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Brannon v. City of Gadsden

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

March 10, 2015

KIMBERLY L. BRANNON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF GADSDEN, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs[1] initiated this civil rights lawsuit and purported class action on July 1, 2013, against Defendants City of Gadsden ("COG"), City of Attalla ("COA"), Lenesha Zaner ("Ms. Zaner"), and the Etowah County Court Referral Program, LLC (the "ECCRP"). (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs generally maintain that they have suffered constitutional and other injuries stemming from drug and alcohol testing services, rehabilitation services, and monitoring services contractually provided by ECCRP and its director, Ms. Zaner, for the benefit of COG and COA in conjunction with the administration of their respective municipal justice systems. (Doc. 45 at 6 ¶ 16; id. at 7 ¶ 20). The gravamen of Plaintiffs' suit is that Defendants are all engaged in an unconstitutional post-arrest/conviction "court referral program" (the "Program") that has deprived them (and the purported subclass members whom they seek to represent) of their civil rights, including allegedly subjecting Plaintiffs "to probation revocation, contempt orders, and incarcerations without first making a written finding of the Plaintiffs' willful nonpayment of fees" and placing them "into a never-ending cycle of ECCRP fees, costs and requirements" in violation of "the statutory maximum allowed for misdemeanors." (Doc. 45 at 8 ¶ 25; id. at 9 ¶ 27; id. at 8 ¶ 26).

Most of the plaintiffs ( i.e., Ms. Brannon, Mr. Cantrell, Mr. DuBose, Mr. Loyd, Mr. Lynn, and Mr. Hunter) complain about their treatment under the Program after being convicted of a misdemeanor charge as adults, receiving some type of a jail sentence (suspended or otherwise), and being required to participate in the Program. ( See Doc. 45 at 17 ¶ 63 (Ms. Brannon's conviction and terms); see id. at 22 ¶ 85 (Mr. Cantrell's conviction and terms);[2] see id. at 29 ¶ 102 (Mr. DuBose's conviction and terms); id. at 32 ¶ 111 (Mr. Loyd's conviction and terms); see id. at 41 ¶ 140 (Mr. Lynn's conviction and terms); see id. at 44 ¶ 149 (Mr. Hunter's conviction and terms)). Others, such as Ms. Snow and Mr. Myers, received youthful offender status and apparently no conviction on their record, but still were ordered to participate in the Program. ( See Doc. 45 at 25-26 ¶ 92 (prosecution deferred, no jail sentence, and Program participation for Ms. Snow); ( see id. at 37 ¶ 128 (no conviction mentioned for Mr. Myers, but subject to 30-day jail sentence and Program participation)).

After a round of briefing on multiple motions to dismiss (Docs. 24, 26), the court identified several problems with Plaintiffs' pleading, including its shotgun nature, granted the initial motions to dismiss in part, and ordered Plaintiffs to file an amended pleading. ( See generally Doc. 40). The remainder of the issues raised in those motions were termed as moot in light of such repleader order. Id.

Plaintiffs' Restated Claims

On March 4, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a corrected version of their second amended and restated complaint. (Doc. 45). This pleading has 20 counts, 434 paragraphs, and is 125 pages long.

The counts arise under both federal and state law. The federal counts are as follows:[3]

TWELVE FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL COUNTS
• Count One-Denial of Due Process by ECCRP and/or Ms. Zaner in her Personal Capacity Applicable to All Plaintiffs (Doc. 45 ¶¶ 171-198);
• Count Two-Denial of Due Process by COG Applicable to Plaintiffs Brannon, DuBose, Loyd, Lynn, Snow and Myers ( Id. ¶¶ 199-218);
• Count Three-Denial of Due Process by COA Applicable to Plaintiffs Cantrell, Hunter and Loyd ( Id. ¶¶ 219-218);
• Count Four-Violation of the Fourth Amendment by ECCRP and/or Ms. Zaner in her Personal Capacity Applicable to All Plaintiffs ( Id. ¶¶ 239-252);
• Count Five-Violation of the Fourth Amendment by COG Applicable to Plaintiffs Brannon, DuBose, Loyd, Lynn, Snow and Myers ( Id. ¶¶ 253-265);
• Count Six-Violation of the Fourth Amendment by COA Applicable to Plaintiffs Cantrell, Hunter and Loyd ( Id. ¶¶ 266-278);
• Count Seven-Violation of the Eighth Amendment by ECCRP and/or Ms. Zaner in her Personal Capacity Applicable to All Plaintiffs ( Id. ¶¶ 279-302);
• Count Eight-Violation of the Eighth Amendment by COG Applicable to Plaintiffs Brannon, DuBose, Loyd, Lynn, Snow and Myers ( Id. ¶¶ 303-325);
• Count Nine-Violation of the Eighth Amendment by COA Applicable to Plaintiffs Cantrell, Hunter and Loyd (Doc. 45 ¶¶ 326-347);
• Count Ten-Denial of Equal Protection by ECCRP and/or Ms. Zaner in her Personal Capacity Applicable to All Plaintiffs ( Id. ¶¶ 348-359);
• Count Eleven-Denial of Equal Protection by COG Applicable to Plaintiffs Brannon, DuBose, Loyd, Lynn, Snow and Myers ( Id. ¶¶ 360-370); and
• Count Twelve-Denial of Equal Protection by COA Applicable to Plaintiffs Cantrell, Hunter and Loyd ( Id. ¶¶ 371-381).

