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Lietzke v. City of Montgomery

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

August 8, 2018

BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al., Defendants. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, Defendant. BILL LIETZKE, Plaintiff,
v.
GREYHOUND LINES, INC., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court are 15 pro se complaints filed by Plaintiff Bill Lietzke. Many of the complaints are virtually identical and most were originally filed in other courts, including the United States District Court for the District of Maine, the District of Montana, and the Eastern District of Michigan. The cases filed elsewhere have been transferred to this court and all of the cases have been referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for consideration and disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. Because Lietzke has moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court reviews his complaints pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). This statute instructs the court to dismiss any action in which it is determined that an in forma pauperis applicant's lawsuit is “frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). After a careful review of each complaint and the relevant law, and giving due consideration to Lietzke's pro se status, the undersigned recommends that the above-captioned actions be consolidated, that the pending motions to proceed in forma pauperis be granted, and that all of Lietzke's complaints be dismissed prior to service of process pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Bill Lietzke is well known to this court, having continually filed frivolous lawsuits against the City of Montgomery, Alabama, and its police officers for more than a decade. See, e.g., Lietzke v. City of Montgomery, 2014 WL 558995 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 13, 2014); Lietzke v. City of Montgomery, 2008 WL 2113382 (M.D. Ala. May 16, 2008); Lietzke v. City of Montgomery, 2007 WL 2126525 (M.D. Ala. July 23, 2007); Lietzke v. Bright, 2007 WL 1441200 (M.D. Ala. May 16, 2007). Lietzke also has filed many cases in other districts. See, e.g., Lietzke v. City of Montgomery, 2017 WL 4698793 (D. Me. Oct. 19, 2017); Lietzke v. City of Montgomery, 2017 WL 58829 (D.S.D. Jan. 5, 2017); Lietzke v. City of Montgomery, 2016 WL 9818319 (D.N.M. Nov. 29, 2016); Lietzke v. Cnty. of Montgomery, 2013 WL 6452318 (D. Nev. Dec. 9, 2013); Lietzke v. City of Montgomery, 2012 WL 2326110 (D. Idaho May 29, 2012).[1] Lietzke filed the 15 pending complaints between August 2017 and May 2018, with the two most recent complaints filed in this court on May 4 and May 14, 2018. In all of the complaints except three, [2] Lietzke names the “City of Montgomery, et al” and Kevin Murphy as the defendants.

         A. Cases Filed Elsewhere

         Lietzke's allegations center on what he characterizes as a series of unlawful detentions by City of Montgomery police officers. In each of Lietzke's complaints, he contends that he was “detained” by police officers “without lawful privilege” when they asked questions of him on certain roadways in Montgomery or outside of a post office or a church. In some instances, the officers merely asked Lietzke, “What's going on?” See Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-614), Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-626), Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-628) & Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-027). In another, the officers asked for identification and for personal information. See Doc. 1 at 1 (2:17-cv-609). The officers sometimes told Lietzke they had received a “false report” that Lietzke had been “chasing someone.” See Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-626), Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-628) & Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-395). In two of the complaints, the officers approached Lietzke while he was walking on Interstate 85. See Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-812) & Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-012). Lietzke alleges that he uses this particular highway because it grants him “public access, and more safer access, to the Montgomery Ann Street Walmart supermarket.” Doc. 2 at 2 (2:17-cv-812) & Doc. 2 at 2 (2:18-cv-012). The officers “proceeded to demand that [Lietzke] exit the I 85 Interstate and take an alternative route.” Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-812) & Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-012).

         During these encounters, the officers “demand[ed] personal and private information from the Plaintiff as to the Plaintiff's ‘ID,' ‘social security number,' ‘date of birth,' and ‘name.'” Doc. 1 at 1 (2:17-cv-609). Eventually, they would release him “on his own recognizance.” E.g., Doc. 1 at 1 (2:17-cv-609). Lietzke contends that in each instance, the officers did not have probable cause or “lawful privilege” and infringed on his right to “assemble under the First Amendment” as well as his “right to plead the Fifth Amendment.” E.g., Doc. 1 at 1 (2:17-cv-609). Lietzke also directs his attention toward those who allegedly called the police, bringing claims for defamation in several of the complaints and demanding to know the identities of the complainants. Lietzke contends that the officers' actions caused mental anguish and amounted to an “intention infliction of emotional distress, ” and he demands a monetary award of one billion or two billion dollars.

