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Cole v. City of Tarrant

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 17, 2014

ARTELETTE COLE and ANTHONY BROWN, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF TARRANT, ANGELA MOON, LOXCIL TUCK, DENNIS RENO, LAURA HORTON, BETTY MIDDLE BROOKS, CATHY ANDERSON, DEBORAH MATHEWS, and JOHN T. BRYANT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, District Judge.

I. Introduction and Procedural History

This case was originated by Plaintiffs Artelette Cole and Anthony D. Brown in Jefferson County Circuit Court on July 31, 2014, against Defendants City of Tarrant (the "COT"), Angela Moon, Loxcil Tuck, Dennis Reno, Laura Horton, Betty Middlebrooks, Cathy Anderson, Deborah Mathews, and John T. Bryant (Doc. 1-3 at 3)[1] and was removed to this court by Defendants on September 10, 2014. (Doc. 1 at 1). On October 3, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint. (Doc. 16). As described in this amended pleading, Plaintiffs' lawsuit arises out of each one's arrest, which they contend occurred because of an alleged inaccurate and improper accounting of their payments of fees and fines attributable to prior criminal charges and/or traffic citations that were filed against them in the COT. ( See generally Doc. 16).

The case caption of Plaintiffs' amended complaint suggests that all persons named as defendants in this action have been sued in their individual capacity ( i.e., using "an individual" after each person's name), and makes no reference to their official status.[2] However, in describing the individual defendants as parties within the body of their complaint, Plaintiffs refer to these parties' official roles and do not indicate in which capacity or capacities each has been sued. ( See Doc. 16 at 2 ¶¶ 7-10 (identifying Angela Moon as a municipal court magistrate for COT, Loxcil Tuck as the mayor of COT, Dennis Reno as the chief of police for COT, and the remaining five individuals as city council members of COT)).

Plaintiffs' amended pleading contains four counts. Count One asserts violations of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution against Defendants COT, Tuck, Reno, and the City Council Members. (Doc. 16 at 9-11 ¶¶ 78-86). Count Two claims violations of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution against Defendants COT, Tuck, Reno, and the City Council Members. ( Id. at 11-12 ¶¶ 87-93).

Count Three is for malicious prosecution under Alabama law against all defendants. ( Id. at 12-13 ¶¶ 94-99). Finally, Count Four is a request for equitable relief brought pursuant to § 1983 against all defendants. ( Id. at 13-15 ¶¶ 100-08).

Pending before the court are (1) the City of Tarrant's Motion To Dismiss First Amended Complaint (Doc. 20) ("COT's Motion"); (2) Defendants Cathy Anderson, John T. Bryant, Laura Horton, Deborah Mathews, Betty Middlebrooks, Loxcil Tuck's Motion To Dismiss First Amended Complaint (Doc. 22) (the "Individuals' Collective Motion"); and (3) Motion of Defendant Dennis Reno To Dismiss the Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("Chief Reno's Motion"), all of which were filed on October 24, 2014, and which are supported by separate briefs filed on this same date. (Docs. 21, 23, 26).

Plaintiffs have failed to file any opposition, which deadline ran on November 7, 2014, under Appendix III to the court's uniform initial order (Doc. 3) entered on September 3, 2014. ( See id. at 23 ¶ B.2 (The opponent's responsive brief shall be filed no later than fourteen (14) calendar days thereafter.") (emphasis in original)).

For the reasons explained below, COT's Motion, the Individuals' Collective Motion, and Chief Reno's Motion are GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART, and otherwise TERMED as MOOT.

II. Standard(s)

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Unlike state courts, federal tribunals are bodies of limited jurisdiction, meaning that the grounds for the court's jurisdiction over the claims asserted by the plaintiff must be present at the time the complaint is filed and must be obvious on the face of the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); 28 U.S.C. § 1330, et seq. The law is clear that Plaintiffs, the parties seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction in this case, have the burden to demonstrate that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. See McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S.Ct. 780, 785, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936) ("They are conditions which must be met by the party who seeks the exercise of jurisdiction in his favor.... [and a]s he is seeking relief subject to this supervision, it follows that he must carry throughout the litigation the burden of showing that he is properly in court."); see also McCormick v. Aderholt, 293 F.3d 1254, 1257 (11th Cir. 2002) (per curiam) ("[T]he party invoking the court's jurisdiction bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts supporting the existence of federal jurisdiction.").

Further, lack of subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived or expanded by judicial interpretation, and a jurisdictional deficiency can be raised at any time by either the parties or the court. See, e.g., Am. Fire & Cas. Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 17-18, 71 S.Ct. 534, 542, 95 L.Ed. 702 (1951) ("The jurisdiction of the federal courts is carefully guarded against expansion by judicial interpretation or by prior action or consent of the parties."); Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 398, 95 S.Ct. 553, 557, 42 L.Ed.2d 532 (1975) ("While the parties may be permitted to waive nonjurisdictional defects, they may not by stipulation invoke the judicial power of the United States in litigation which does ...


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