United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING CASE AND IMPOSING
SANCTIONS ON PLAINTIFF
WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE U.S. DISTRICT COURT
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
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)).
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
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.
3) A copy of an undated state Tort Claim Notice purportedly
filed by Phillips against the City of Muncie (id.,
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.,
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.
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 ...