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Valentine v. Brown

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

October 25, 2018

VERONICA VALENTINE, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRIS BROWN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp, Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Court's own motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). For the reasons stated below, this case will be dismissed with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are those alleged in the Complaint, ECF No. 1, and are assumed true.

         On July 17, 2015, Defendant Chris Brown, a police officer with the Omaha Police Department, and several other officers executed a search of the residence at 1915 Emmet Street in Omaha, Nebraska, pursuant to a search warrant. The warrant permitted the officers to search the residence and Plaintiff Veronica Valentine's person for crack cocaine and any materials used to conduct illegal narcotics operations. In connection with the search, two female officers conducted a strip search, including a visual body cavity search, of Valentine. The officers found no drugs.

         Based on these facts, Valentine initiated two separate lawsuits under 28 U.S.C. § 1983-Case Nos. 8:16cv131 and 8:16cv174-which were consolidated under Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). With the assistance of court-appointed counsel, [1] Valentine filed her Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 149 in Case No. 8:16cv131; ECF No. 148 in Case No. 8:16cv174, [2] which asserted one claim-that the visual body cavity search conducted by defendants Lisa Villwok and Jennifer Hansen violated her Fourth Amendment rights. Following a bench trial, the Court found in favor of the defendants, and against Valentine, because Valentine consented to the search. Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, ECF No. 219 in Case No. 8:16cv131. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit summarily affirmed this Court's judgment. ECF No. 244 in Case No. 8:16cv131.

         Based on the same July 17, 2015, search at issue in Case Nos. 8:16cv131 and 8:16cv174, Valentine filed her Complaint in this case on February 16, 2018, claiming Brown submitted a false affidavit to obtain the search warrant. The Court[3] conducted an initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and concluded that the Complaint stated “a plausible Fourth Amendment Claim against Defendant Chris Brown, in his individual capacity only, for allegedly submitting a false affidavit to obtain a search warrant.” Mem. and Order, ECF No. 6, Page ID 16. Valentine's Second Amended Complaint in Case Nos. 8:16cv131 and 8:16cv174 did not assert this claim.

         It does not appear that either party has conducted any discovery in this case, and the time to file dispositive motions has expired without either party filing a dispositive motion. ECF No. 17, Page ID 33 (stating all dispositive motions must be filed on or before October 11, 2018). Both parties also failed to appear at a scheduled status conference before the Magistrate Judge on September 18, 2018. ECF No. 20. Because the parties have not done anything to litigate this case, [4] and because Valentine's sole claim arises out of the same search that was at issue in her prior lawsuits, the Court will review her claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) to determine whether it is a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” (emphasis added). To satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Corrado v. Life Inv'rs Ins. Co. of Am., 804 F.3d 915, 917 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 2941 (2015). The complaint's factual allegations must be “sufficient to ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” McDonough v. Anoka Cty., 799 F.3d 931, 946 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must accept factual allegations as true, but it is not required to accept any “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 373 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Thus, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ash v. Anderson Merchandisers, LLC, 799 F.3d 957, 960 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 804 (2016).

         At this stage, the Court must rule “on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true, ” and “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Mickelson v. Cty. of Ramsey, 823 F.3d 918, 923 (8th Cir. 2016) (alternation in original) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         DISCUSSION

         Under the doctrine of claim preclusion, Valentine's Fourth Amendment claim against Brown for allegedly submitting an affidavit containing false information to obtain a search warrant is precluded by the judgment entered in Case Nos. 8:16cv131 and 8:16cv174. Valentine has, therefore, failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. v. Lobrano, 695 F.3d 758, 763-64 (8th Cir. 2012).

         “The preclusive effect of a judgment is defined by claim preclusion and issue preclusion, which are collectively referred to as ‘res judicata.'” Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008). To determine the preclusive effect of ...


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