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McDonald v. Sites

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 20, 2019

Jamie Lee McDonald, Plaintiff,
v.
Officer J. Sites, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER & MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION

          ROBERT T. NUMBERS, II UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         A police officer from the Town of Apex arrested Plaintiff Jamie Lee McDonald based upon what he claims was a false police report. McDonald now maintains that the person who filed the allegedly false report, the officer involved in his arrest, and the officials he complained to about his arrest are liable for a violation of his constitutional rights. But the district court should dismiss his complaint for two reasons. First, McDonald has not alleged that the officers, who he has sued in their official capacity alone, were acting pursuant to an official policy or custom of the Town of Apex. And, second, he cannot maintain a § 1983 action against the person who filed the allegedly false police report against him because that individual is not a state actor.

         I. Background

         McDonald claims that Defendant Blake Alan Pokopec falsely told police that McDonald stole a 2004 Toyota Prius from him when, in fact, McDonald purchased the car from him 9 days earlier. Compl. at 5, D.E. 1-1. Apex Police Officer Sites showed up at McDonald's home to arrest him some time later. Id. Although McDonald claimed to have paperwork in his house that would have exonerated him, Sites arrested him anyway. Id.

         McDonald contacted Sites's “superiors to inform them of his behavior and the violation” of his constitutional rights, but they responded with “contempt” towards him. Id.

         Next, McDonald “filed a formal complaint” with Apex Police Captain Blair Myhand about Sites's conduct. Id. Myhand responded that “the case was investigated and closed[.]” Id.

         Undaunted, McDonald then “filed a complaint with the Internal Affairs Section.” Id. But he later received a letter from Myhand telling him that his allegation were unproven and the matter was closed. Id.

         McDonald appealed Myhand's decision to Apex Town Manager Drew Havens. Id. Havens agreed with Myhand. Id.

         According to McDonald, the defendants have violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. He has sued Sites, Myhand, and Havens, who he claims acted under the color of state and local law, in their official capacities. Id. at 4. Apex Chief of Police John Letteney is also named as a defendant in his official capacity. Id. at 3. McDonald has sued Pokopec in his individual capacity. Id. at 4.

         II. IFP Petition

         McDonald asks the court to allow him to proceed with his action without paying the required filing fee and other costs associated with litigation (colloquially known as proceeding in forma pauperis or IFP). The court may grant his request if he submits an affidavit describing his assets and the court finds that he is unable to pay the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. In assessing a request to proceed IFP, the court should consider whether the plaintiff can pay the costs associated with litigation “and still be able to provide himself and his dependents with the necessities of life.” Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948) (internal quotations omitted).

         The court has reviewed McDonald's application and finds that he lacks the resources to pay the costs associated with this litigation. The court thus grants McDonald's motion (D.E. 1) and allows him to proceed IFP.

         III. Screening

         In addition to determining whether McDonald is entitled to IFP status, the court must also analyze the viability of the claims contained in the Complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court reviews a complaint to eliminate those claims that unnecessarily impede judicial efficiency and the administration of justice. Specifically, the court must dismiss any portion of the complaint it determines is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which ...


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