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Pitts v. Ramsey County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 23, 2018

Herbert Pitts, Plaintiff,
v.
Ramsey County, St. Paul Police Department, and Lt. Unknown, Defendants.

          Herbert Pitts, (pro se Plaintiff);

          Robert B. Roche, Assistant County Attorney, Ramsey County Attorney's Office, (for Defendant Ramsey County); and Portia M. Hampton-Flowers, Deputy City Attorney, St. Paul City Attorney's Office, (for Defendant St. Paul Police Department).

          Tony N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge.

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Ramsey County's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15) and Defendant St. Paul Police Department's[1] Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 19) (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff proceeds pro se. Assistant County Attorney Robert B. Roche represents Ramsey County. Deputy City Attorney Portia M. Hampton-Flowers represents the St. Paul Police Department. This matter has been referred to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation to the Honorable Michael J. Davis, District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and D. Minn. LR 72.1. For the reasons that follow, this Court recommends that Defendants' motions be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         According Plaintiff's documents the most generous construction, Plaintiff brings the instant action against Defendants alleging excessive force, deliberate indifference to his medical needs, failure to investigate, and failure to train.

         A. Complaint

         Plaintiff initially brought this action against Defendants Ramsey County, St. Paul Police Department, and Lt. (Unknown). (Compl. at 1-2.) Plaintiff alleges that, on July 23, 2015, he was at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, trying to visit his fiancée “who was badly injured and just came out of a coma.” (Compl. at 4.) Plaintiff was approached by Lt. (Unknown), a St. Paul police officer, in the visiting room. (Compl. at 4.) Lt. (Unknown) asked for Plaintiff's name and identification. (Compl. at 4.) Lt. (Unknown) “ran [Plaintiff's] name” and learned that Plaintiff was subject to a domestic abuse no contact order. (Compl. at 4.) Lt. (Unknown) then placed Plaintiff in handcuffs and, upon return from his fiancée's hospital room, began “screaming and hollering[, ] calling [him] derogatory names[, ] and . . .beat[ing him] with [a] baton.” (Compl. at 4.)

         Plaintiff alleges he was later “transferred to [the] Ramsey County jail and Ramsey County workhouse where [he] was treated for . . . injuries to [his] wrist, forearm, shoulder, [and] back.” (Compl. at 4.) While at the Ramsey County jail, Plaintiff reported the incident to “Internal Affairs, ” which began an investigation. (Compl. at 4). “Internal Affairs” discovered that the incident was recorded on video. (Compl. at 4.) “[N]o further investigation [was] done.” (Compl. at 4.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Lt. (Unknown)'s actions amounted to “cruel [and] unusual punishment, ” causing him “MENTAL and PHYSICAL pain.” (Compl. at 4.) Plaintiff seeks “monetary compensation for damages and loss” in the amount of $2, 000, 000. (Compl. at 4).

         B. Objection to Ramsey County's Motion to Dismiss

         In response to Ramsey County's motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed a “Notice of Motion to Object to the Defendant's [sic] Ramsey County Minnesota Motion to Dismiss” (“Objection”) (ECF No. 22). In the Objection, Plaintiff claims Ramsey County was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs when Ramsey County “failed to provide [him] with immediate medical treatment for [his] injuries that [he] sustained as a result of [Lt. (Unknown)] beating [him] illegally on camera.” (Objection at 1.) Plaintiff further claims “he was not properly treated” because he was not “given medication, x-rays, a sling for arm, ice for injuries, etc.” (Objection at 1.)

         C. Amended Complaint

         While the motions to dismiss were being briefed, Plaintiff filed an “Amended Complaint” (ECF No. 27). With respect to Lt. (Unknown), Plaintiff added that Lt. (Unknown)

[s]ubjected [him] to being physically beaten in violation of [his] Due Process/Equal Protection of Law Under the U.S. Constitutions 8th and 14th Amendments when he under color of state law committed excessive force against [him] maliciously and sadistically causing serious physical harm and wanton infliction of pain. The actions of [Lt. (Unknown)] has also caused aggravated existing back pain, POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER and IIED (intentional infliction of emotional distress) to [him] of cruel [and] unusual punishment a [sic] violation of [his] 8th Amendment rights the [sic] hitting of baton, kneeing and kicking [him] while handcuffed on camera.

(Am. Compl. at 1.)

         With respect to the St. Paul Police Department, Plaintiff added that the St. Paul Police Department “fail[ed] to adequately train/supervise its police including police officer [Lt. (Unknown)], as part of his training when hired.” (Am. Compl. at 1.)

         Plaintiff also added the City of St. Paul as a defendant. (Am. Compl. at 1.) Plaintiff stated that the City of St. Paul “is liable for its failure to have and maintain a public sensibility training regimine [sic] and policy to protect citizens from police physical abuse.” (Am. Compl. at 1).

