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Stephenson v. Bruno

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

November 12, 2014

ERIC D. STEPHENSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID BRUNO, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LYLE E. STROM, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on review of Eric Stephenson's complaint (Filing No. 1) and amended complaint (Filing No. 16) (together "complaints"). Stephenson was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this matter. The Court now reviews the complaints in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds Stephenson's complaints state a plausible excessive-force claim against three officers of the Lincoln Police Department ("LPD").

I. BACKGROUND

A. Summary of Complaint

Stephenson filed his complaint (Filing No. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 on May 12, 2014. He named the following individuals as the defendants: David Bruno, C.J. Roberts, LPD Officer D. Lind, and Deputy County Attorney Holly Parsley. The allegations in the complaint set forth that Bruno, acting as an investigator for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS"), took steps to remove Stephenson's five-wee-kold infant (hereinafter referred to by his initials, "M.S.") from Stephenson's care. On October 30, 2012, the Juvenile Court of Lancaster County, Nebraska, placed M.S. in the custody of DHHS. Thereafter, LPD officers forced their way into a motel room occupied by Stephenson, his girlfriend, and M.S. The officers forcibly removed M.S. from Stephenson's arms by placing Stephenson in a choke hold and twisting his arms. Stephenson later pled no contest to child abuse and was sentenced to 30 to 48 months imprisonment. In addition, his parental rights to M.S. were terminated.[1] (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 2-7.)

Stephenson alleged in the complaint that Bruno falsely accused him of exposing M.S. to domestic violence and drug abuse, his investigation into the allegations of abuse were negligent, and he violated Stephenson's right to substantive due process. He also alleged that LPD officers violated his right to substantive due process by "induc[ing]" him to commit child abuse. Finally, he alleged LPD officers failed to read him his Miranda [2] rights following his arrest. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 8-9.)

B. Findings on Initial Review

The Court conducted an initial review of the complaint on August 18, 2014 (Filing No. 14), and determined Stephenson's substantive due process claims against Bruno and unnamed LPD officers failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Court determined Stephenson had failed to state a claim against Roberts and Lind because he had only listed their names in the caption of the complaint without alleging they were personally involved in any alleged misconduct. In addition, the Court determined Stephenson's claims against Parsley failed because they called into question the validity of Stephenson's conviction and because Parsley was entitled to prosecutorial immunity. Finally, the Court noted it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to conduct appellate review of the Nebraska state courts' orders convicting Stephenson of child abuse and terminating his parental rights. ( See Filing No. 14 at CM/ECF pp. 6-9.)

The Court gave Stephenson 30 days in which to amend his complaint to clearly state a claim upon which relief may be granted against the defendants. (Filing No. 14 at CM/ECF pp. 6-9.) Stephenson filed an amended complaint (Filing No. 16) on October 29, 2014. Stephenson named the following individuals as the defendants in his amended complaint: Deputy County Attorney Holly Parsley, and LPD Officers Dustin Lind, Craig Price, Jacob Wilkinson, and Angela Morehouse.[3] (Filing No. 16 at CM/ECF p. 1.) Stephenson abandoned his claims against David Bruno and C.J. Roberts. ( See Filing No. 16 at CM/ECF p. 6.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Claims Against Parsley

Stephenson's claims against Parsley may not proceed to service of process for the reasons discussed in the Court's Memorandum and Order dated August 18, 2014. ( See Filing No. 14 at CM/ECF pp. 8-9.) Specifically, the claims necessarily call into question the validity of Stephenson's conviction and are barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In addition, she is entitled to prosecutorial immunity because Stephenson alleges no facts against her that would fall outside of her duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution. See Brodnicki v. City of Omaha, 75 F.3d 1261, 1266 (8th Cir. 1996). Accordingly, Stephenson's claims against Parsley will be dismissed.

B. Claims for Violations of Miranda

Stephenson alleged LPD officers "failed to read him his Miranda rights." (Filing No. 16 at CM/ECF p. 5.) This is not a cognizable claim in a § 1983 action. Warren v. City of Lincoln, Nebraska, 864 F.2d 1436, 1442 (8th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1091 (1989). "The remedy for [an] alleged Miranda violation is the exclusion from evidence of any compelled self-incrimination, not a civil rights action." Brock v. Logan Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't of Arkansas, 3 F.3d 1215, ...


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