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Banks v. Bostic

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

July 26, 2017

ESSIE BANKS, Plaintiff,


          L. Scott Coogler United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Essie Banks (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against Defendant Antonio Bostic (“Defendant”), alleging claims for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before this Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 3.) For the reasons described more fully herein, the motion is due to be granted.

         I. Background [1]

         On February 12, 2015, Defendant submitted an affidavit in support of an application for a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest. The affidavit described a burglary committed on February 9, 2015, during which a black female knocked on the victim's door, forced herself inside the victim's house, and demanded money from the victim before fleeing the scene. The affidavit also stated that Plaintiff “was developed as a suspect in the case. A 6[-]person photo line-up that contained [Plaintiff's] photo was shown to [the victim]. [The victim] picked [Plaintiff] out in the photo line-up as the person who came into her house.”

         According to Plaintiff, however, “no photo line-up was used . . . in this case because there was no suspect.” Plaintiff alleges that Defendant understood that “the term photo line-up connotes a photo array compiled with one (and only one) suspect together with fillers (photos of other individuals fitting the witness's description), normally five, and presented to the witness in a reasonable manner to prevent suggesting which person in the array is the suspect” and that the magistrate who signed the arrest warrant “would understand the term ‘photo lineup' as having this meaning.” Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant “knew that one technique for developing a lead on a case where there is no known suspect is to use . . . a ‘mug book'” and that Defendant “obtained an old non-driver identification photograph of [Plaintiff] from an internet database used by the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's [O]ffice while searching for people who might fit the description [of the burglary suspect] given by [the victim].” Plaintiff claims that although Defendant knew that using photographs of individuals with no previous criminal record-like Plaintiff-increased the risk of the witness identifying an innocent person as the perpetrator, Defendant showed the victim a photo array that included Plaintiff's photograph, and the victim identified Plaintiff as the burglar. According to Plaintiff, she was not considered a suspect in the burglary before the victim selected her picture in the photo array, and Defendant “knew that a witness's identification of a perpetrator from a photo array containing no suspect was inherently unreliable.” Plaintiff alleges that despite this, Defendant undertook no other investigation into the burglary prior to submitting the application for an arrest warrant.

         Plaintiff was arrested pursuant to the warrant and taken to the Tuscaloosa County Jail. After Plaintiff was released on bail, Defendant came to Plaintiff's residence to interview her about the burglary. Plaintiff told Defendant that she knew nothing about the burglary and assisted Defendant in locating another woman whom police later determined actually committed the burglary. As a result, the Tuscaloosa County District Court dismissed the burglary charge against Plaintiff on February 23, 2015.

         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)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Official Capacity Claim

         Defendant argues that as a sheriff's deputy, he is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to any claim against him in his official capacity. Plaintiff concedes in her response to the motion to dismiss that such a claim would be due to be dismissed pursuant to existing law and advises this Court that she brings her claim against Defendant in only his individual capacity. (Doc. 6 at 3.) Therefore, to the extent that Plaintiff's complaint may be construed to state a claim against Defendant in his official capacity, such a claim is due to be dismissed.

         B. Individual Capacity Claim

         With regard to Plaintiff's claim against him in his individual capacity, Defendant argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity. “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Messerschmidt v. Millender, 565 U.S. 535, 546 (2012) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)) (internal quotation marks omitted). To determine whether a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity, this Court asks whether a constitutional or statutory right “would have been violated under the plaintiff's version of the facts, ” Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d ...

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