United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
SOLOMON OLIVER, JR. CHIEF JUDGE.
se plaintiff James Long, Jr., has filed this in
forma pauperis civil rights action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against ten Defendants: Larry Allen; Kevin P.
Roberts; Tiffany Hill; Patrolman Penhollen; Willam G.
Robinson; Matthew D. Cinadr; Andrew S. Watkins; John R.
Kasich; John Born; and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. (ECF No.
1.) His action pertains to a traffic stop in Cleveland
Heights, and subsequent charges brought against him in
Cleveland Heights Municipal Court.
only named defendants the plaintiff specifically refers to in
the body of his complaint are Patrolman Penhollen and Judge
alleges Patrolman Penhollen improperly stopped his vehicle
without probable cause while he was driving in Cleveland
Heights on July 7, 2015. When he refused to give Patrolman
Penhollow his license, registration, and proof of insurance
as requested, Patrolman Penhollow threatened to pull him out
of the car and beat him with his club. (Id. at 2.)
Plaintiff asked Penhollow to call his supervisor. Sargeant
Lenadr arrived on the scene and asked the plaintiff to
provide the same information, but again the plaintiff
refused. The plaintiff was then ticketed for violations of
ORD 335.01 (no driver's license); 335.07(A); and 335.072,
which he contends “applied to transportation or
commercial operators only, ” and he was told he was
free to leave. (Id. at 3.)
subsequently appeared before Judge Larry Allen on the traffic
charges in Cleveland Heights Municipal Court. After he
repeatedly refused to state his plea and persisted in
questioning Judge Allen's jurisdiction, the Judge held
him in contempt of court. (Id.) He alleges
“policemen” forcefully took him to jail.
(Id. at 3-4.) He was taken back to court later that
evening, but he still persisted in refusing to answer
questions posed by Judge Allen, and he stated that the Judge
was improperly “practicing law from the bench.”
(Id. at 4.) The plaintiff was “sentenced to
five days in jail” for alleged contempt and transferred
to the Cuyahoga County Jail. (Id.)
was taken back to the Cleveland Heights Jail by two Cleveland
Heights policemen on October 6, 2015, where he appeared
before Judge A. Deane Buchanan and given a new court date. A
trial on the charges against him was held on November 10,
2015. Sargeant Lenadr was called as a witness for the
prosecutor, not Patrolman Penhollow. The plaintiff alleges
this prevented Patrolman Penhollow from being
“questioned as to what his probable cause was for
getting behind the plaintiff and running a search on his
license plates, ” and he contends Penhollow's
conduct “was a Fourth Amendment violation to the United
States Constitution.” (Id. at 5.)
alleges he was ultimately found guilty of all charges against
him at trial, including the contempt charge, but that when he
returned for sentencing on January 4, 2016 (after meeting
with a probation officer who “was very nice and
cooperative”), the court “dismissed all the
charges” against him except for “resisting
arrest.” (Id. at 6.)
than his allegation regarding the Fourth Amendment, the
plaintiff alleges no specific constitutional violation in the
body of his complaint and he seeks no specific relief.
However, on his civil cover sheet, he indicates he is seeking
damages in the case on various bases including denial of due
the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the
Court must review his complaint before service pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth,
114 F.3d 601, 608 (6th Cir.1997), overruled on other
grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). That
statute requires the Court to dismiss the plaintiff's
complaint, or any portion of it, that the Court determines is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. See Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Pro
se complaints are construed liberally, see Boag v.
MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), but to survive a
dismissal for failure to state a claim, a pro se
complaint must still contain “sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Hill, 630 F.3d at 471
(holding that the dismissal standard articulated in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) governs
dismissals under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)). The
allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise a
right to relief above a speculative level assuming that the
allegations are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
review, the Court finds that the action may proceed only as
against Patrolman Penhollow. The Court, however, finds the
complaint fails to state a plausible claim and must be
dismissed as against all of the remaining defendants pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
complaint must be dismissed against Judge Allen because it is
well-established that judges are absolutely immune from civil
suits for money damages in connection with activities they
take in their judicial capacity, including suits brought
against them under § 1983. Absolute judicial immunity is
overcome in only two situations, where a judge acts in a
non-judicial capacity, or takes actions “in the
complete absence of all jurisdiction.” Barnes v.
Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111, 1115-16 (6th Cir. 1997). The
actions of Judge Allen of which the plaintiff complains were
clearly taken in his judicial capacity. The plaintiff's
allegations do not plausibly suggest the Judge took actions
in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Accordingly,
Judge Allen is immune from the plaintiff's suit and the
action must be dismissed against him.
complaint fails to state a claim and must be dismissed as
against the remaining named defendants because the plaintiff
has failed to set forth any specific, discernible allegations
of wrongful conduct on their part in the body of the
complaint. The Sixth Circuit has made clear that where a
person is merely named as a defendant in an action without
any allegation of specific conduct, the complaint is subject
to dismissal, even under the liberal construction afforded
pro se complaints. See Gilmore v. Corr. Corp. of
Am., 92 F. App'x 188, 190 (6th Cir. 2004)
(dismissing complaint where plaintiff failed to allege how
any named defendant was involved in the violation of his
rights); Frazier v. Michigan, 41 F. App'x 762,
764 (6th Cir. 2002) (dismissing plaintiff's claims where
complaint did not allege with any degree of specificity which
of the named defendants were personally involved in or
responsible for each alleged violation of rights);
Griffin v. Montgomery, No. 00-3402, 2000 WL 1800569,
at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2000) (requiring allegations of
personal involvement against each defendant); Rodriguez
v. Jabe, No. 90-1010, 1990 WL 82722, at *1 (6th Cir.
June 19, 1990) (“Plaintiff's claims against those
individuals are without a basis in law as the complaint is
totally devoid of allegations as to them which would suggest
their involvement in the events leading to his
injuries”). Additionally, a §1983 claim may not be
brought against supervisory officials solely on a theory of
respondeat superior. Siggers v. Campbell,
652 F.3d 681, 689 (6th Cir. 2011).
only named defendant in this case against whom the plaintiff
has set forth allegations potentially suggestive of a