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Oliver v. Ohio State Highway Patrol

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

July 10, 2019

DANNIE OLIVER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OHIO STATE HIGHWAY PATROL, et al., DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE SARA LIOI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Dannie Oliver (“Oliver”) brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Ohio State Highway Patrol (“OSHP”) and Trooper C.M. Schnell (“Schnell”). (Doc. No. 1 [“Compl.”].) Oliver alleges that defendants violated his constitutional rights when OSHP troopers used a trained police dog to attack him (id. at 4[1]). Oliver moves to proceed with this action in forma pauperis (Doc. No. 2), and that motion is granted.

         For the reasons that follow, this case is dismissed. Oliver's motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. No. 3) is moot and denied as such.

         I. Background

         The factual allegations in Oliver's complaint are very sparse. Oliver claims that during a traffic stop of another individual on January 23, 2017, OSHP troopers used a trained police dog to attack him. (Compl. at 4.) He claims that as a result of the attack, his right leg sustained a permanent injury and he asks that a jury award him damages. (Id. at 5.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         To state a claim under § 1983, Oliver must allege that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of his rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988) (citation omitted). Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365, 102 S.Ct. 700, 70 L.Ed.2d 551 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972), the Court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, lacks an arguable basis in law or fact, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989); see Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law or fact when it is premised upon an indisputably meritless legal theory or when the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

         The dismissal standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) articulated in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) governs dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks plausibility in the complaint. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564.

         In order to state a plausible claim, a pleading must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78. The factual allegations in the pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In reviewing a complaint, the Court must construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bibbo v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 151 F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998) (citing Sistrunk, 99 F.3d at 197).

         B. Analysis

         Claims against defendants OSHP and Schnell (official capacity) are dismissed

         The state of Ohio is immune from suit under § 1983 unless the state has waived its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity or Congress abrogated that immunity. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989) (“Section 1983 provides a federal forum to remedy many deprivations of civil liberties, but it does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy against a State for alleged deprivations of civil liberties. The Eleventh Amendment bars such suits unless the State has waived its immunity[.]”) (citing Welch v. Texas Dep't. of Highways and Public Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 472-73, 107 S.Ct. 2941, 97 L.Ed.2d 389 (1987)). Congress did not abrogate a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity for actions brought pursuant to § 1983, and the state of Ohio has not waived its immunity. See Pelle v. Ohio, No. 3:12 CV 95, 2012 WL 1196465, at *1 (N.D. Ohio Apr. 10, 2012) (citing Will, 491 U.S. at 71; Johns v. Supreme Court of Ohio, 753 F.2d 524, 527 (6th Cir. 1985)).

         The state of Ohio's immunity to suit under § 1983 extends to the OSHP and OSHP troopers sued in their official capacities. See Davis v. Maughmer, No. C2-00-1415, 2002 WL 484853, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 5, 2002) (“[C]laims against the Ohio State Highway Patrol are claims against the State of Ohio, which is entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.”) (citing Welch, 483 U.S. at 472-73); Will, 491 U.S. at 71 (“[N]either state nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under [ § 1983].”); see also Mattox v. City of Jefferson, No. 1:04 CV 2257, 2007 WL 120651, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 10, 2007) (the OSHP is an arm of the state of Ohio ...


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