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Kelley v. City of Fairfield

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

July 13, 2015

SANTANO KELLEY Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF FAIRFIELD, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, District Judge.

When plaintiff Santano Kelley tried to stop two Fairfield police officers from towing his cars from a private lot, the officers arrested Mr. Kelley for obstructing governmental operations. A state court jury eventually found Mr. Kelley not guilty of the charge. As a result of his arrest and prosecution, Mr. Kelley filed suit against the City of Fairfield, Fairfield Police Chief Leon Davis, and the two officers who arrested him, Julius Hunter and Kelvin Dudley.[1] The operative complaint alleges several 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims and several state law claims, including conspiracy, abuse of process, outrage, respondeat superior, violation of state due process, and trespass. Mr. Kelley also seeks a declaration that Fairfield Ordinance 878 is unconstitutional. ( See Doc. 57).

The defendants have asked the Court to dismiss all claims except for Mr. Kelley's claim for declaratory relief.[2] (Docs. 60, 61, 62). For the reasons provided below, the Court finds that the motions are well-taken. Mr. Kelley's § 1983 claims based upon his arrest and prosecution fail to state a claim, so the Court will dismiss those claims. The Court will dismiss Mr. Kelley's state law tort claims against Officers Dudley and Hunter because those claims either fail to state a claim, or the officers are immune from liability for those claims. As a result, Mr. Kelley's respondeat superior claim against the City of Fairfield and Chief Davis fails too. Mr. Kelley's claim for declaratory relief shall proceed forward.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain, "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Generally, to survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss and meet the requirement of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, ' but rather only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Maledy v. City of Enterprise, 2012 WL 1028176, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 26, 2012) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "If the complaint contains a claim that is facially subject to an affirmative defense, that claim may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6)." LeFrere v. Quezada, 582 F.3d 1260, 1263 (11th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must view the allegations of the operative complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Fairfield Ordinance 878

On April 5, 1993, the City of Fairfield City Council adopted Ordinance 878. Ordinance 878 prohibits persons from leaving wrecked or non-operating vehicles on public streets or private property. (Doc. 57, ¶ 37; Doc. 64-1).[3] The ordinance provides in relevant part:

Section 4. Disposition of Wrecked or Discarded Vehicles. No person in charge or control of any property within the City whether as owner, tenant, occupant, lessee, or otherwise, shall allow any partially dismantled, non-operating, wrecked, junked, or discarded vehicles to remain on such property longer than seventy-two hours; and no person shall leave any such vehicle on any property within the City for a longer time than seventy-two hours;....
Section 5. Impounding. The Chief of Police or any member of his department designated by him is hereby authorized to remove or have removed, any vehicle left at any place within the City which reasonably appears to be in violation of this Ordinance or lost, stolen, or unclaimed. Any vehicle so taken up and removed shall be stored in a suitable place provided by the City. A permanent record giving the date of the taking of each vehicle, the place where found and taken and a description of the vehicle shall be kept by the Chief of Police.

(Doc. 57, ¶ 38; Doc. 64-1, p. 2).

The ordinance also permits the City of Fairfield, after posting a notice, to sell at public auction every six months vehicles that the City seizes under the ordinance. (Doc. 64-1, p. 2). At no time relevant to Mr. Kelley's claims was Ordinance 878 declared invalid.

B. Mr. Kelley's Arrest and Prosecution

On May 27, 2011, Fairfield police officers Julius Hunter and Kelvin Dudley removed cars from a private lot located at the corner of 58th Street and Avenue C in Fairfield because the cars had been left on the lot in violation of Fairfield Ordinance 878. (Doc. 57, ¶¶ ...


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