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Albert Lee, Jr v. Lee Lucas

October 31, 2011

ALBERT LEE, JR.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
LEE LUCAS, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States District Judge Lesley Wells

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS IN PART

On 21 January 2010, Plaintiff Albert Lee Jr. brought the instant action against the following Defendants: Drug Enforcement Agents ("DEA") Lee Lucas and Robert Cross; Richland County; Richland County Sheriff's Officers Charles Metcalf, Matt Mayer, and Larry Faith; Thomas Verhiley; City of Cleveland; Cleveland Police Officer Jamal Ansari; and unknown DEA Agents and Richland County Sheriff's Officers.*fn1 (Docket #1). Mr. Lee's Complaint alleges against the above-named Defendants constitutional violations under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, conspiracies to commit these constitutional violations, and state law claims of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy. (Docket #1). Further, Mr. Lee's Complaint alleges a state law 'failure to train' claim against Richland County and the City of Cleveland.

Pending before the Court are the following Motions: (1) Defendants City of Cleveland and Jamaal Ansari's Motion to Dismiss (Docket #19); (2) Defendant Lee Lucas' Motion to Dismiss (Docket #22); (3) Defendants Robert Cross and Thomas Verhiley's Motion to Dismiss or in the alternative Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket #27); (4) Defendants Richland County Sheriff's Office, Matt Mayer, and Larry Faith's Motion to Dismiss or in the alternative Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket #42); and (5) Defendant Charles Metcalf's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Docket #43). These Motions in totality argue that: 1) the City of Cleveland is entitled to statutory immunity from Mr. Lee's state law 'failure to train' claim; 2) Mr. Lee's constitutional claims are time-barred under their applicable statutes of limitations; 3) Mr. Lee's state law claims of malicious prosecution, conspiracy, false imprisonment and arrest, and intentional infliction of emotional distress are time-barred by their applicable statutes of limitations; 4) Mr. Lee's Complaint fails to state any claim upon which relief can be granted and therefore must be dismissed under 12(b)(6); and 5) Mr. Lee's Complaint must be dismissed because each of his claims is barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel.

This Court will analyze, as threshold matters, the questions of statutory immunity and whether Mr. Lee's claims are time-barred under their applicable statutes of limitations. Because the City of Cleveland and Richland County are entitled to statutory immunity under O.R.C. Chapter 2744 from Mr. Lee's state law 'failure to train' claim, that claim will be dismissed. Further, because this Court will conclude that Mr. Lee's remaining state law claims and his Section 1983/Bivens false imprisonment and applicable conspiracy claim are time-barred by their statutes of limitations, these claims will therefore be dismissed.

Mr. Lee's remaining claims are a Fourth Amendment unlawful detention claim, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process claims, and applicable federal conspiracy claims. These claims are all brought against the above-named Defendants in an individual capacity under Bivens and Section 1983.*fn2 This Court will analyze these claims under the pleading standards set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and the United States Supreme Court cases of Iqbal and Twombly. Mr. Lee sufficiently pled these claims, which therefore withstand the Defendants' motions to dismiss under 12(b)(6).

Last, this Court will analyze whether Mr. Lee's remaining claims are barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. Because this doctrine does not apply to the present case, Mr. Lee's Section 1983 and Bivens due process, unlawful detention, and applicable conspiracy claims will not be dismissed.

I. The City of Cleveland and Richland County Are Statutorily Immune from Mr. Lee's 'Failure to Train' State Law Claim.

The Ohio Supreme Court noted in Wilson v. Stark County Department of Human Services, 639 N.E.2d 105, 107 (Ohio 1994), that "[p]olitical subdivisions are shielded from civil liability as provided by R[evised] C[ode] Chapter 2744. [That chapter] creates a broad immunity, subject to enumerated exceptions." Although there are exceptions to the immunity of political subdivisions for injuries caused by the negligent acts of employees performing proprietary functions, "[t]here is, however, no such general exception for governmental functions." Id. The rule of interpretation in Ohio is that "[i]f none of the exceptions to immunity apply, the political subdivision is immune from suit." Wynn v. Butler County Sheriff's Dept.,1999 WL 160942, at *2 (Ohio Ct. App.1999).

