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Mack v. Maddox

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

June 19, 2017

WALTER MADDOX, et al., Defendants.


          L. Scott Coogler United States Disttrict Judge.

         Plaintiff Willie Louis Mack (“Mack”), proceeding pro se, filed this action against Defendants Walter Maddox (“Maddox”), in his official capacity as the Mayor of the City of Tuscaloosa; the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force (“WANTF”); and several WANTF agents and criminal investigators, [1] in their individual and official capacities (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Before this Court are motions to dismiss filed by Larkin (Doc. 7); Windham, Mills, Cousette, and Jones (Doc. 13); and Maddox (Doc. 15). For the reasons stated more fully herein, Larkin's motion is due to be granted in part and denied in part. Maddox's motion to dismiss and the motion to dismiss filed by Windham, Mills, Cousette, and Jones are due to be granted.

         I. Background [2]

         On November 18, 2014, Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Brad Almond issued a warrant authorizing the search of Mack's address, which was described as “a tan residence with a red roof, ” for controlled substances. The subject of the warrant was an individual named Anthony Carl Benson (“Benson”), “a black male in his mid[-]twenties [who is] approximately 6'05” tall and weighs approximately 252 pounds.” Larkin prepared the warrant application, and his affidavit in support of the warrant asserted that he “received information from a reliable confidential informant that ha[d] personally observed a quantity of marijuana in the possession of a black male known as [Benson] while at his residence, ” which was stated to be Mack's address.

         The morning of November 20, 2014, Windham, Mills, Cousette, and Jones arrived at Mack's residence to execute the warrant. When Mack answered the door, the officers, who were dressed in plain clothes, identified themselves as members of WANTF. Windham, the lead WANTF agent, asked Mack if Benson was present at the home, and Mack told the officers that Benson did not live there. Windham then stated that WANTF had “conducted a controlled drug buy” inside Mack's residence on November 17, 2014, during which Benson sold marijuana to a WANTF confidential informant. Windham also informed Mack that WANTF had a warrant to search the home. When Mack asked to see the warrant, the officers showed him the warrant for which Larkin had applied several days earlier.

         Mack then began to argue with the officers, stating that they knew Benson did not live at Mack's residence and had never visited Mack's home since Mack had lived there. Mack also stated that the officers knew that Benson had never sold marijuana from Mack's home or on Mack's property. Mack alleges that a video, which he has attached to his complaint, demonstrates the officers' knowledge of these facts because the video shows that the sale to the confidential informant actually occurred inside a vehicle that was parked on the public street. Windham ignored Mack's arguments, however, and ordered another agent to place Mack and his wife, Angela Roberts (“Roberts”), in handcuffs. During a search of the home and of Mack's and Roberts's person, the officers discovered “a pack of Top Cigarette rolling papers and a single partially smoked marijuana cigarette.”

         II. Standard of Review

         In general, a pleading must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint “must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., 836 F.3d 1340, 1347-48 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “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). Stated another way, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). A complaint that “succeeds in identifying facts that are suggestive enough to render [the necessary elements of a claim] plausible” will survive a motion to dismiss. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1296 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, this Court first “identif[ies] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. This Court then “assume[s] the[] veracity” of the complaint's “well-pleaded factual allegations” and “determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. Review of the complaint is “a context-specific task that requires [this Court] to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. If the pleading “contain[s] enough information regarding the material elements of a cause of action to support recovery under some ‘viable legal theory, '” it satisfies the notice pleading standard. Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Orgs. v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683-84 (11th Cir. 2001)). Additionally, because Mack proceeds pro se in this matter, his complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Statute of Limitation

         Defendants assert that Mack's claims are time-barred because his complaint was filed beyond the two-year statute of limitation. “Claims brought pursuant to [§ 1983] are subject to the . . . limitations period governing personal injury actions in the state where the action is brought.” Wellons v. Comm'r, Ga. Dep't of Corr., 754 F.3d 1260, 1263 (11th Cir. 2014). In Alabama, general personal injury actions must be brought within two years of the date the action accrues. Ala. Code § 6-2-38(l); see City of Birmingham v. Leberte, 773 So.2d 440, 444 n.1 (Ala. 2000) (quoting Payne v. Ala. Cemetery Ass'n, 413 So.2d 1067, 1072 (Ala. 1982)). The events alleged in Mack's complaint occurred on November 20, 2014. Pursuant to § 6-2-38(l), any action based on those events must have been filed on or before November 20, 2016. Mack's complaint was filed on November 21, 2016.[3]

         Mack first asserts that because his complaint alleges intentional conduct, the six-year statute of limitation applicable to actions for “trespass to person or liberty” governs the timeliness of his suit. See Ala. Code § 6-2-34(1). Because Alabama law “provides multiple statutes of limitation[] for personal injury actions, ” however, this Court must apply “the general or residual statute for personal injury actions” to a § 1983 claim, rather than the statute of limitation addressing particular intentional torts. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-50 (1989). Mack's suit is thus subject to the two-year limitations period for general personal injury actions, Ala. Code § 6-2-38(l), and he must have filed his complaint by November 20, 2016.

         Mack next argues that because November 20, 2016, was a Sunday and the courthouse was closed, his complaint was timely filed because he filed it on the next business day. Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a)(1)[4] provides that “if the last day [of the limitations period] is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the period continues to run until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.” Therefore, the limitations period applicable to Mack's claims expired on ...

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