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Christensen v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 21, 2018

NATE TAYLOR et al., Defendants.


          Robert J. Shelby, District Judge

         Plaintiff, Anthony Jeffrey Christensen, filed this pro se civil rights suit, see 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2018), proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 id. § 1915. Based on the latest information available to the Court, Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee, currently defending himself on murder and related charges. His claims involve the murder investigation and follow-up proceedings.

         Plaintiff names the following defendants: Nate Taylor (Mount Pleasant Police Department (MPPD)); Jim Willberg (MPPD); Daniel Mower (MPPD); Duane Ballantyne (MPPD); Keith Jensen, (Sanpete County (SC)); Greg Peterson (SC); Tyler Johnson (SC); and Brady Keisel (SC). He asserts that Defendants violated his federal constitutional rights under the facts of releasing his personal property in an unauthorized way, bullying a witness holding Plaintiffs power of attorney, search and seizure of his personal property, denial of counsel to represent him, service of a warrant to him in jail, and irregular activities of a prosecutor.

         The Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 37), is now before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 28 & 32.)[1]


         1. Grounds for Dismissal

         In evaluating the propriety of dismissing claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, this Court takes all well-pleaded factual assertions as true and regards them in a light most advantageous to the plaintiff. Ridge at Red Hawk L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). Dismissal is appropriate when, viewing those facts as true, the plaintiff has not posed a "plausible" right to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247-48 (10th Cir. 2008). "The burden is on the plaintiff to frame a 'complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief." Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When a civil rights complaint contains "bare assertions," involving "nothing more than a 'formulaic recitation of the elements' of a constitutional. . . claim," the Court considers those assertions "conclusory and not entitled to" an assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1951 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554-55). In other words, "the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims." Red Hawk, 493 F.3d at 1177 (italics in original).

         This Court must construe pro se '"pleadings liberally,' applying a less stringent standard than is applicable to pleadings filed by lawyers. Th[e] court, however, will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiffs complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiffs behalf." Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). In the Tenth Circuit, this means that if this Court can reasonably read the pleadings "to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite the plaintiffs failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Still, it is not "the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant." Id.; see also Peterson v. Shanks, 149 F.3d 1140, 1143 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989) (per curiam)).

         2. Affirmative Link

         The Court first addresses Plaintiffs due-process and just-compensation claims regarding his allegations that his personal property was released with a lack of authorization. Plaintiff just says that "the police" released his property but does not identify any particular defendant.

         The complaint must clearly state what each individual defendant did to violate Plaintiffs civil rights. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976) (stating personal participation of each named defendant is essential allegation in civil-rights action). "To state a claim, a complaint must 'make clear exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom!" Stone v. Albert, No. 08-2222, slip op. at 4 (10th Cir. July 20, 2009) (unpublished) (emphasis in original) (quoting Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1250 (10th Cir. 2008)). Plaintiff does not identify behavior by Defendants that links them with this violation of his constitutional rights.

         Because Plaintiff has done nothing to affirmatively link the claim regarding the release of his personal property to Defendants, this claim does not survive further.

         3. Improper Claim

         Plaintiff alleges that the "bullying" of his "witness," who held his "power of attorney," somehow violated his federal constitutional rights. First, there is no federal constitutional claim for bullying; and second, Plaintiff has no standing to assert a claim for his ...

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