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Rippley v. City of St. Louis

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 13, 2019

GLENN RIPPLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of St. Louis's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, filed October 7, 2019. (ECF No. 33). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Glenn Rippley originally filed this action against the City of St. Louis, Missouri (“City”) and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department on April 25, 2019, in the Southern District of Illinois. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff raised two distinct issues in separate counts. In his first count, Plaintiff alleged he was denied a jury trial on three traffic violations incurred in November, 2018. In his second count, Plaintiff raised several issues regarding a possible rape conviction stemming from a May, 2017 incident. On June 20, 2019, the Honorable J. Phil Gilbert, Senior United States District Judge in the Southern District of Illinois, transferred the action to this Court. (ECF No. 6). The case originally was assigned to United States Magistrate Judge Noelle C. Collins, but was transferred to the undersigned on July 2, 2019. (ECF No. 10).

         On July 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed a proposed Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 17). In Count I of his proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiff restated his claim that he was denied a jury trial on three traffic violations incurred in November, 2018. Plaintiff further alleged both race and age discrimination. As relief, Plaintiff sought the “expungement of all police reports of the 3 traffic tickets and the dissmissal (sic) of all three traffic tickets removed from my Missouri police record.” (Id., P. 16).[1]

         In Count II of his proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiff restated his claims regarding a possible rape conviction stemming from a May, 2017 incident. (ECF No. 13-1). Plaintiff claimed that as a result of Defendants' actions, he has suffered “irreversable (sic) financial damages, and slander of his good name and is on record as a felony rape offender when Plaintiff is innocent of all charges.” (Id., P. 4). As relief, Plaintiff sought $50, 000.00 in actual damages, for the “legal destruction of his livelyhood (sic)”, and $50, 000.00 in punitive damages. (Id.). Plaintiff further requested “a federal order for the relief of expungement of all criminal records of this event and any other charges or reports made on the criminal record of Plaintiff Glenn Austin Rippley.” (Id.).

         On August 2, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and Supplemental Complaint, asserting Plaintiff failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted. (ECF No. 23). In an Order entered September 18, 2019, the Court noted that because Plaintiff was seeking both money damages and to vacate and expunge his convictions, his action was a hybrid of sorts, in which he sought relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the federal civil rights statute, and under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the federal habeas corpus statute. (ECF No. 29). The Court stated it would not allow Plaintiff to proceed under both statutes simultaneously in one action. Because Plaintiff originally filed his action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Court presumed he wished to continue to proceed in this action under that section. It therefore ordered Plaintiff to amend his complaint on a Court-provided form, with only his civil rights claims for monetary damages.[2] The Court warned Plaintiff it was not a court of appeals for state court criminal convictions, and thus Plaintiff could not seek expungement and dismissal of his traffic tickets and/or other charges through a § 1983 action. See Id., P. 4 n. 3 (citing Postma v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan, 74 F.3d 160, 162 (8th Cir. 1996)). The Court further cautioned that in order to state a claim against a municipality, such as St. Louis City, or a government official in his or her official capacity, Plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the governmental entity was responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. See Id., P. 4 n. 4 (citing Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978)). Finally, to the extent Plaintiff sought monetary damages allegedly resulting from his convictions in his proposed Amended Complaint, he was reminded that “[a] prisoner may not recover damages in a § 1983 suit where the judgment would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction, continued imprisonment or sentence unless the conviction or sentence is reversed, expunged or called into question by issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” See Id., P. 5 n. 5 (quoting Winters v. Lytle, 2019 WL 2525782, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Jun. 19, 2019) (citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994); Schafer v. Moore, 46 F.3d 43, 45 (8th Cir. 1995))).

         Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on September 23, 2019, naming as Defendants the City of St. Louis and Andre L. Smith.[3] (ECF No. 30). In Count I of his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff again alleges he was denied a jury trial on three traffic violations incurred in November, 2018, and further asserts the deprivation was due to race discrimination. As relief, Plaintiff seeks “jury trials to be reinstated at misdemeanor offenses and any other the court deems just.” (Id., P. 7). In Count II, Plaintiff restates his claims regarding a possible rape charge stemming from a May, 2017 incident. (Id., PP. 4-5).[4] Plaintiff claims that as a result of Defendants' actions he has suffered, among other things, degradation of character, mental anguish, and financial harm. (Id., P. 5). As relief for Count II, Plaintiff seeks “to have Police report CN17-022485 to be removed or expunged…and one thousand dollars and all court expences (sic) to be reimbursed by Andre L. Smith…” (Id., P. 7).

         As noted above, Defendant City of St. Louis filed the instant Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint on October 7, 2019, asserting Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the City for which relief may be granted. (ECF No. 33).

         STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS

         In ruling on a motion dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008). The Court, “must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). The complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” however, and the motion to dismiss must be granted if the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007) (abrogating the “no set of facts” standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Furthermore, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (pleading offering only “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not do)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Denial Of Jury Trial

         As noted above, in Count I of his Second Amended Complaint Plaintiff alleges he was denied a jury trial on three traffic violations incurred in November, 2018. As relief, Plaintiff seeks “jury trials to be reinstated at misdemeanor offenses and any other the court deems just.” The Court notes that although the Fourteenth Amendment imposes upon States the requirement that jury trials be available to criminal defendants, “the guarantee of jury trial does not extend to petty crimes.” See Dyke v. Taylor Implement Mfg. Co., 391 U.S. 216, 219 (1968). None of the municipal offenses for which Plaintiff alleges he was denied the right to trial by jury authorizes a term of imprisonment of more than six months, or a fine of more than $500. The offenses thus are petty crimes, for which no right to trial by jury is guaranteed. See State ex rel. Cole v. Nigro, 471 S.W.2d 933, 936 (Mo. banc 1971); see also Ryan v. Moreland, 653 S.W.2d 244, 250 n. 3 (Mo. App. 1983) ...


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