United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on the following motions:
Defendants Godwin and City of Homewood's Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. # 33); Defendants Mike Hale and Dwight
Sloan's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 36); Defendants
Blackmon, Ferguson, Hampton, Newland, Ross, and Shoupe's
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 51); and Defendants Mayes, Scott,
and Therrell's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 52). The issues
raised therein have been fully briefed by the parties (Docs.
# 34, 26, 43, 44, 47, 60, 61, 63, 64), and are now ripe for
Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 29) asserts the following
causes of action: Count One -- “Violation of Civil
Rights” (the court has construed Plaintiff's
complaint liberally, and the addresses a number of potential
constitutional violations below) (Id. at 32); Count
-- “Violation of Civil Rights Through State Policy and
Practice” (Id. at 33); and Count
Three -- “Prayer for Injunctive
Relief” (Id. at 34).
Mary Angela Johnson (“Plaintiff”) moved to
Homewood, Alabama in July of 2012. (Id. at 3). Soon
after, Plaintiff began dating Alex Hirschfield
(“Hirschfield”). (Id.). In the following
weeks, Plaintiff's vehicle was involved in a motor
vehicle accident while being driven by Hirschfield.
(Id.). At Hirschfield's request, Plaintiff sent
her vehicle to “Chico's Body Shop, ” which
was owned by Hirschfield's friend, Monty Klanaris
(“Klanaris”). (Id.). Two weeks later,
upon learning that her insurance company had not received a
claim from “Chico's Body Shop, ” Plaintiff
met Klanaris in Montgomery to retrieve her vehicle.
(Id. at 3-4). When Plaintiff received the vehicle,
the repairs she requested were poorly done and there were
additional repairs made that she did not request.
(Id. at 4, 27). Additionally, Plaintiff discovered
items were missing from her vehicle. (Id.).
Plaintiff contacted Hirschfield with a new estimate for the
cost of repairs and accused him of “trying to scam
this encounter, Hirschfield began to harass Plaintiff,
slashed the tires on her vehicle, and poured acid into her
vehicle's gas tank. (Id.). Plaintiff filed a
police report with the Homewood Police Department
(“HWPD”) which accused Hirschfield of attempting
to destroy evidence of the faulty car repairs and retaliating
against Plaintiff. (Id.). The case was assigned to
Detective Shoupe. (Id.). Hirschfield continued to
stalk and harass Plaintiff, and made further attempts to
damage her vehicle. (Id. at 4). Plaintiff reported
these incidents of stalking and harassment to the HWPD,
Detective Shoupe, and the Homewood Magistrate. (Id.
at 4-6, 27). However, Detective Shoupe, the HWPD, and the
Homewood Magistrate did not investigate the claims or
otherwise protect Plaintiff from the actions of Hirschfield.
(Id. at 5-6, 27).
2012, Plaintiff was involved in a verbal altercation with an
unknown male in the parking lot of Publix Super Market in
Homewood. (Id. at 5, 27). During the altercation,
the man produced a knife and threatened Plaintiff.
(Id.). HWPD officers took a report of the incident
and allowed the man who had threatened Plaintiff to leave.
(Id.). The officers instructed Plaintiff to
“see the Magistrate about it” and refused to
investigate the matter. (Id.).
moved to another residence within the city of Homewood in
November 2012. (Id. at 6, 27). Hirschfield continued
to harass and stalk Plaintiff at her new residence.
(Id.). Plaintiff reported Hirschfield's actions
to the HWPD; however, the responding officer refused to make
a report. (Id.).
after moving to her new residence, Plaintiff began contacting
the City of Homewood and the Mayor of Homewood regarding her
neighbor's retention wall, which had collapsed onto her
property. (Id. at 7, 27). The City (and Mayor) did
not help to correct the problem. (Id.). Following
Plaintiff's request, the City of Homewood began to harass
her by “trespassing on her property, confronting her in
a threatening manner, leaving letters . . . refusing to pick
up trash, and ignoring subpoenas to appear in civil
court.” (Id.). When Plaintiff attempted to
correct the damage done to her property by the collapsed
wall, her neighbors accused her of trespassing on their
property. (Id.). Homewood police officers responded
to one of Plaintiff's neighbor's calls by gathering
in front of her home, which intimidated and embarrassed
Plaintiff. (Id.). Plaintiff continually reported her
neighbors' harassment to the HWPD, including the
construction of structures on her property. (Id. at
7-8, 27). HWPD did not investigate this harassment.
(Id.). Plaintiff has filed complaints with the HWPD
against its officers for refusing to make reports at
Plaintiff's request and threatening Plaintiff.