         III. AMENDING THE COMPLAINT

         Having filed an “Amended Complaint” relatively close in time to the motions to dismiss, Plaintiff appears to be attempting to amend the Complaint as a matter of course under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B). Defendants contend that the “Amended Complaint” is not timely. (Ramsey County's Reply at 7 n.2, ECF No. 30; SPPD's Reply at 3-4.)

         “A party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within . . . 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f).” Fed R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). The prison mailbox rule provides that if an inmate confined in an institution files a complaint, the complaint is timely if it is deposited in the institution's internal mail system on or before the last day for filing. Sulik v. Taney Cty., 316 F.3d 813, 814-15 (8th Cir. 2003), overruled on other grounds, 393 F.3d 765 (8th Cir. 2005); see United States v. Harrison, 469 F.3d 1216, 1217 (8th Cir. 2006) (“Under the prison mailbox rule, a pro se pleading is deemed filed upon deposit in the prison mail system prior to the expiration of the filing deadline.”). “Timely filing may be shown by a declaration in compliance with 28 U.S.C. § 1746 or by a notarized statement, either of which must set forth the date of deposit and state that first-class postage has been prepaid.” Sulik, 316 F.3d at 814 (quotation omitted). “[T]he leniency underlying the ‘mailbox rule' is justified based on the inability of prisoner litigants to exercise control over the filings of their pleadings, and their dependence on prison officials for such filings.” Johnson v. Minn., No. 10-cv-861 (ADM/FLN), 2010 WL 2682865, at *3 n.1 (D. Minn. July 2, 2010); see Sulik, 316 F.3d at 815.

         Plaintiff was confined at Graham Correctional Center, located in Hillsboro, Illinois, when he filed the Amended Complaint. (See ECF No. 27-2; Mar. 13, 2018 Ltr., ECF No. 33). The Amended Complaint contains the following statement:

The Mailbox Rule deadline has been fully complied with and due to the fact of a delay in the mailroom process here at GRAHAM CORRECTIONAL CENTER and NOT ADEQUATE ACCESS TO THE LAW LIBRARY as a[] PRO SE LITIGANT in which it took three weeks to receive the Defendants Order [sic] for MOTION TO DISMISS, Plaintiff requests this Honorable Court not to fault Plaintiff in this amended complaint nor the Original Complaint that was filed against Defendants due to the same circumstances.

(Am. Compl. at 1-2.) This statement was notarized by the Graham Correctional Center's law librarian on January 24, 2018. (Am. Compl. at 2; Mar. 13, 2018 Ltr. at 1.)

         It is not explicitly clear from Plaintiff's submissions when the “Amended Complaint” was actually deposited into the prison mail system. Plaintiff's “Proof/Certificate of Service” for the “Amended Complaint” states that it was deposited into the prison mail system on January 23. (ECF No. 27-1.) The “Amended Complaint” and Plaintiff's subsequent letter to the Court, however, reflect that the “Amended Complaint” was not notarized by the law librarian until the following day, January 24. (Am. Compl. at 2; Mar. 13, 2018 Ltr. at 1.) The envelope is postmarked the day after, January 25. Under the prison mailbox rule, the Court will consider the “Amended Complaint” to be filed as of January 24.

         Ramsey County's motion to dismiss was filed first, on December 21, 2017. Under Rule 15(a)(1)(B), Plaintiff could amend his Complaint once as a matter of course on or before January 12, 2018. In the notarized statement, however, Plaintiff states that it took a few weeks (between two and three) for him to receive the motion to dismiss because of a delay in the mailroom process at the Graham Correctional Center. (Am. Compl. at 2 (“three weeks”), Mar. 13, 2018 Ltr. at 1 (“two weeks”).). Plaintiff, in fact, submitted a grievance to the Graham Correctional Center regarding the processing of his mail. (ECF No. 33-1.) Giving Plaintiff the benefit of the doubt and taking as true his statement that he received the motion to dismiss three weeks late, the Court will, for purposes of considering the timeliness of the “Amended Complaint” only, consider Ramsey County's motion to dismiss to have been served on Plaintiff on January 12.

         The “Amended Complaint” was filed on January 24, within 21 days of service of Ramsey County's motion to dismiss. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). The “Amended Complaint” was also within 21 days of the second motion to dismiss, which was filed on January 2, 2018, by the St. Paul Police Department. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(1); 15(a)(1)(B). Therefore, in the interests of completeness and in accordance with the principles underlying the prison mailbox rule and Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this Court will consider Plaintiff to be in compliance with Rule 15(a)(1)(B)'s 21-day requirement and analyze Plaintiff's claims against Defendants as if the Amended Complaint was timely.

         IV. ...


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