         One complaint filed in the Eastern District of Michigan contains allegations substantially different from the rest. In it, Lietzke alleges that from 1999 to 2002 he was repeatedly “abducted, harassed, and kidnapped” by officers who falsely imprisoned him. See Doc. 1 at 1-5 (2:17-cv-674). Lietzke alleges that in August 1999 these officers forcibly removed him from his home and took him to a hospital in Montgomery, where he was “incarcerated” and “could not leave.” Doc. 1 at 1 (2:17-cv-674). Later that day, they took him from the hospital to the Montgomery County Probate Court and then to a psychiatric hospital. Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-674). Thus, the officers “in the course of one unlawful act after another, procured the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of [Lietzke], and procured the false imprisonment of [Lietzke], for any appreciable time however brief.” Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-674). During the course of this encounter, Lietzke alleges that the officers “struck, shoved, kicked, and touched” him, subjecting him to “multiple unlawful physical contacts.” Doc. 1 at 3 (2:17-cv-674).

         Lietzke claims that similar events occurred one week later, on August 9, when officers “dragged” him from the hospital to the probate court and “instituted unlawful proceedings motivated by malice in fact against [Lietzke] in the Montgomery County Probate [Court] without probable cause therefor.” Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-674). After the proceedings, the officers took him back to the hospital. Doc. 1 at 2 (2:17-cv-674). Then, on August 11, they again “harassed and seized” Lietzke and took him to the same psychiatric hospital. Doc. 1 at 2-3 (2:17-cv-674).

         B. Middle District Cases

         The two complaints Lietzke has filed in this district contain factual allegations from a separate incident. These complaints center on events that allegedly occurred on April 20, 2018 at a Greyhound bus station in Birmingham, Alabama. Lietzke asserts that two “unidentified, unspecified black male Birmingham Greyhound Lines, Inc. Defendants procured the unlawful arrest, the unlawful violation of the personal liberty, and the subsequent false imprisonment of [Lietzke].” Doc. 1 at 1 (2:18-cv-469); see also Doc. 1 (2:18-cv-488) (stating that Greyhound employees “falsely imprisoned, assaulted, violated the civil rights of, and committed the unlawful violation of the personal liberty” of Lietzke after arriving in Birmingham on a bus from Nashville, Tennessee). The employees, who Lietzke does not identify, “purposely deprived [Lietzke] of freedom of movement by use of physical barrier and force . . . without [Lietzke's] consent which harmed [Lietzke], and such harm was substantially caused by the City of Birmingham's and unidentified, unspecified African-american [sic] black male Defendants' conduct.” Doc. 1 (2:18-cv-469). The employees accomplished this by striking, shoving, kicking, and touching Lietzke. Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-469) & Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-488). Lietzke was then jailed and released the next day after paying a $300 bond. Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-469) & Doc. 1 at 2 (2:18-cv-488). The complaint against Greyhound Lines, Inc., adds the seemingly unrelated allegation that Greyhound employees in St. Louis, Missouri, “intercepted and stole [Lietzke's] San Francisco, California bus tickets and itinerary for unexplainable and suspicious reasons” in February 2012. Doc. 1 at 3 (2:18-cv-488).

         C. Claims

         Lietzke's claims are difficult to pin down given the imprecise nature of his allegations and his tendency to scatter legal conclusions throughout his pleadings, but patterns emerge. Lietzke consistently references a “violation of civil rights” or “civil rights violations” in a majority of the complaints. He explicitly invokes the First and Fifth Amendments and challenges the lawfulness of the various police interactions, which the court will construe as claims under the Fourth Amendment. See, e.g., Doc. 1 at 1 (2:17-cv-609) (“The City of Montgomery precipitated said actions without probable cause and without lawful privilege therefor, abridging [Lietzke's] right of the people peaceably to assemble under the First Amendment, and abridging [Lietzke's] right to plead the Fifth Amendment under the Constitution of the United States.”). Additionally, he brings various state-law tort claims, including harassment, defamation, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The same principles that govern a dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) also govern the review of a complaint under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d 1316, 1320 (11th Cir. 2008). Under this standard, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations need not be detailed, but “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s]” will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Moreover, a complaint is “frivolous” under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Both “inarguable legal conclusion[s]” and “fanciful factual allegation[s]” can give rise to a finding of frivolity. Id. Section 1915 grants courts the power not only to “dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also . . . to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Id. at 327.

         In addition to the pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal, a plaintiff's pro se status must also be considered when evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint. “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, such leniency cannot serve as a substitute for establishing a viable cause of action. See Odion v. Google Inc., 628 Fed.Appx. 635, 637 (11th Cir. 2015) (recognizing that although courts must show leniency to pro se litigants, “this leniency does not give a court license to serve as de facto counsel for a party, or to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action”) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “While the pleadings of pro se litigants are liberally construed, they must still comply with procedural rules governing the proper form of pleadings.” Hopkins v. Saint Lucie Cnty. Sch. Bd., 399 Fed.Appx. 563, 565 (11th Cir. 2010) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. ...


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