(Id. at 8).
daughter suffered a brain injury on August 13, 2013.
(Id. at 8, 28). As a result, Plaintiff's
daughter was excused from participating in gym class by a
doctor. (Id.). On August 27, 2013, Plaintiff was
notified by her daughter's gym teacher that
Plaintiff's daughter had been allowed to participate in
gym class, which gave her a headache. (Id.). The gym
teacher did not notify Plaintiff of her daughter's
headache, and did not send Plaintiff's daughter to the
school nurse for care. (Id.). Plaintiff called the
HWPD to report the gym teacher for aggravating her
daughter's injury and refusing to provide her appropriate
medical care. (Id.). An officer responded but
refused to take the report. (Id.). Plaintiff further
contacted a HWPD supervisor, Jefferson County DHR, and
Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls, but all
refused to investigate the incident. (Id.).
next day, Plaintiff contacted the nurse at her daughter's
school regarding actions of the gym teacher. (Id. at
9, 28). The nurse told Plaintiff that her daughter had been
confined by herself in the library during recess and gym
class, which made her depressed. (Id. at 9-10, 28).
Plaintiff alleges that this was done to retaliate against her
for reporting the gym teacher's actions to the police and
DHR. (Id. at 9, 28).
September 5, 2013, Plaintiff received a phone call from her
daughter's principal, Abbie Freeman. (Id. at 10,
28). During the call, Plaintiff threatened Abbie Freeman with
legal action if the alleged abuse against Plaintiff's
daughter continued. (Id. at 10, 28-29). After the
phone call, Abbie Freeman retaliated against the Plaintiff by
making a false police report to Officer Blackman of HWPD,
claiming Plaintiff had threatened her during the call.
November 2013, Plaintiff was arrested for felony animal
cruelty. (Id. at 7, 11, 29). While awaiting trial on
the charges, the HWPD and Jefferson County Sherriff's
Office attempted to manufacture false evidence against
Plaintiff. (Id. at 11).
her arrest, Plaintiff's neighbors, including the alleged
victims of the felony animal cruelty charge, continued to
harass and threaten her. (Id. at 11, 29).
Plaintiff's property was stolen and destroyed, she was
threatened with physical harm both in person and via social
media, and access to her driveway was blocked on multiple
occasions. (Id.). Plaintiff reported these acts to
the HWPD. (Id.). However, the HWPD refused to file a
report, investigate the allegations, and protect Plaintiff
from the harassment and threats. (Id.).
August 2, 2014, while Plaintiff was attempting to remove an
illegal structure built on her property, Plaintiff's
neighbor threw a ceramic tile at her, striking her in the
arm. (Id. at 8, 29). Officer Newland of the HWPD
responded to the incident. (Id.). Officer Newland
refused to make a report or investigate the matter, and
threatened Plaintiff with arrest if “he had to
was sexually assaulted in her home by Michael Ward
(“Ward”) on July 21, 2015. (Id. at
11-12, 29). Plaintiff had no memory of any sexual encounter,
but Ward confirmed, via text message, that they had engaged
in unprotected intercourse. (Id. at 12, 29).
Plaintiff later discovered that she had become pregnant as a
result of the sexual assault. (Id. at 12). After
learning of the pregnancy, Ward began making threats toward
Plaintiff, requesting she abort the pregnancy and telling her
not to seek child support. (Id.).
text conversation with Ward, which Plaintiff contends serves
as proof of the sexual assault, she reported the sexual
assault to the Jefferson County Sherriff's
Office. (Id. at 13, 29). Deputies
Therrall and Mayes of the Jefferson County Sherriff's
Office refused to review evidence which Plaintiff provided or
investigate the sexual assault. (Id.). Instead, they
told Plaintiff that she would need to file the report with
the HWPD. (Id.).
subsequently reported the sexual assault to the HWPD, and the
case was assigned to Detective Godwin. (Id. at
13-14, 29). Detective Godwin did not view Plaintiff's
evidence of the sexual assault, take Plaintiff's
statement, or interview Ward. (Id. at 14, 29). Ward,
along with his attorney Marcus Jones, provided false
evidence, in the form of either text messages or emails, to
Detective Godwin to undermine Plaintiff's sexual assault
claim. (Id. at 15, 29). In July 2016, Detective
Godwin closed Plaintiff's sexual assault case due to lack
of evidence, Plaintiff's delay in reporting the sexual
assault, and the evidence (which Plaintiff contends is false)
provided by Ward and his attorney, Marcus Jones.
