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Moreland v. Dean

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

November 12, 2014



DAVID L. BUNNING, District Judge.

William Moreland is a resident of Detroit, Michigan. Proceeding without an attorney, on April 3, 2014, Moreland filed a complaint asserting civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and pendent state law negligence claims. (Doc. #1, p. 1). The Court has granted Moreland's motion to proceed in forma pauperis by prior Order. (Doc. #5).


On March 25, 2012, while driving his vehicle, Moreland was pulled over by Kentucky State Police Officer Steven Robb for failure to wear his seat belt, a charge Moreland denies in his complaint. (Doc #1-2, p. 1; Doc #1, p. 2). A discussion followed, during which Moreland was unable to provide a driver's license, proof of insurance, or a vehicle registration. Moreland alleges that during a search of the vehicle, Officer Robb took and kept $192.00 in cash that was inside his car. (Doc #1, p. 2).

Officer Robb then wrote Moreland a citation charging him with (1) failure to wear a seat belt; (2) operating a motor vehicle without a license, as his Ohio driver's license had been suspended; (3) failure to maintain and/or provide proof of insurance; (4) failure to maintain current registration on the vehicle; and (5) registering his vehicle in Ohio notwithstanding his residency in Kentucky. (Doc #1-3, p. 1). Instead of requiring Moreland to abandon his vehicle so that it could be towed, Officer Robb drove Moreland to his home, and advised him that two licensed drivers should drive to his car and then drive it back to his house. (Doc. #1, p. 2).

While these charges were still pending against him, Moreland sued Officer Robb in the Circuit Court of Pendleton County, Kentucky, claiming that he had performed his duties negligently. Moreland v. Robb, No. 12-CI-85 (Cir. Ct. Pendleton Co. 2012); (Doc. #1, pp. 1, 2; Doc. #1-1).

Moreland's complaint does not clearly indicate whether he was convicted of the charges identified in Officer Robb's ticket, but he does indicate that he spent 90 days in jail around this time, and does not state or suggest that this was for a separate offense. (Doc. #1, p. 5). He further states that while he was in jail, Pendleton County "foreclosed" upon his real property for unpaid property taxes. Id.

In November 2013, Moreland moved to voluntarily dismiss the civil complaint he had filed in Pendleton Circuit Court so that he could reassert his claims in federal court. On December 18, 2013, the Circuit Court entered an order "passing" that motion (Doc. #1-4), which Moreland construed as granting his motion (Doc. #1, p. 2).

Moreland filed his complaint in this Court four months later. In it, Moreland alleges that Officer Robb lacked probable cause to pull over his vehicle, and then stole $192.00 from his car during his search. (Doc. #1, p. 2). He further alleges that prosecutor Jeffery Dean violated his civil rights and/or was "negligent" during the criminal trial because he suppressed information regarding Moreland's civil suit against Robb, improperly influenced the jury, made false statements of fact and law to the jury, and violated court rules. (Doc. #1, pp. 3-4). Finally, he alleges that Dean, through his private law firm, "sold Plaintiff's property taxes, to a third party and charge 28% interest...." (Doc. #1, p. 4).


The Court must conduct a preliminary review of Moreland's complaint because he has been granted permission to pay the filing fee in installments and because he asserts claims against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. A district court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 608 (6th Cir. 1997). The Court evaluates Moreland's complaint under a more lenient standard because he is not represented by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). At this stage, the Court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, and his legal claims are liberally construed in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

First, Moreland's civil rights claims are subject to summary dismissal for failure to adequately plead a claim for relief. To state a viable claim for relief, a complaint must do more than make a bald statement that the defendants violated the plaintiff's "civil rights"; it must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470 (6th Cir. 2010). The Supreme Court has explained that:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true.

Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Simply labeling the defendants' actions as "contrary to Kentucky law" or "negligent" deprives the defendants of notice of the conduct complained of and the legal basis for the claims against them, a notice to which they are entitled. Because the complaint makes no effort to identify with any specificity the "civil rights" Moreland complains were violated, it fails to satisfy even this minimal pleading standard. Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 577 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988) ("More than bare assertions of legal conclusions is ordinarily required to satisfy federal notice pleading requirements.") and Kamppi v. Ghee, 208 F.3d 213 (table), ...

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