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Tyler v. Coffey

United States District Court, District of Nebraska

December 11, 2014

BILLY TYLER, Plaintiff,
v.
COFFEY, Judge Douglas County Nebraska District Court, and JOHN FRIEND, Clerk of Nebraskkk District Court Douglas County, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

John M. Gerrard, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Billy Tyler (“Plaintiff” or “Tyler”) filed an unsigned Complaint (Filing No. 1) in this matter on July 21, 2014. He filed a signed Complaint (Filing No. 1-1) on September 2, 2014. The court granted Tyler leave to proceed in forma pauperis on September 10, 2014. (Filing No. 7.) The court now conducts an initial review of Tyler’s claims to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

Tyler filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Judge Coffey and John Friend. Tyler alleged Judge Coffey is a state court judge in the Douglas County District Court (“state district court”), and Friend is clerk of the state district court. He alleged Defendants have developed a policy or practice of “flagg[ing]” complaints filed by him or anyone they believe to be “associated with” him[1] and directly assigning those cases to Judge Coffey. (Filing No. 1-1 at CM/ECF p. 2.) Tyler alleged Defendants’ actions are a result of an order by the Nebraska Supreme Court directing Tyler “not to help or discuss [or] instruct anyone in law.” (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 2-3.)

As relief, Tyler seeks an injunction “forcing defendants to accord [him] due process.” (Id. at CM/ECF p. 2.) He also seeks judgment against Friend in the amount of $100, 000, 000.00. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 3.)

II. STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed” for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”). Regardless of whether a plaintiff is represented Moreover, in order for a plaintiff to proceed with his claims, he must have standing. As a general rule, to establish standing a plaintiff must assert his legal rights or interests and not “the legal rights or interests of third parties.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975). Here, the court will consider only those claims that implicate Tyler’s legal rights or interests. or is appearing pro se, the plaintiff’s complaint must allege specific facts sufficient to state a claim. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985). A pro se plaintiff’s allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v. North Dakota Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-44 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS

Liberally construed, Tyler alleged in the Complaint that Defendants’ practice of directly assigning all of his cases to Judge Coffey—thereby deviating from the normal process of “random selection by computer”—violates his right to equal protection. Tyler’s argument fails as a matter of law and as a matter of fact.[2]

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This amendment “keeps governmental decisionmakers from treating differently persons who are in all relevant respects alike.” Nordlinger v. Hahn, 505 U.S. 1, 10 (1992). “‘State actors may, however, treat dissimilarly situated people dissimilarly without running afoul of the protections afforded by the clause.’” Habhab v. Hon, 536 F.3d 963, 967 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bogren v. Minnesota, 236 F.3d 399, 408 (8th Cir. 2000)).

The Supreme Court recognized an equal protection claim for discrimination against a “class of one.” Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000). The purpose of a class-of-one claim is “to secure every person within the State’s jurisdiction against intentional and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by express terms of a statute or by its improper execution through duly constituted agents.” Id. A class-of-one claimant may prevail by showing “she has been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment.” Id.

Here, Tyler did not allege the policy at issue was implemented because of Tyler’s membership in a protected class. Therefore, he must show that Defendants intentionally treated him differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment. See Id. Here, Tyler cannot plausibly allege that Defendants’ actions in directly assigning his cases to one judge for processing and decision is irrational. Such actions are clearly reasonable in light of Tyler’s repeated abuse of judicial processes in Nebraska’s state courts.

In State ex rel. Tyler v. Douglas Cnty. Dist. Court, 580 N.W.2d 95 (Neb. 1998), the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the state district court’s order limiting the number of pleadings that Tyler could file in the court to one per month as long as he was proceeding in forma pauperis and representing himself. The court noted the state district court’s ...


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