(Id. at 15, 29-30). Ward later filed charges against
Plaintiff for harassing text messages. (Id. at 16,
30). Plaintiff alleges these text messages included health
updates on Ward's unborn child as well as
“fake” messages. (Id.).
August 2016, Deputy Sloan of the Jefferson County
Sherriff's Office served Plaintiff with a search warrant
for her vehicle. (Id.). The search warrant was
related to an animal cruelty investigation regarding the
alleged poisoning of Ward's dog in March 2016.
(Id. at 16-17, 30).
alleges that Deputy Sloan, at the direction of Ward and his
attorney Jones, delayed serving the warrant until August to
prevent “tip[ping] off” Plaintiff to the case
being built against her. (Id. at 17, 30). This
allowed Ward and his attorney to build a stronger case
against her. (Id.). After discovering evidence which
she believed indicated that the steering column of her
vehicle had been tampered with, Plaintiff reported that
vehicle to the HWPD that her vehicle had been stolen.
(Id. at 18-19, 31).
August 19, 2016, Plaintiff returned home from vacation to
discover her home had been invaded using a spare key that she
kept inside her daughter's treehouse. (Id.).
Plaintiff later discovered that paperwork containing
information she had gathered on Ward was missing from her
home. (Id. at 18, 30). Plaintiff's home was
invaded a second time on September 18, 2016. (Id. at
19-20, 31). This lead Plaintiff to discover that the locks on
her home had been tampered with. (Id. at 20, 31).
Plaintiff reported this tampering to Officer Kidd of the
December 2016, when reviewing video on her surveillance
system, Plaintiff discovered recorded footage of the
suspected home invasions and footage from the night of the
vehicle theft. (Id. at 21, 32). The footage showed
that the intruder “put anti-freeze in Plaintiff's
coffee creamer” and left the residence with the missing
paperwork which contained information on Ward. (Id.
at 21, 30, 32). Plaintiff turned over a copy of the video to
the HWPD, along with a photo of Ward wearing clothing similar
to those worn by the suspect in the video. (Id. at
21, 32). The case was assigned to Detective Godwin.
(Id. at 21).
January 2017, Plaintiff spoke to Detective Hampton of the
HWPD requesting the home invasion case be reassigned to
another detective due to Plaintiff's negative history
with Detective Godwin. (Id. at 21, 32). Plaintiff
further requested that Detective Hampton reopen her sexual
assault case against Ward in light of Detective Godwin's
mishandling of the investigation. (Id.) Detective
Hampton refused both requests. (Id.).
home invasion case was assigned to Detective Furgeson of the
HWPD. (Id. at 21). Detective Furgeson contacted
Plaintiff and informed her that a warrant could not be served
against Ward because the suspect in the video could not be
identified; however, Furgeson stated that the district
attorney had requested more video footage of the nights of
the home invasions. (Id. at 22, 32). Plaintiff asked
Detective Ferguson to contact her attorney to gather more
evidence and assist in discovering the identity of a man who
had messaged Plaintiff on a dating website on the night of
the first home invasion. (Id. at 20, 22, 32).
Detective Ferguson later contacted Plaintiff to inform her
that he had not investigated the dating website and would
close the case without additional evidence. (Id. at
Standard of Review
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the
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). Still, the complaint must include
enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Bell Atlantic 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.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 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 nonmoving
party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289,
1295 (11th Cir. 2007).
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. After Iqbal, which applied the
Twombly pleading standard in a civil
rights/qualified immunity context, “there is no longer
a ‘heightened pleading' standard in ‘cases
governed by Rule 8(a)(2), including civil rights [cases]'
under § 1983.” Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d
1262, 1266 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Randall v.
Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 710 (11th Cir. 2010)). The Supreme
Court has recently identified “two working
principles” for a district court to use in applying the
facial plausibility standard. First, in evaluating motions to
dismiss, the court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded
factual allegations; however, the court does not have to
accept as true legal conclusions when they are “couched
as . . . factual allegation[s].” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. Second, “only a complaint that states a
plausible claim for relief survives a motion to
dismiss.” Id. at 679.
of the facial plausibility standard involves two steps. Under
prong one, the court must determine the scope and nature of
the factual allegations that are well-pleaded and assume
their veracity; and under prong two, the court must proceed
to determine the claim's plausibility given the
well-pleaded facts. 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.” Id. 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.
“pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent
standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys, and will,
therefore, be liberally construed.” Hughes v.
Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003). Therefore,
“wildly implausible allegations in the complaint should
not be taken to be true, but the court ought not penalize the
litigant for linguistic imprecision in the more plausible
allegations.” Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091
(11th Cir. 2008).