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Lee v. Adams

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

February 1, 2018

GRADY A. LEE, SR., Plaintiff,


          Susan Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge.


         Plaintiff Grady Lee, Sr., initiated this civil complaint in the Circuit Court for Covington County, Alabama, on September 19, 2014. On October 21, 2014, defendants River Falls Police Department and Officer Kyle Adams removed the case to federal court by filing a Notice of Removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b).[1] Doc. 1. When this action was removed, Lee was an inmate incarcerated at the Ventress Correctional Facility.[2] He complains that on April 17, 2013, Adams subjected him to a warrantless arrest and failed to read him his Miranda[3] rights. Lee requests damages, his release from imprisonment, and termination of Adams' employment with the police department.

         Adams filed a special report and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Lee's claims for relief. Doc. 13. Upon receipt of Adams' special report, the court issued an order directing Lee to file a response, including sworn affidavits and other evidentiary materials, and specifically cautioning Lee that “the court may at any time thereafter and without notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment.” Doc. 15 at 2. Lee responded to Adams' report, see Doc. 16, but his response does not demonstrate that there is any genuine issue of material fact. The court will treat Adams' special report as a motion for summary judgment. It concludes that this motion is due to be resolved in favor of defendant Adams.


         “Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”). The party moving for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing the non-moving party has failed to present evidence to support some element on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-324.

         Defendant Adams has met his evidentiary burden. Thus, the burden shifts to Lee to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593-594 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that, once the moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or sworn statements], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ” demonstrate there is a genuine dispute of material fact) (internal quotations omitted). This court will also consider “specific facts” pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the non-moving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Public Educ., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 525 (2006); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Lee's pro se status alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case.


         A. Official Immunity

         Lee does not specify the capacity in which he brings suit against Adams. If Lee lodges his § 1983 claims against Adams in his official capacity, the claims are actually against the City of River Falls. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (“[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office” that is “no different from a suit against the State itself.”); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985) (Suits against officers in their official capacities are, “in all respects other than name … treated as a suit against the entity”); Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 776 (11th Cir. 1991) (“Because suits against a municipal officer sued in his official capacity and direct suits against municipalities are functionally equivalent, there no longer exists a need to bring official-capacity actions against local government officials, because local government units can be sued directly[.]”).

         To the extent that Lee seeks to impose liability on the City of River Falls for the allegedly unconstitutional acts of an employee, his claim fails. In Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978), the Supreme Court expressly rejected municipal liability based on respondeat superior. “[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.” Id. at 691 (emphasis in original); Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694-95) (“[A] municipality can be found liable under § 1983 only where the municipality itself causes the constitutional violation at issue. Respondeat superior or vicarious liability will not attach under § 1983.” (emphasis in original)). Rather, to state a claim under § 1983 against the City, Lee must allege that he suffered a constitutional injury, and that his injury was caused by “a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers.” Monell, 436 U.S. at 690. Here, Lee does not allege that any policy, practice or custom of the City of River Falls violated his civil rights - nor, as explained above, can the City be liable under § 1983 simply because it employs a tortfeasor. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. Defendant Adams is, therefore, entitled to summary judgment for claims brought against him in his official capacity.

         B. The Request for Release

         Lee seeks release from custody as part of his requested relief in this § 1983 action. Lee is no longer in custody and, thus, the request is moot. Even if Lee were still incarcerated, a § 1983 complaint is not an appropriate remedy for obtaining this type of relief. Where a prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief sought is a determination he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, the inmate's federal remedy is by way of a writ of habeas corpus. See Preiser v. Rodriquez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973) (habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for prisoners attacking the validity of their conviction or confinement).

         C. The Miranda Claim

         Lee alleges that when Adams arrested him on April 17, 2013, the officer failed to read him his Miranda rights. This claim does ...

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