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Thomas v. Wright

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

December 10, 2014

JAMES EARL THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANN WRIGHT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on (1) Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Incorporated Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 20), (2) Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant Middlebrooks (Doc. # 26), and (3) Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. # 33).

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on August 18, 2014, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), and 42 U.S.C. § 1986. (See Doc. # 1). Plaintiff alleged that Paul Middlebrooks (his former roommate), Frankie Lackey, and others at the Firehouse Shelter conspired to "run" plaintiff from his apartment by creating circumstances that would make it unbearable to continue living in the apartment. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 23).

Defendants (except Middlebrooks) filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. # 8). The court denied Defendants' Motion but ordered Plaintiff to amend his Complaint to more precisely state a claim for relief. (Doc. # 11). On September 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint which omitted the claims asserted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), and 42 U.S.C. § 1986. (Doc. # 15). Instead, Plaintiff asserted only a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. # 15).

II. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint

On October 6, 2014, Defendants (except Middlebrooks) filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on various grounds, including Plaintiff's failure to plead that any of the Defendants are state actors. (Doc. # 20). To prevail in a civil rights action under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that: (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was done by a person acting under color of law. Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993). At a November 17, 2014 status conference, Plaintiff conceded that none of the Defendants are state actors. ( See also Doc. # 33). Therefore, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 20) is due to be granted.

III. Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment Against Middlebrooks

It appears from the record that Defendant Paul Middlebrooks was served with the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on September 24, 2014, although the certified mail return receipt was not signed by him. (Doc. # 17). Defendant Middlebrooks failed to respond to the Complaint. Therefore, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant Middlebrooks. (Doc. # 26). Plaintiff seeks to pursue entry of default against Middlebrooks on his Section 1983 claim even though he concedes that Defendant Middlebrooks is not a state actor.

In accordance with Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may enter a default judgment against a party who has failed to plead or otherwise defend. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55. However, the court has discretion to determine if entry of a default judgment is appropriate. See Hamm v. Dekalb Cnty., 774 F.2d 1567, 1575 (11th Cir. 1985). "[A] default judgment cannot stand on a complaint that fails to state a claim." Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1370 n. 41 (11th Cir. 1997). Because the sole claim in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint fails to state a claim as a matter of law, Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant Middlebrooks (Doc. # 26) is due to be denied.

IV. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend

In light of the admitted deficiencies in Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim, Plaintiff seeks leave to amend his Complaint a second time in order to re-assert his Section 1985(3) claim, as well as to assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1986, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Section 109 of Title A of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Doc. # 33-1).

It is axiomatic that the district court should freely give leave to amend "when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a); see also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Nonetheless, "a motion to amend may be denied on numerous grounds such as undue delay, undue prejudice to the defendants, and futility of the amendment." Mann v. Palmer, 713 F.3d 1306, 1316 (11th Cir. 2013) (quotation omitted). Here, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend is due to be denied because the proposed amendment would be futile.

The claims asserted in the proposed amended complaint are premised on an alleged conspiracy to drive Plaintiff from his apartment because he ...


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