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Harrison v. Lancaster County Sheriff Dept.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

May 1, 2017

RODNEY HARRISON, Plaintiff,
v.
LANCASTER COUNTY SHERIFF DEPT., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 28, 2017. (Filing No. 1.) He has been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 5.) The court now conducts an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff sues the Lancaster County Sheriff's Department. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 2.) Liberally construed, he also sues Deputy Tyler Loos (“Loos”) of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Department. (See id. at CM/ECF pp. 5, 10-11.) Plaintiff seeks $10, 000 in damages. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 29, 2017, Loos conducted a traffic stop of Plaintiff's vehicle because a light was out. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 10.) Plaintiff maintains, however, that the stop was without probable cause. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 8, 5-11.) He also alleges that Loos made the stop on account of his race, stating, “Loos rode parallel to his vehicle [with direct] and prolonged extensive observation” prior to the stop so that Loos “knew the vehicle was driven by a black man.” (Id. at CM/ECF p. 8, 10.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Loos cited Plaintiff for driving under suspension even though Plaintiff informed Loos during the stop that he had a temporary driver's license. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 4, 8, 10.) [1] Plaintiff asserts that Loos made reference to prior stops as the basis for the citation, so Plaintiff believes that Loos cited him for a previous violation. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 8.) Plaintiff also claims that his vehicle was illegally searched and seized when it was searched prior to being impounded for “driving under suspended driving privileges as such.” (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 8, 10.) He then, “under duress, ” had to pay for reinstatement of his Nebraska identification card before the towing company would release his vehicle to him. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 11.)

         After a trial, the Lancaster County Court found Plaintiff guilty of driving under suspension, a Class III misdemeanor, finding that Plaintiffs privileges to operate a motor vehicle in Nebraska were suspended as a result of his December 2015 conviction in Lancaster County Court for no proof of insurance. Plaintiff did not reinstate his privileges in the State of Nebraska until April 2, 2016, and the fact that the State of California reinstated his driving privileges in California on January 19, 2016, did not reinstate his driving privileges in the State of Nebraska.[2]

         Plaintiff alleges that the “[un]lawful traffic stop” was the result of “[UnConstitutional Policies, Procedures, Ordinances, and Laws [of] the County of Lancaster and the City of Lincoln . . . .” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 8.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the citation process used by the Lancaster County Sheriffs Department and the traffic/municipal courts is unconstitutional, because an issued citation is not signed by a “judicial officer, ” in violation of the “Separation of Powers.” (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 8, 11-12.)

         II. APPLICABLE STANDARDS OF 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). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it 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.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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.”).

         “The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Liberally construed, Plaintiff here alleges federal constitutional claims. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state ...


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