United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court upon Defendants' Motion
(ECF DKT #6) to Dismiss, and also following the Oral Hearing
conducted on November 20, 2019, on the question of standing.
For the following reasons, the captioned case is dismissed.
20, 2019, Plaintiff Nadine Bechtel filed a Verified Complaint
alleging violation of her rights under the First, Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by
Defendants, City of Eastlake, Ohio and Judson Hawkins (the
Eastlake Prosecutor) in his individual capacity.
alleges that on May 2, 2019, the City of Eastlake and the
Lake Humane Society executed a search and seizure warrant at
36370 Vine Street, Eastlake, Ohio. An organization named
“Animal Rescue Center” operates an animal rescue
at the Vine Street address. At the time, Plaintiff was the
director of Animal Rescue Center. According to the Complaint,
the warrant authorized “any humane agent or other Law
Enforcement Officer of Lake County, Ohio” to search and
seize property including live animals. Among the animals
seized was Plaintiff's cat, “Prince Michael.”
Plaintiff contends that she has a property interest in her
cat and that Defendants violated her property rights secured
by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
second count of the Complaint (erroneously designated as
Count IV), Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to
provide her an R.C. § 959.132 probable cause hearing
regarding the seizure of her cat, thereby depriving Plaintiff
of her due process rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment
to the United States Constitution.
third count of the Complaint (erroneously designated as Count
VIII), Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully delegated
prosecutorial duties to private attorneys employed by the
Lake Humane Society. Plaintiff specifically alleges that
Defendants illegally delegated the mandated duties and
obligations of the City of Eastlake Prosecutor Judson Hawkins
to criminally prosecute crimes occurring in the City of
Eastlake to private attorneys employed by private
corporations that have no humane agent employed by said
corporations. This conduct violated Plaintiff's
fundamental First Amendment right of access to the courts.
with her Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order (ECF DKT #2). Upon consideration of the
relevant statutory language, Plaintiff's verified
allegations and the affidavits of Defendant Hawkins and
Attorney Jeffrey Holland, the Court denied injunctive relief
and determined that Plaintiff offered no clear and convincing
evidence that she was likely to succeed on the merits, that
she faced the threat of irreparable harm or that she was
entitled to prospective extraordinary relief. (Opinion and
Order, ECF DKT #8).
their Motion to Dismiss (ECF DKT #6), Defendants seek
dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety for
failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
Defendants also argue that this Court should abstain so as
not to interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings.
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). In addition,
Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims against
Defendant Hawkins in his role as municipal prosecutor are
barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
their Motion for Leave to File Amended Answer (ECF DKT #19),
Defendants presented the Court with records purportedly
calling into question Plaintiff's standing to litigate
this matter. Specifically, Defendants offered adoption
records for “Prince Michael” and submitted that
Plaintiff was not the owner of the cat at the time of the
search of the Animal Rescue Center. Consequently, Plaintiff
lacked standing to claim Fourth Amendment protection. In
order to address Defendants' assertions, the Court
ordered briefing and scheduled an oral hearing.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
12(b)(6) Standard of Review
reviewing a motion to dismiss, we construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its
allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff.” Directv, Inc. v.
Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). Factual
allegations contained in a complaint must “raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
Twombly does not “require heightened fact
pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id.
at 570. Dismissal is warranted if the complaint lacks an
allegation as to a necessary element of the claim raised.
Craighead v. E.F. Hutton & Co., 899 F.2d 485
(6th Cir. 1990). The United States Supreme Court, in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), discussed
Twombly and provided additional analysis of the
motion to dismiss standard:
In keeping with these principles a court considering a motion
to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that,
because they are no more than conclusion, are not entitled to
the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide
the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by
factual allegations. When there are well-plead factual
allegations a court should assume their ...