United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff, Henry Snow, has sued Thomas A. King, individually,
and in his official capacity as the municipal court judge for
the City of Gadsden, Alabama (the “City”), for
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts One, Two, Three,
Four, and Five) and various state law claims (Counts Six,
Seven, Eight, and Nine). All Counts arise out of the City's
prosecution of the Plaintiff for violation of the City's
“Nuisance Abatement Ordinance.” The case comes
before the Court on Defendant King's Motion to Dismiss
(doc. 13), and the Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (doc. 16). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion
To Dismiss will be GRANTED, and the Motion
for Summary Judgment will be TERMED as
THE MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 13)
Defendant King's motion, filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, he claims that the
Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. Generally, the 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).
However, to survive a motion to dismiss brought under Rule
12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)
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) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556)
(“Iqbal”). That is, the complaint must
include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555 (citation and footnote omitted). 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 or conclusions” or “naked
assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations.
Id. at 555, 557 (citation omitted).
claim has been stated adequately, however, “it may be
supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the
allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563
(citation omitted). Further, when ruling on a motion to
dismiss, a court must “take the factual allegations in
the complaint as true and construe them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Pielage v.
McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing
Glover v. Liggett Group, Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308
(11th Cir. 2006)).
Allegations in the Amended Complaint
Amended Complaint states as follows:
9. The City of Gadsden has a Nuisance Abatement Ordinance
that governs its efforts to regulate junk cars.
10. Section 86-1(2)(c) of the statute excepts and removes
registered antique wagons from regulation.
11. At the time of his junk car conviction, the
plaintiff's vintage Impala wagon (“wagon”)
was a registered antique wagon and, therefore, exempt from
regulation by the ordinance.
12. The initial notice regarding the plaintiff's wagon
was issued on 8/19/15 by defendant Greer without probable
cause as it failed to specify the vehicle or specific
13. The plaintiff tried to appeal this notice to no avail as
the nuisance enforcement officer failed to afford the
plaintiff the right to appeal the same and failed to provide
info regarding the manner to appeal said finding.
14. The plaintiff was issued a defective citation by the
nuisance enforcement officer on January 27, 2016[, ]
regarding an unidentified wagon and an initial court
appearance was set for 3/3/16. The citation failed to state
the facts that were the basis for the violation and was
otherwise vague and unconstitutional.
15. At all times relevant hereto, the wagon was covered
and/or parked in a way that defendants could not have been
able to ascertain whether the wagon did or did not have a
16. On 3/3/17 and prior to any conviction or trial on the
merits, the Judge ordered the plaintiff to get rid of the
wagon and then generally re-set the case for May 12, 2016.
After court on the same day, enforcement Officer Brian Green
apologetically advised the plaintiff that all he needed to do
was secure an antique registration and that such registration
would void this prosecution.
17. On the same day, the plaintiff registered the wagon as an
18. The plaintiff returned to court on 5/12/16, objected to
the charge and produced his antique car registration. In
retaliation for the plaintiff's speech and presentation
of the registration at the court setting, which otherwise
warranted dismissal of charges and full exoneration, the
Judge and prosecutor commenced an unnoticed and unscheduled
“trial” and convicted the plaintiff of the junk
car charges including a fine of $250.00 and court costs of
19. The plaintiff filed a timely appeal. Pursuant to this
appeal, defendant Owens caused a new citation to be generated
that was deficient and otherwise unlawful as said vehicle was
exempt at the time of said citation and said citation failed
to adequately allege with specificity the nuisance charge.
Defendant Tucker participated in its creation and prosecuted
said appeal in spite of said deficiency. The prosecutors
later nol prossed and otherwise dismissed the
charges pursuant to the City of Gadsden's policy of
dismissing charges against defendants who produce valid
antique car or other registration. This policy was in effect
prior to the plaintiff's conviction but was selectively
20. The City of Gadsden cedes an unreasonable amount of
authority to the Judge and prosecutor. The Judge and
prosecutor routinely conspire to ignore city policy and
violate the civil rights of defendants. Hence, said conduct
is rendered the official policy of the City.
21. White, insider neighbors of the plaintiff [sic] have
maintained junk cars for decades without citation. As such,
the defendants are motivated by unlawful prejudice to
selectively not enforce the junk car ordinance against
certain residents because of their race and/or political
22. At all times relevant hereto, the prosecutor had evidence
that the charges against the plaintiff were due to be
dismissed but failed to nol pross the action or take
measures necessary to avoid the unlawful junk car conviction
of the plaintiff.
(Doc. 9 at 7-10, ¶¶9-22).
response to the Motion To Dismiss, the Plaintiff states that
he “waives any request for money damages and/or
injunctive relief . . . against defendant King, ” and
“seeks declaratory relief only.” (Doc. 16 at 12).
Only the following declaratory relief is set out in the
That this Court enter a declaratory judgment finding that the
defendants wrongfully convicted and/or failed to set aside
the conviction of the plaintiff and that the Court engages in
a pattern and practice of such conduct in violation of the
Due Process, Takings Clauses of the 14th and 5th Amendments,
42 U.S.C. 1983, 1st and 6th Amendments, the Alabama
Constitutional corresponding provisions and state common law
(Doc. 9 at 22). Although not specifically labeled as a
request for declaratory relief, the Amended Complaint also
asks this Court to “[f]ind [the nuisance] ordinance
unconstitutional to the extent it does not require a
description of said alleged inoperable vehicle and
nuisance.” (Doc. 9 at 22). Keeping in mind the exact
nature of the relief requested, the Court now moves into a
discussion of Judge King's liability.
Fifth Circuit has said that confusion comes when
“[c]ourts discuss immunity defenses without clearly
articulating to whom and in which capacity those defenses
apply.” Turner v. Houma Mun. Fire & Police
Civil Serv. Bd., 229 F.3d 478, 485 (5th Cir. 2000);
see also, VanHorn v. Oelschlager, 502 F.3d 775, 779
(8th Cir. 2007) (citing and agreeing with the proposition
stated in Turner). This Court agrees. Judicial
immunity, to the extent that it applies in this case, is a
defense to claims brought against Judge King in his
individual capacity. Sibley v. Lando, 437
F.3d 1067, 1074 (11th Cir. 2005) (“Finally, to the
extent Sibley sought to amend his complaint to clarify that
he wished to sue Judges Schwartz and Goderich in their
individual capacities, such an amendment would also be
futile, as both judges were entitled to judicial immunity
from suit in their individual capacities.”); see
also, Andrews v. Hens-Greco, 641 Fed.Appx. 176,
180 (3d Cir. 2016) (“We therefore hold that Judge
Hens-Greco is entitled to absolute judicial immunity from
Andrews's individual capacity claim for money
damages.”); Davis v. Tarrant Cty., Tex., 565
F.3d 214, 228 (5th Cir. 2009) (“[The] claims against
the defendant judges in their individual capacities are
barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity.”);
Aron v. Becker, 48 F.Supp.3d 347, 363 (N.D.N.Y.
2014) (McAvoy, J.) (dismissing on the basis of judicial
immunity “all claims brought against Judge Becker in
his individual capacity”); Mills v. City of
Shreveport, 58 F.Supp.3d 677, 687 (W.D. La. 2014)
(Hicks, J.) ...