United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mortazavi brings this action against Samford University,
Andrew Westmoreland, Wayne Pittman, and John Does 1-3,
alleging violations of his Constitutional rights. Doc. 1. The
events that form this lawsuit arise out of an incident
between Mortazavi and an unknown campus security officer.
Doc. 1. In a nutshell, while Mortazavi was practicing the
piano in the music department at Samford University, an
unnamed campus security officer initiated a confrontation
with Mortazavi. Id. at 8. During this confrontation,
the security officer ordered Mortazavi to leave the room
using threatening, derogatory, and offensive language. Also,
the officer took Mortazavi's driver's license and
made Mortazavi wait for approximately thirty minutes for the
dispatch to confirm Mortazavi's information. Id.
at 8-9. During this incident, Mortazavi felt detained, unable
to question the officer to ascertain why the officer
confronted him, and threatened by the officer's
discussion of terrorism and terrorists. Id.
defendants have moved to dismiss. See doc. 9. Based
on a review of the pleadings and the law, the motion is due
to be granted.
court must construe Mortazavi's pleadings liberally
because he is proceeding without an attorney. See Alba v.
Montford, 517 F.3d 1249, 1252 (11th Cir. 2008). However,
contrary to Mortazavi's contention, doc. 17 at 4, the
court is not at liberty “to serve as de facto
counsel for a party, or to rewrite an otherwise deficient
pleading in order to sustain an action.” GJR Invs.
v. Cnty. of Escambia Fla. 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir.
1998), overruled on other grounds by Randall v.
Scott, 610 F.3d 701 (11th Cir. 2010). As such,
consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2),
Mortazavi's complaint must contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that [Mortazavi] is
entitled to relief.” While notice pleading is not
intended to require Mortazavi to specifically plead every
element of a cause of action, “it is still necessary
that a complaint contain either direct or inferential
allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to
sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.”
Roe v. Aware Woman Center for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d
678, 683 (11th Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted);
see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)
(“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”). To
survive a motion to dismiss, Mortazavi's complaint
“must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). A claim is plausible
where it “pleads factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Dismissal for
failure to state a claim, then, is appropriate where the
plaintiff fails to state a claim that is “plausible on
its face.” Id. This is a “context
specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on
its judicial experience and common sense.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
Fourth Amendment Claims
have moved to dismiss, in part, based on their contention
that Samford University, a private institution, is not
subject to liability under Section 1983. Doc. 17 at 5.
However, Mortazavi is correct that Samford's status as a
private institution does not mean that it is incapable of
“acting under color of state law” for purposes of
section 1983. In fact, a private party can act under color of
state law where it is performing a public function that is
“traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the
state.” Focus on the Family v. Pinellas Suncoast
Transit Auth., 344 F.3d 1263, 1277 (11th Cir. 2003).
Relevant here, pursuant to section 16-22-1 of the Alabama
Code, Samford University may appoint and employ persons to
act as police officers “to keep off intruders and
prevent trespass upon and damage to the property of the
college or university or of the institute. These persons
shall be charged with all the duties and invested with all
the powers of police officers.” Ala. Code §
16-22-1(a). In their role as campus security officers, these
individuals are “certified by the Alabama Peace
Officers' Standards and Training Commission and have full
authority to carry out enforcement of the laws of Alabama on
a campus throughout the state.” In re Hon. Bobby
Humphreys, Ala. Op. Atty. Gen. No.2002-215. As such,
when campus security officers stop an individual, they are
performing a public function that is traditionally the
exclusive prerogative of the state, making their actions
state actions. See Griffin v. State of Md., 378 U.S.
130, 135 (1964) (“If an individual is possessed of
state authority and purports to act under that authority, his
action is state action.”); Myers v. Bowman,
713 F.3d 1319, 1329-30 (11th Cir. 2013) (“A person acts
under color of state law when . . . the manner of his conduct
makes clear that he was asserting the authority granted him
and not acting in the role of a private person.”).
Accordingly, when the campus officer detained Mortazavi, he
was acting under color of state law. See Griffin,
378 U.S. at 135.
the fact that Mortazavi is correct that Samford's campus
security officers are statutorily state actors does not save
his claims. Based on the Complaint, it seems Mortazavi seeks
to sue Westmoreland, Pittman, and Samford University under a
theory of respondeat superior or vicarious
liability. Those claims fail, however, because there is no
supervisory liability under § 1983. Monell v.
Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691, 710
(1978). Instead, supervisory liability only attaches where an
“official policy” causes the alleged
constitutional violation. Id. at 694-95. Stated
differently, to succeed, Mortazavi must identify a
“municipal ‘policy' or ‘custom'
that caused [his] injury.” Board of Cty Com'rs
of Bryan Cty, Okl. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997).
Critically, “it is not enough for [Mortazavi] merely to
identify conduct properly attributable to the [University].
[Mortazavi] must also demonstrate that, through its
deliberate conduct, the [University was] the
‘moving force' behind the injury alleged.”
Id. (emphasis original). Here, however, construing
the pleadings liberally,  Mortazavi has made no such showing or
presented any facts from which the court could infer that a
policy or custom of the University caused his injury such
that the University or Westmoreland or Pittman could be held
liable for his injuries. Therefore, his Fourth Amendment
also appears to allege a claim for a conspiracy to violate
his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1985. As Mortazavi
puts it, there is a “premeditated conspiracy whose
nature eludes Plaintiff but was intended to terrorize and
frighten Plaintiff for reasons unknown.” Doc. 1 at 9.
As evidence of this conspiracy, Mortazavi claims that the
unknown security officer “[h]ad to have been authorized
and abetted by and was in some secret understanding and
collusion with Defendant Andrew Westmoreland and Defendant
Pittman . . .” Doc. 1 at 9. As an initial matter, this
claim fails because all the individuals in the conspiracy are
Samford University employees. “[T]he intracorporate
conspiracy doctrine holds that acts of corporate agents are
attributed to the corporation itself, thereby negating the
multiplicity of actors necessary for the formation of a
conspiracy.” Grider v. City of Auburn, Ala.,
618 F.3d 1240, 1261 (11th Cir. 2003). As such, “a
corporation cannot conspire with its employees, and its
employees, when acting in the scope of their employment,
cannot conspire among themselves.” Id. See also
Rehberg v. Paulk, 611 F.3d 828, 854 (11th Cir. 2010);
Dickerson v. Alachua Cnty. Comm'n, 200 F.3d 761,
767-68 (11th Cir. 2000).
a conspiracy claim in a civil rights action requires
“more than mere conclusory notice pleading [. . .]. A
complaint may justifiably be dismissed because of the
conclusory, vague, and general nature of allegations of
conspiracy.” Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d
553, 556-7 (11th Cir. 1984) (internal citations omitted).
Here, Mortazavi simply pleaded a vague existence of some kind
of conspiracy,  stating that there exists a
“premeditated conspiracy whose nature eludes Plaintiff
but was intended to terrorize and frighten Plaintiff for
reasons unknown.” Doc. 1 at 9. Such an allegation is
insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.
the motion to dismiss, doc. 9, is GRANTED
and this matter is DIS ...