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Clark v. City of Williamsburg

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 14, 2018

ERIC S. CLARK, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the court upon plaintiff Eric Clark's Motion to Amend Complaint (Doc. 33), defendant City of Williamsburg's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17), plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 15), and plaintiff's Motion for Determination of Law (Doc. 38). First, because plaintiff proposes an amendment that asserts a state law claim, the court must determine whether it could exercise supplemental jurisdiction over that claim were it to grant plaintiff leave to amend. Second, the court will determine whether to grant plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint in the manner he has proposed. Third, the court will consider defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Lastly, the court will address plaintiff's remaining motions.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Eric Clark, a pro se litigant, has brought a § 1983 action against defendant City of Williamsburg, Kansas. Plaintiff's original Complaint alleges violations of his rights under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments. The City of Williamsburg is the only named defendant. Plaintiff seeks damages, injunctive relief, and just compensation for an alleged taking.

         The following are relevant facts that the plaintiff alleges in his Complaint (Doc. 1), which are identical to those alleged in his proposed First Amended Complaint (Doc. 33-1). On February 23, 2015, defendant sent plaintiff a notice of violation (“the Notice”). The Notice stated that plaintiff had violated Williamsburg Zoning Regulations by leaving “three large barrels, several signs, and other affixed objects” on defendant's “right of way.” (Doc. 1 at 2.) The Notice further stated that these objects were located within defendant's “eighty foot easement and will need to be removed.” (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that the easement is actually sixty feet, and that the additional twenty feet of easement claimed by defendant constitutes a taking for which he is entitled to just compensation. (Id. at 13.)

         The Notice also directed plaintiff to immediately contact defendant by phone. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff never did so. (Id.) The Notice stated the possibility of a citation, the objects being removed from the easement, and “actions [that] will continue toward resolution.” Plaintiff characterizes these statements as “obviously referring to abatement action by the City.” (Id.) Plaintiff never attempted to contact defendant by phone. He also did not request a hearing with defendant, as the zoning regulations allow within ten days of receiving a violation notice. And plaintiff never removed the objects from the area that defendant asserts is part of its right of way. Defendant has not issued a citation against plaintiff or removed any of the objects from its purported easement.

         On March 16, 2015, defendant's Code Enforcement Officer (“the Officer”) “came onto [plaintiff's] property and entered onto the curtilage of [plaintiff's] property including walking behind [plaintiff's] house.” (Id. at 4.) When plaintiff discovered the Officer, plaintiff asked the Officer to leave “several times.” (Id.) For an unspecified time after that, the Officer remained on plaintiff's property. (Id.) The Officer left plaintiff's property after plaintiff told the Officer that he was going to call the local Sheriff. (Id.)

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Pleading under Rule 8 and Dismissal under Rule 12

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint that “states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). A party opposing a complaint may assert by motion that the court should dismiss the complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To “show that the [plaintiff] is entitled to relief, ” and thus survive a 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint must contain enough facts to make the plaintiff's claim for relief “plausible on its face, ” not just “speculative” or conceivable. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (emphasis added); Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). While a court ruling on a motion to dismiss assumes that all factual allegations in the complaint are true, a plaintiff does not “show” that he or she “is entitled to relief” simply by reciting legal terms or offering conclusions without supportive facts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Gee v. Pacheco, 627 F.3d 1178, 1183 (10th Cir. 2010).

         In §1983 suits against municipalities, such as this case, courts may not impose a “heightened pleading standard” that is “more stringent than the usual pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure].” Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 165 (1993). Context is important to the determination of whether a plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for relief, and this is no different in the civil rights litigation context. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief” is a “context-specific task.”); Gee, 627 F.3d at 1185. As a result, the determination of whether a § 1983 plaintiff states a plausible claim for violation of his or her constitutional rights “will vary with the constitutional provision at issue.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676.

         B. Pro Se Litigants

         “Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e). Accordingly, courts apply a “less stringent standard” to pro se pleadings than they would to those drafted by lawyers. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106) (1976). It is especially important for courts to consider the “liberal pleading standards” under Rule 8(a)(2) “when [the plaintiff] has been proceeding, from the litigation's outset, without counsel.” Erikson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106) (internal quotations omitted). Despite these less stringent standards, however, courts “cannot take on the responsibility of serving as the [pro se] litigant's attorney in constructing arguments and searching the record.” Garrett v. Selby Connor Maddux & Janner, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005).

         C. Pleading Municipal Liability under ยง ...

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