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Evans v. Maddox

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

June 13, 2017

FREDERICK LEE EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
WALT MADDOX, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the court on Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendant Deputy Jennings (Doc. # 7) and Defendant Walt Maddox (Doc. # 9). This case arises from a warrantless entry into an apartment, warrantless searches within that apartment, detainment of individuals in the apartment, and a subsequent criminal prosecution of Kimberly Brown.[1] (See generally Doc. # 1). When liberally construed, the Complaint attempts to present 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims based upon (a) the unconstitutional entry into and search of the apartment, (b) the subsequent arrests of Plaintiff and Brown, and (c) the criminal prosecution of Brown. To be sure, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 because, among other deficiencies, Plaintiff has not presented each of his § 1983 claims in a separate cause of action and has not identified which Defendant(s) are being sued under each claim. Usually, the court would grant Plaintiff a chance to amend his Complaint before dismissing the case. However, Defendants have identified impediments to relief that are readily apparent from the Complaint and that would not be resolved in any amended complaint. According, after careful review, and for the reasons explained below, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. # 7, 9) are due to be granted.

         I. Background

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that three members of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force entered an apartment without a warrant on July 29, 2014. (Doc. # 1 at 2). Brown leased the apartment, but Plaintiff was a “regular overnight guest” at the apartment. (Id.). Defendant Jennings identified himself at the front door and asked to speak with Plaintiff. (Id.). Brown asked the officers to wait at the front door while she called Plaintiff to come to the door. (Id.). But, Jennings and the other officers entered the residence as Brown walked away from the door without showing Brown a search warrant or arrest warrant. (Id.).

         According to the Complaint, officers entered a bedroom and a closed bathroom. (Id.). Inside the bathroom, one officer observed Brown hiding marijuana and placed her under arrest. (Id.). Officers also arrested and handcuffed Plaintiff. (Id. at 3). The officers searched Brown's apartment, purse, and closet for more marijuana. (Id.). They transported Brown to Tuscaloosa County Jail and charged her with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. (Id.). A state court dismissed the criminal charges against Brown on September 19, 2014. (Id.).

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on September 19, 2016. (Id. at 5). The Complaint alleges that Defendants Jennings and West Alabama Drug Task Force conspired to violate his constitutional rights and unlawfully entered and searched the apartment without a warrant or consent. (Id. at 3-4). The Complaint also claims that Defendants' unconstitutional conduct resulted in an “unjust criminal prosecution.” (Id. at 4). Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendants Walter Maddox and the City of Tuscaloosa liable because they failed to ensure that the officers were properly and adequately trained. (Id. at 3).

         Plaintiff has attached to his Complaint supporting affidavits and an order from the District Court of Tuscaloosa County. (Id. at 6-13). Plaintiff's affidavit, dated August 18, 2014, discusses the “warrantless and non-consensual entry and search by members of the West Alabama Narcotics Taskforce.”[2] (Id. at 10). He avers in the 2014 affidavit that he heard officers knock on the door and that Brown asked him to come to the apartment's front door. (Id.). When he walked to the bedroom door, an officer handcuffed him and directed him to sit in the kitchen. (Id. at 10-11). Plaintiff observed two officers escort a handcuffed Brown from a bathroom about twenty minutes later. (Id. at 11). One officer then searched Brown's purse and asked Plaintiff whether he had transported drugs in his truck. (Id.). Ultimately, the officers arrested Brown, but released Plaintiff from custody. (Id.). The District Court of Tuscaloosa County dismissed a criminal case against Brown on September 19, 2014. (Id. at 13).

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007). Moreover, the court must liberally construe Plaintiff's Complaint because he submitted the complaint pro se. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The court may consider documents attached to a complaint when ruling upon a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d 1262, 1270 (11th Cir. 2014).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 F. App'x 136, 138 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If the court determines that well-pleaded facts, accepted as true, do not state a claim that is plausible, the claims are due to be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         A statute of limitations defense is an affirmative defense, and a plaintiff is not obligated to negate a timeliness defense in his or her complaint. La Grasta v. First Union Securities, Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004). “A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate only if it is facially apparent that the claim is time-barred.” Baker v. Sanford, 484 F. App'x 291, 292 (11th Cir. 2012).

         III. Analysis

         In their Motions to Dismiss, Defendants mainly discuss the insufficiency of Plaintiff's § 1983 unconstitutional search claim, Plaintiff's failure to plead a specific municipal policy, practice, or custom, and their entitlement to qualified immunity. (See Docs. # 7 at 4-6; 9 at 2). Although the court finds merit in some of these arguments, as a general matter they present grounds for dismissal that could be remedied in an amended complaint. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. (Docs. # 7 at 2; 9 at 3). The court agrees with Defendants. Moreover, the court concludes that Plaintiff cannot resurrect his untimely claims in an amended complaint. In addition, to ...


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