United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
G. Carr Sr. U.S. District Judge
a civil rights case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff
Stephen Biggin claims that the individual defendants Ohio
Department of Natural Resources Ranger Jeremy Berger and
Lucas County, Ohio, Deputy Sheriff Christopher Gonia violated
his constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth
Amendments when they arrested him at the Maumee Bay State
Park Resort in Oregon, Ohio.
alleges that Berger and Gonia violated those constitutional
rights by arresting him, using excessive force while doing
so, charging him with misdemeanors, and causing him to be
detained pending release on bond. The arrest, charges, and
detention, Biggin asserts, were without probable cause or
reasonable suspicion. He further claims that in arresting,
charging, and detaining him, the officers violated his right
of free speech.
also sues the State of Ohio, the Lucas County Sheriff's
Department, and the City of Oregon, Ohio. He claims these
governmental entity defendants are liable for failing to
train the individual defendants adequately and having them,
in the course of their unlawful treatment of Biggin,
implement Constitution-violative policies, practices, and/or
customs and usages.
brings those claims under Monell v. Department of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), on the basis that the
actions of the individual defendants were under color of law.
He also brings state constitutional and tort claims against
the individual defendants and on the basis of respondeat
superior against the governmental entities.
is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.
February 13, 2018 order, I memorialized the oral dismissal I
pronounced during a status/scheduling conference, stating in
that order, “All defendants, except Sheriff Deputy
Gonia and Officer Berger” were dismissed from the case.
(Doc. 11 at 1).
is Biggin's combined Motion for Reconsideration and
Motion to Rejoin Defendants the State of Ohio, Lucas County
Sheriff's Department, and/or City of Oregon. (Doc.
reasons that follow, I conclude that the State is not a
“person” under § 1983, and it is, in any
event, immune from suits for damages. I conclude also that
the Sheriff's Department is not sui juris and
thus is not amendable to suit. Lastly, the reinstatement of
the complaint against the City would be futile, as it fails
to state a plausible cause of action against that entity.
Consequently, I deny Biggin's motion.
September 17, 2017, Biggin attended a family wedding at
Maumee Bay State Park Resort (Maumee Bay). (Doc. 1 at 3,
¶ 17). Shortly before midnight, he was about to go out
to a waiting taxi. Berger and Maumee Bay employees approached
him before he got outside. (Doc. 1 at 3-4, ¶ 18, 19).
Berger told Biggin, who was holding a bottle of beer, that he
was being too loud and asked him to quiet down and what he
planned to do next. (Doc. 1 at 3-4, ¶ 19; Doc 42-1 at
24). Stopping at a trashcan to throw away the beer bottle,
Biggin responded that he planned to leave. (Doc. 1 at 4,
Biggin began walking toward the taxi, Berger followed him.
Berger asked to see his driver's license. (Doc. 1 at 4,
¶ 21). Biggin did not comply but continued on toward the
taxi. (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 23). Berger kept following Biggin,
repeatedly demanding to see Biggin's license. (Doc. 1 at
4, ¶ 26). Again, Biggin refused, asking Berger why he
needed to see Biggin's license. (Doc. 1 at 4 ¶ 26).
leaving, with Berger following, Biggin, yelled, “fuck
you” at Berger. (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 24). As Biggin was
approaching the taxi, Berger instructed the taxi driver not
to leave. (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 27).
Sheriff Gonia arrived as Biggin walked away from the taxi.
(Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 29). Sometime thereafter, Berger, with
other officers, including Deputy Gonia, assisting, tackled
Biggin to the ground, pinned him down, handcuffed him, and
arrested him. (Doc. 1 at 4-5, ¶ 29).Biggin resisted,
asked why the officers were arresting him and why he needed
to show his license, and claimed he “d[id] nothing
wrong.” (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 31).
either Berger or Gonia (though Biggin cannot remember which)
drove Biggin to the Lucas County Jail. (Doc. 1 at 5, ¶
34; Doc. 42-1 at 97). Berger and Gonia, along with Lucas
County Jail employees, booked Biggin into the jail, where he
stayed overnight in a holding cell. (Doc. 1 at 5, ¶ 34;
Doc. 42-1 at 209). Biggin claims that he asked Berger and
Gonia to explain why they arrested him, but they ignored his
questions. (Doc. 1 at 5, ¶ 34; Doc. 42-1 at 209).
in holding, Biggin received a slip of paper, listing the
charges against him, through the cell door. (Doc. 1 at 5,
¶ 36). Biggin posted bond, and jail personnel released
him. (Doc. 1 at 6, ¶ 37; Doc. 42-1 at 208). He claims
that jail personnel threatened not to release him if he
declined to sign for the acceptance of charges. (Doc. 1 at 6,
¶ 37). Though he signed that document, Biggin never
admitted guilt to any charge alleged. (Doc. 1 at 6, ¶
months later, the Oregon Municipal Court prosecutor dismissed
charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice, and
continued a charge of resisting arrest “to the call of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for a
motion for reconsideration, the Sixth Circuit has held that I
may treat such a motion as a motion to alter or amend a
judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).
Smith v. Hudson, 600 F.2d 60, 62 (6th Cir. 1979). I
may grant a motion to amend or alter judgment if there is a
clear error of law or newly discovered evidence exists, an
intervening change in controlling law occurs, or to prevent
manifest injustice. See Gencorp, Inc. v. Am. Int'l
Underwriters, 178 F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999).
contends that he has new evidence justifying reconsideration
of my February 13, 2018 order dismissing all defendants
except Officer Berger and Deputy Gonia. Specifically, Biggin
claims that I should rejoin the State of Ohio, the Lucas
County Sheriff's Department, and the City of Oregon. He
bases his motion on portions of Berger's deposition
testimony that, he claims, reveal two newly discovered
circumstances indicative of liability on the part of the
that: the Sheriff's Department implanted a policy whereby
officers relied on a list, posted on the jail booking area
wall, of Ohio Revised Code section citations, to which
officers could refer when preparing charging documents.
Biggin refers to this list as a “cheat sheet.”
(Doc. 40 at 2).
that: the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Lucas
County Sheriff, and the City of Oregon Police Department
maintained a custom in conjunction with Maumee Bay where
those entities' officers acted as “private security
guards” and, further that those defendants failed to
train the officers adequately for that duty. (Doc. 40 at 6).
The State Is Immune from Damages Claims Under the Eleventh
State argues that Biggin's claims against it fail because
the Eleventh Amendment insulates it entirely from entry of a
money judgment against it, and because it is not a
“person” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 44 at
5). Biggin does not respond to this argument. Instead, he
asserts that the entity “which appears to be the State
of Ohio” is a necessary party to this case. (Doc. 49 at
with the State.
The Eleventh Amendment Protects The State From Money
Eleventh Amendment “bars suits brought in federal court
against a state and its agencies unless the state has waived
its sovereign immunity or consented to be sued in federal
court.” Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 572
(6th Cir. 2008) (citing Will v. Michigan ...