claim for false arrest.
also be that Lacey is alleging that he was wrongfully
arrested pursuant to that warrant. That is to say, Lacey may
believe that Detective Wise caused the arrest warrant to be
issued knowing that he was not the proper person to be
accused. This is more akin to a claim for malicious
prosecution. Snodderly v. R.U.F.F. Drug Enforcement Task
Force, 239 F.3d 892, 899-900 (7th Cir. 2001). But Lacey
has not stated a plausible claim for malicious prosecution
either. This is because any such claim would not accrue
unless and until the criminal proceedings have terminated in
Lacey's favor (i.e., acquittal or dismissal of the
charges). Id. Lacey does not allege this occurred.
the amended complaint does not state a valid claim, I will
grant Lacey an opportunity to file one more amended
complaint. See Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014
(7th Cir. 2013). However, he should only file one if he can
address the deficiencies set forth in this order. Most
notably, Lacey needs to name the defendants who were
personally responsible for the conditions he complains about.
He then needs to go on to explain what each defendant did in
connection with each claim. If he chooses to file an amended
complaint, a copy of this court's approved form -
Prisoner Complaint (INND Rev. 8/16) - should be available
upon request from Westville's law library. On the second
amended complaint, he must put the cause number of this case
which is on the first page of this order, and he should
organize his narrative in numbered paragraphs.
(1) Terrance E. Lacey. Sr., is GRANTED until February 25,
2019, to file a second amended complaint; and
(2) he is CAUTIONED, that if he does not respond by the
deadline, this case will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A because the current complaint does not state ...