United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee, United States District Court Judge
Ronald Fields (“Fields”), proceeding pro
se, filed the present lawsuit after he was stopped by
Marion Police for a driving infraction which, in turn, led to
his arrest for operating a motor vehicle under a lifetime
driving suspension. He sued various individuals and entities
alleging federal civil rights violations. Presently before
the Court, are Defendants’ Brad Kochanek and Reggie
Nevels (misnamed in the Complaint as Reggie Novel)
(“the Defendants”), Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). [DE 37]. Fields
belatedly responded in opposition and the Defendants replied.
For the following reasons, this Motion will be GRANTED.
reviewing a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(c), the court applies the same standard that is applied
when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l
Bancorp., 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007). A judge
reviewing a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must construe
the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party, accept all well-pleaded facts as
true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-movant. United States ex rel. Berkowitz v. Automation
Aids, Inc., 896 F.3d 834, 839 (7th Cir. 2018).
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).
“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); Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 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).
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. A complaint must give
“enough details about the subject-matter of the case to
present a story that holds together.” Swanson v.
Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010).
facts are taken from Mr. Fields’ complaint and accepted
as true for purposes of the defendants' motion. As
alleged in the Complaint, on or about November 2, 2018,
Fields, while driving, was stopped by an officer of the
Marion Police Department. Fields was initially stopped
because the light over the license plate on the vehicle he
was driving was out. (Complaint at p. 3).
was not ticketed for the stop. Instead, he was arrested for
operating a motor vehicle after his driving privileges had
been forfeited for life. (Id.). Fields asserts that
he was not read his Miranda rights, and was provided no
legitimate documentation or reason to justify his arrest. As
a result, he brought suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 Fourth
Amendment alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, and
unreasonable search and seizure. The body of the Complaint
does not specify which actions Fields attributes to the
Defendants nor does it mention the Defendants by name outside
of naming them in the caption.
their motion, the Defendants assert that from the bare
allegations of the Complaint, even when taken as true, no
claim has been stated against either Defendant Nevels or
Defendant Kochanek. Specifically, the Defendants note that
Reggie “Novel” is misnamed and should be Reggie
Nevels, who is the Grant County Sheriff. (Affidavit of
Reggie Nevels, at ¶2). Next, they assert that Defendant
Kochanek is listed as a witness in the probable cause
affidavit attached to Fields’ Complaint and is employed
by the court as a probation officer in Grant County.
(Affidavit of Brad Kochanek, at ¶2). However, other
than being listed in the caption, the Complaint does not
allege any specific acts or conduct of either of these
defendants so as to hold them liable under §1983.
public officers violate the constitutional rights of
citizens, § 1983 provides the vehicle for a legal claim.
Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
Section 1983 imposes liability on any “person”
who, while acting under color of state law, deprives an
individual of federally protected rights. 42 U.S.C. §
1983; see Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980).
Section 1983 authorizes claimants to sue persons in their
individual capacities who are alleged to have violated such
rights. Lewis v. Downey, 581 F.3d 467, 472–73
(7th Cir. 2009). Section 1983 also authorizes claimants to
sue persons in their official capacities. See Estate of
Sims ex rel. Sims v. Cnty. of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509,
514–15 (7th Cir. 2007). However, personal involvement
is an element of every claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th
Fields’ complaint fails to allege any personal
involvement by Kochanek or Nevels in the events leading to
his arrest about which he claims. Merely naming a party in
the caption of a Complaint is not enough to state a claim
against him. Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334
(7th Cir. 1998). Indeed, because Plaintiff failed to allege
specific acts of wrongdoing by Kochanek and Nevels, neither
of whom are Marion police officers, the personal involvement
requirement necessary for Section 1983 liability is not met.
Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir.
1995). For this reason, the Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings is GRANTED to Kochanek and Nevels in their
extent that Fields is attempting to raise an official
capacity claim against either of these individuals, this
claim also fails. Suits against county officials in their
official capacities are treated as suits against the county
itself. Weeks v. Hodges, 871 F.Supp.2d 811, 824
(N.D. Ind. 2012). “Governmental entities cannot be held
liable for the unconstitutional acts of their employees
unless those acts were carried out pursuant to an official
custom or policy.” Grievson v. Anderson, 538
F.3d 763, 771 (7th Cir. 2008). “The official policy
requirement for liability under 1983 is to distinguish acts
of the municipality from acts of employees
of the municipality, and ...