United States District Court, D. Maine
KARON E. BAKER, Plaintiff
DETECTIVE MATTHEW I. ESTES, et al., Defendants
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND RECOMMENDED
DECISION AFTER REVIEW OF PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED
C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge.
original complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Estes,
an officer with the Augusta Police Department, seized
Plaintiff's motor vehicle during an arrest, but has not
returned the vehicle to Plaintiff despite a state court order
that entitles Plaintiff to the property. (Complaint, ECF No.
1.) Plaintiff also alleged that Defendant Pierce, who was
evidently employed by or affiliated with a towing company,
improperly sold the vehicle. Following a review of the
complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and
28 U.S.C. §1915A(a), I recommended that the Court
dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Recommended Decision, ECF
subsequently objected to the recommended decision and moved
to amend his complaint. (Objection, ECF No. 10; Motion, ECF
No. 11.) The matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's
motion to amend, through which motion Plaintiff seeks to
supplement his claims against the defendants.
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) permits Plaintiff to amend
his complaint once as a matter of course within 21 days of
service of the complaint. The complaint has not been served
upon either defendant. In accordance with Rule 15, therefore,
Plaintiff's motion to amend is granted. Plaintiff's
complaint is amended as Plaintiff requested.
that Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis,
and given that he seeks relief from governmental entities,
officers, and employees, his amended complaint is subject to
review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) &
1915A(a). After the review, I recommend the Court dismiss
Plaintiff's amended complaint.
party is proceeding in forma pauperis, “the court shall
dismiss the case at any time if the court determines, ”
inter alia, that the action is “frivolous or
malicious” or “fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
“Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua
sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare
prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of
answering such complaints.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).
addition to the review contemplated by § 1915,
Plaintiff's amended complaint is subject to screening
under the Prison Litigation Reform Act because Plaintiff
currently is incarcerated and seeks redress from governmental
entities and officers. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a), (c). The § 1915A screening requires courts to
“identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint,
or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is
frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim …; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
considering whether a complaint states a claim for which
relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all
well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all
reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v.
Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). “The relevant question ... in assessing
plausibility is not whether the complaint makes any
particular factual allegations but, rather, whether
‘the complaint warrant[s] dismissal because it failed
in toto to render plaintiffs' entitlement to
relief plausible.'” Rodríguez-Reyes v.
Molina- Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 55 (1st Cir.
2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n. 14).
Although a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to
“less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted
by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520 (1972), the complaint may not consist entirely of
“conclusory allegations that merely parrot the relevant
legal standard, ” Young v. Wells Fargo, N.A.,
717 F.3d 224, 231 (1st Cir. 2013).
alleges that he was arrested by Defendant Estes on March 29,
2018, and his vehicle, a Black Jeep Grand Cherokee, was
seized. A warrant to search Plaintiff's vehicle was
issued on April 4, 2018. On May 23, 2018, Plaintiff received
a copy of the warrant with an attached inventory sheet
listing items subject to forfeiture ($14, 800 in cash, a cell
phone, two USB drives, and three pairs of sneakers).
Plaintiff contends that Defendant Estes failed to inventory
other property that was in the seized vehicle, including
cash, clothing, jewelry, computer equipment, and business
ledgers. Plaintiff alleges that while he was being held at
the Kennebec County Jail awaiting trial, he and members of
his family made numerous attempts to contact the Augusta
Police Department to ascertain the status of his vehicle and
the property that was in the vehicle at the time it was
to Plaintiff, Defendant Estes spoke with Plaintiff (through
an intermediary) at the Kennebec County Jail on June 21,
2018. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Estes informed
Plaintiff that the vehicle was not being forfeited and that
Defendant Estes asked Plaintiff to arrange for someone to
pick up the vehicle as it was being released. Plaintiff asked
Defendant Estes about the other property, but contends he
received no response.
Plaintiff's family members reside in New York City,
Plaintiff had difficulty arranging for the retrieval of the
vehicle. Plaintiff contends that his daughter made attempts
to contact Defendant Estes, but he was misled as to the
status of property by the Augusta Police Department. On
February 20, 2019, Plaintiff's daughter spoke with
someone at the Augusta Police Department and was informed
that the vehicle had been released to A.C. Towing
Company/Defendant Pierce. Plaintiff's daughter contacted
Defendant Pierce, who told her that the vehicle had been
signed over to him on June 21, 2018, and subsequently sold.
Defendant Pierce also said that the property inside the
vehicle had been discarded.
alleges that on March 27, 2019, the Maine Superior Court