Here, there is no question that the training of police officers falls within the definition of a governmental function. McCloud v. Nimmer, 72 Ohio App.3d 533, 536-38 (Ohio Ct. App. 1991). Furthermore, none of the exceptions to immunity apply under O.R.C. Chapter 2744. Therefore, the City of Cleveland and Richland County are immune from Mr. Lee's state law 'failure to train' claim, which therefore will be dismissed.

II. Mr. Lee's Constitutional Claims and Their Applicable Statutes of Limitations.

A. This Court must first discern what specific constitutional claims Mr. Lee has asserted in his Complaint before determining if his claims' limitations' periods have run.

A plaintiff cannot simply assert that he or she has been constitutionally wronged by a defendant, allege facts to support this assertion, and bring suit under Section 1983 and/or Bivens. Although Section 1983/Bivens is the proper vehicle under which to bring a constitutional claim, a plaintiff must allege cognizable constitutional injuries. In the present case, Mr. Lee has alleged two cognizable constitutional violations under the Fourth Amendment, one under the Fifth Amendment, one under the Fourteenth Amendment, and none under the Sixth or Eighth Amendment. Indeed, Mr. Lee's Complaint states:

As a result of the aforementioned wrongful conduct [(withholding exculpatory evidence from the prosecution and fabricating inculpatory evidence)], Plaintiff was wrongfully arrested, indicted, and incarcerated for over two years. Also as a result of the above described wrongful conduct, Plaintiff was further subjected to unlawful searches and seizures. Plaintiff suffered substantial damages as a result of wrongful arrest and imprisonment. (Compl. ¶23-25).

This Court discerns from the above paragraphs that Mr. Lee has alleged the claims of false imprisonment/arrest*fn3 and unlawful detention*fn4 under the Fourth Amendment and a due process violation, contesting the fairness of his prosecution, under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Mr. Lee alleges that he was arrested and detained without probable cause (false imprisonment/arrest), was convicted because DEA agents and police officers withheld evidence from the prosecution (due process violation), and remained incarcerated because these same officers and agents concealed their unlawful activities (unlawful detention).

B. Mr. Lee's due process claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, unlawful detention claim under the Fourth Amendment, and applicable federal conspiracy claims are not barred by their statutes of limitations. Mr. Lee's Fourth Amendment false imprisonment/arrest and applicable federal conspiracy claim are barred and will be dismissed.

In Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261 (1985), the Supreme Court held that statutes of limitations for Section 1983 actions are borrowed from state law, but that the question of how to characterize Section 1983 actions to determine the most analogous state statute of limitations is a question of federal law. The Wilson Court determined that the proper limitations period for a Section 1983 action is the limitations period for personal injury actions in the state in which the Section 1983 claim arises. In Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235 (1989), the Supreme Court further clarified that when a state has multiple statutes of limitations for different categories of personal injury actions, the residual personal injury statute of limitations applies. Following Wilson and Owens, the Sixth Circuit decided that the limitations period for Section 1983 actions arising in Ohio is the two-year period found in O.R.C. Section 2305.10. Browning v. Pendleton, 869 F.2d 989 (6th Cir.1989). Therefore, the statute of limitations for Mr. Lee's Section 1983 claims is two years.*fn5

Further, the question of when these limitations periods begin to run is a question of federal law. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007). The Supreme Court of the United States in Kato stated: "Limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends . . . [A] false imprisonment ends once the victim becomes held pursuant to such process - when, for example, he is bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges." Id. at 389. Further, the limitations periods begin to run against an action for unlawful detention brought under the Fourth Amendment and a due process claim brought under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments when the prosecution has terminated in the plaintiff's favor.*fn6 Last, this Court must determine when the limitations period begins to run against Mr. Lee's Section 1983/Bivens actions for conspiracy. A conspiracy claim cannot stand ...

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