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Phillips v. Lorrison

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

October 22, 2019

JAMES LEE PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK LORRISON, BUILDING COMMISSIONER, CITY OF MUNCIE, INDIANA, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING CASE AND IMPOSING SANCTIONS ON PLAINTIFF

          WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE U.S. DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Defendant Rick Lorrison on September 4, 2019 (ECF 19). Plaintiff James Lee Phillips filed a response in opposition to the motion on September 11, 2019 (ECF 21). Defendant chose not to file a reply brief and so the motion is ripe for resolution. For the reasons explained below, the motion is GRANTED and this case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In addition, as explained below and in this Court's order entered on this same date in the case of Phillips v. Redkey Town Board, No. 1:19-CV-280 (N.D. Ind. Oct. 22, 2019), the Court SANCTIONS Plaintiff James Lee Phillips for repeatedly filing frivolous cases in this Court.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         James Phillips filed his Complaint in this case on May 8, 2019, and is proceeding pro se. A trial court must liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's pleadings. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also Hart v. Amazon.com, Inc., 191 F.Supp.3d 809, 816 (N.D. Ill. 2016), aff'd, 845 F.3d 802 (7th Cir. 2017) (“Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his complaint ‘liberally' and holds it to a ‘less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'”) (quoting Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2015)). On the other hand, “a district court should not ‘assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant' and may ‘not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented.'” Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999) (quoting Parker v. Champion, 148 F.3d 1219, 1222 (10th Cir.1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1151 (1999)).

         There is not much in Phillips' Complaint in this case that needs interpretation. His claim against the Defendant is states, in its entirety, as follows: “Order to demolish, remove trash and debris, rotted wood again roof. [Sic] Papers attached.” Complaint, p. 2. In his prayer for relief, Phillips asks for the following: “Leave me alone and don't throw me in jail.” Id., p. 3. That is the extent of Plaintiff's Complaint. Attached to the Complaint are 51 pages of documents. Those documents indicate that Phillips engaged in litigation with the City of Muncie, concerning property he owned in the city, in a state court proceeding 20 years ago. These documents include the following:

1) A copy of a letter to Phillips from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, dated February 15, 1999, which references a state tort claim that Phillips had filed (ECF 1-1, p. 1);
2) Copies of court orders or judgments in a 1999 state court case in the Muncie City Court, captioned City of Muncie v. James Phillips, 18H01-9901-OV-276 (id., pp. 2-4);
3) A copy of an undated state Tort Claim Notice purportedly filed by Phillips against the City of Muncie (id., p. 5);
4) A transcript of a hearing held in the Jay County Superior Court on September 13, 1999, in a case captioned James L. Phillips v. Jerry Thornburg, No. 38D01-9908-SC-457 (id., pp. 6-13);
5) Copies of certain pages from the state court Chronological Case Summary (docket report) from the Jay County case (id., pp. 14-16);
6) A copy of a “Notice of Unsafe Building Violation Demolition Order, ” directed to Phillips from the City of Muncie, dated April 29, 2019, and signed by Defendant Lorrison in his capacity as Building Commissioner (along with another City official), which ordered Phillips to demolish his property at 554 W. Wilson Ave. due to the fact that the property was in an impaired and uninhabitable condition, and further advising Phillips that a hearing would be held on the matter “on 4/29/2019 at 3 PM before the Muncie Unsafe Building Hearing Authority[.]” (id., 17-18)[2];
7) A 24-page, handwritten recitation by Phillips, which is most accurately described as rambling and the relevancy of which is impossible to discern (id., pp. 19-42);
8) A copy of an internal legal memorandum, dated January 31, 2000, written by an associate from a law firm, which apparently relates somehow to the state Tort Claim that Phillips filed against the City of Muncie (id., pp. 43-46);
9) A copy of the second page of a two-page letter to Phillips, also dated January 31, 2000, from a law firm called Allen Wellmand McNeww, explaining that the firm was “conclud[ing] our representation of you in this matter.” (id., p. 47); and
10) Four more pages of handwritten recitation from Phillips, with a photograph of a house and a handwritten notation stating: “This is the house that they tore ...

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