United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
inmate Marc Wyatt (TDCJ #01853251) has filed a complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his civil
rights. Wyatt, who proceeds pro se and in forma
pauperis, alleges that law enforcement officers failed
to secure his personal property following his arrest on a
felony warrant, which resulted in the theft of that property.
The Court initially had tremendous difficulty determining
whom Wyatt was suing and under what theory. Wyatt has filed a
more definite statement of his claims at the Court's
request (Dkt. 18) and has responded to a show cause order
issued by the Court (Dkt. 24). Having considered Wyatt's
factual allegations and the applicable law, the Court will
dismiss Wyatt's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B) as frivolous and for failure to state a claim
on which relief may be granted.
is serving an 80-year sentence in the Polunsky Unit of the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice ("TDCJ"). He
was convicted of criminal mischief in Lee County for removing
aluminum coils from air-conditioning units and sentenced as a
habitual offender. See Wyatt v. State, No.
03-13-00307-CR, 2014 WL 7475488 (Tex. App.-Austin Dec. 19,
2014, pet. ref d). His claims in this case stem from his
arrest for that crime. Because Wyatt's factual
allegations have materially shifted over the course of his
filings, the Court will summarize the facts as stated in his
most recent filing, a response to this Court's show cause
15, 2012, Wyatt was arrested in Matagorda County on a Lee
County felony warrant and taken to the Lee County Jail (Dkt.
24 at p. 1). The arrest was apparently conducted jointly by a
Bay City police officer (Bay City is the county seat of
Matagorda County) and a Giddings police detective (Giddings
is the county seat of Lee County) (Dkt. 24 at p. 1). The Bay
City officer released Wyatt's personal property-the keys
to Wyatt's home and truck, Wyatt's cell phone,
Wyatt's wallet, and some cash-to Wyatt's sister
(Defendant Michele Wyatt-"Michele") (Dkt. 24 at p.
1). Wyatt claims that the Bay City officer (whom he has sued
as a John Doe) was instructed to release the property to
Michele by the Giddings detective (whom he has not sued)
(Dkt. 24 at p. 1). According to Wyatt, "[t]his request
by [the Giddings detective] was made to get [Michele] to
enter plaintiffs house and remove what was believed to be
evidence that could be used against plaintiff in his criminal
mischief charge" (Dkt. 24 at p. 1). Wyatt does not
provide any support for his statement of the detective's
motives-he did not even mention the detective until he
responded to the Court's show cause order (Dkt. 24 at p.
1). Michele and a friend of hers (Defendant Elisa
Garza-"Garza") then entered Wyatt's home and
removed items belonging to Wyatt (Dkt. 24 at p. 1).
16, 2012, the day after Wyatt's arrest, Garza told Wyatt
by phone that she and Michele had removed items from
Wyatt's residence and placed them in a storage building
owned by a friend of Wyatt's (Dkt. 24 at p. 1). Wyatt did
not object either to the entry of his home or to the
placement of his belongings in the storage building (Dkt. 24
at p. 1). However, in July of 2012, Wyatt received a letter
from a family friend informing him that Garza and Michele had
in fact sold the belongings taken from his residence (Dkt. 24
at p. 1). Wyatt contacted Michele and arranged a visit with
her at the Lee County Jail (Dkt. 24 at p. 1). At that visit,
Michele told Wyatt "that the Bay City Police department
gave her permission to enter the house and that there was
nothing Wyatt could do because he would not be allowed to
file a complaint [about] the [burglary]" (Dkt. 24 at p.
October 26, 2012, Wyatt contacted the Bay City Police
Department to "file a complaint of a burglary [at] his
residence" (Dkt. 24 at pp. 1-2). The dispatcher told
Wyatt "that the policy of the Matagorda County police
department was that in order to file a [complaint] you could
not be in jail" (Dkt. 24 at p. 2). Wyatt "knows
that this is not a [policy]" and "believes that the
Bay City police department singled him out because the
burglary was [committed] with the aid of the Bay City police
department in partnership with [the] Giddings police
detective" (Dkt. 24 at p. 2).
October 3, 2013, Wyatt, who by then was in TDCJ custody,
filed a complaint in this Court seeking relief under a
state-law claim for conversion and naming as defendants
Michele; Garza; the Bay City officer (as a John Doe); Mike
Horton; Sheila Horton; and Paul Horton (Dkt. 24 at p.
The property at issue consisted of three used cars; a flatbed
trailer; a generator; "HVAC service tools and related
equipment;" a laptop; a boat; and $75.00 in cash (Dkt.
24-1 at p. 2). The District Clerk's office returned the
complaint to Wyatt with the following note: "If you wish
to bring your complaint to the court's attention by way
of a civil rights suit or a habeas corpus petition, you may
request the proper forms from the clerk" (Dkt. 24-1 at
p. 1). The District Clerk's office never docketed the
complaint,  but this Court would have lacked subject
matter jurisdiction over the lawsuit anyway. Even though
Wyatt invoked the diversity jurisdiction statute (28 U.S.C.
§ 1332), he failed to meet the requirements of that
statute because he affirmatively pled that all of the parties
were citizens of Texas and that he sought less than $75, 000
(specifically, he sought $14, 050.00) in damages (Dkt. 24-1
at p. 2). Wyatt does not say that he ever filed his
conversion lawsuit in state court, where it should have been
then filed this lawsuit, in which he has listed eight
defendants: (1) Michele; (2) Garza; (3) Matagorda County; (4)
City of Bay City; (5) unknown police chief; (6) unknown
sheriff; (7) unknown dispatcher; and (8) unknown police
officer. The Court has twice requested clarification of
Wyatt's claims. Respectfully, figuring out Wyatt's
claims has not gotten much easier, which is likely
attributable to the fact that Wyatt, by his own admission, is
really just trying to sue for conversion:
Wyatt filed this civil [rights] complaint after what he
believed to be a denial of his tort claim [for conversion].
Having followed the instructions of this court, Wyatt
believed that his tort claim [for conversion] was not the
avenue for relief in this cause. Not being skilled in the
law, Wyatt simply followed this court's instruction and
filed a civil [rights] complaint. Dkt. 24 at p. 3.
it is obvious that Wyatt misunderstood the notice from the
District Clerk. The notice was neither a "denial"
of Wyatt's conversion claim nor an
"instruction" to do anything. Wyatt simply filed
his conversion claim in the wrong court.
lawsuit, the Court discerns two claims: (1) that the
defendants deprived Wyatt of his personal property in
violation of his right to due process; and (2) that the
law-enforcement defendants selectively provided police
protection in violation of the Equal Protection