Plaintiffs' remaining counts include:

SEVEN STATE LAW COUNTS
• Count Thirteen-False Imprisonment and False Arrest by ECCRP and/or Ms. Zaner (Without Reference to Her Capacity) Applicable to All Plaintiffs (Doc. 45 ¶¶ 382-390);
• Count Fourteen-False Imprisonment and False Arrest by COG Applicable to Plaintiffs Brannon, DuBose, Loyd, Lynn, Snow and Myers ( Id. ¶¶ 391-398);
• Count Fifteen-False Imprisonment and False Arrest by COA Applicable to Plaintiffs Cantrell, Hunter and Loyd ( Id. ¶¶ 399-407);
• Count Sixteen-Abuse of Process by ECCRP and/or Ms. Zaner (Without Reference to Her Capacity) Applicable to All Plaintiffs ( Id. ¶¶ 408-413);
• Count Seventeen-Negligent, Reckless and/or Wanton Training and/or Supervision by ECCRP and/or Zaner Applicable to All Plaintiffs ( Id. ¶¶ 414-417);
• Count Eighteen-Negligent, Reckless and/or Wanton Training and/or Supervision by COG Applicable to Plaintiffs Brannon, DuBose, Loyd, Lynn, Snow and Myers ( Id. ¶¶ 418-421);
• Count Nineteen-Negligent, Reckless and/or Wanton Training and/or Supervision by COA Applicable to Plaintiffs Cantrell, Hunter and Loyd (Doc. 45 ¶¶ 422-425); and
ONE DECLARATORY/INJUNCTIVE COUNT
• Count Twenty-Declaratory and Injunctive Relief Applicable to All Plaintiffs ( Id. ¶¶ 426-434).

Defendants' Motions

Pending before the court and under submission are two motions relating to Plaintiffs' second amended and restated complaint: (1) Defendants ECCRP and Ms. Zaner's Motion To Dismiss (Doc. 47) (the "ECCRP and Ms. Zaner's Motion") filed on March 25, 2014; and (2) the COG and COA's Motion To Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P. (Doc. 48) (the "COG and COA's Motion") filed on March 28, 2014.

These most recent motions raise a litany of defenses and, in many respects, mirror those filed earlier with the court. The dismissal grounds asserted by ECCRP and Ms. Zaner are: (1) failure to state a claim based upon the provisions of the Mandatory Treatment Act, Ala. Code § 12-23-7 (Doc. 47 at 7-11); (2) qualified immunity (Doc. 47 at 11-17); (3) lack of standing to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief ( id. at 17-19); and (4) the Heck v. Humphrey doctrine.[4] (Doc. 47 at 19-23).

The dismissal grounds raised by the COG and COA include: (1) judicial immunity (Doc. 49 at 18-21);[5] (2) probation officer immunity (Doc. 49 at 21-22); (3) municipal control and the Monell doctrine ( id. at 22-26); (4) post-deprivation remedies, including the Heck v. Humphrey doctrine (Doc. 49 at 26-27); (5) private debt ( id. at 27-28); (6) Rooker-Feldman doctrine (Doc. 49 at 28-31);[6] (7) no standing for injunctive relief ( id. at 31); (8) no municipal liability for alleged false imprisonment and false arrest ( id. at 32); (9) no municipal liability for alleged wanton conduct ( id. at 32); (10) no municipal liability for alleged punitive damages ( id. at 33); (11) no municipal liability for alleged negligent supervision and training ( id. at 33-34); (12) statute of limitations ( id. at 34-42); (13) failure of certain plaintiffs to state a claim against COA ( id. at 43-44); and (14) failure of certain plaintiffs to state a claim against COG. ( Id. at 44-45).

Plaintiffs opposed these motions on April 18, 2014. (Doc. 51). Defendants followed with their reply briefs on May 9, 2014. (Docs. 53, 54). On February 4, 2015, the court held a hearing on these motions in Anniston. (Doc. 58). For the reasons stated in open court and, as further explained below, both motions are due to be GRANTED IN PART and otherwise DENIED.

II. STANDARDS

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. ...


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