United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Keith Watkins CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to Plaintiff K. J. C.'s Amended Complaint (Doc. # 15),
Defendant Morris Leon Williams, Jr.-an officer in the City of
Montgomery Police Department-forcibly sodomized and sexually
assaulted Plaintiff in her home while he was on duty.
Plaintiff alleges that this was just one of at least twenty
instances in which Montgomery police officers committed
crimes against civilians. Plaintiff attributes these crimes
to a policy, custom, and practice of Defendants City of
Montgomery, Montgomery Police Chief Ernest n. Finley, Jr.,
and Montgomery Police Captain W. B. Gaskin.
September 27, 2017, the Magistrate Judge filed a
Recommendation (Doc. # 25) concerning two motions to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure (Docs. # 7, 17) filed by the City, Chief Finley,
and Captain Gaskin. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the
first motion (Doc. # 7) be denied as moot because it was
addressed to Plaintiff's initial Complaint (Doc. # 1),
which she subsequently amended (Doc. # 15). The Magistrate
Judge recommended that the second motion (Doc. # 17), which
was directed at the Amended Complaint, be granted in part and
denied in part. Defendants did not object to the
Recommendation, but Plaintiff did (Doc. # 26).
independent review of the record, the Recommendation is due
to be adopted as modified below, Plaintiff's objections
are due to be overruled, the first motion to dismiss (Doc. #
7) is due to be denied as moot, and the second motion to
dismiss (Doc. # 17) is due to be granted in part and denied
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action under
28 U. S. C. §§ 1331, 1367. The
parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court judge's review of objections to a
magistrate judge's report and recommendation is de novo,
and a district court judge “may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” 18
U. S. C. § 636(b)(1).
motion to dismiss pursuant Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint
against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8: “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, courts “must accept
the well pleaded facts as true and resolve them in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff.” Paradise Divers,
Inc. v. Upmal, 402 F.3d 1087, 1089 (11th Cir. 2005)
(citation omitted); see also Watts v. Fla. Int'l
Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007) (“We
have held many times when discussing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, that the pleadings are construed broadly, and
that the allegations in the complaint are viewed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff.” (internal citations
and quotation marks omitted)).
survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny, however, “a 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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U. S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id. at 679
(citation omitted). If there are “enough fact[s] to
raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence” to support the claim, there are
“plausible” grounds for recovery, and a motion to
dismiss should be denied. Twombly, 550 U. S.
at 556. The claim can proceed “even if it strikes a
savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable,
and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.”
Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
But the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise
a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Id. at 555.
Complaint names four Defendants-the City, Chief Finley,
Captain Gaskin, and Officer Williams-and includes seven
counts. (Doc. # 1.) Counts One, Two, and Three bring claims
under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 (under the Fourth
Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, respectively); it is undisputed that Count One was
brought against each defendant, but there is some dispute
about whether Counts Two and Three were brought against each
defendant or against only Officer Williams. Counts Four,
Five, and Six bring claims under Alabama law against only
Officer Williams. Count Seven brings a claim under Alabama
law against the City for supervisory and municipal liability.
of the four Defendants-the City, Chief Finley, and Captain
Gaskin- filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 7.) Plaintiff
responded to that motion by filing an Amended Complaint,
which includes additional factual allegations in support of
the same seven counts in Plaintiff's initial Complaint.
(Doc. # 15.) Two weeks after that, the City, Chief Finley,
and Captain Gaskin filed a second motion to dismiss. (Doc. #
17.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the second
motion (Doc. # 19), to which Defendants did not reply.
Magistrate Judge filed a Recommendation that the first motion
to dismiss be denied as moot and that the second motion be
granted in part and denied in part. (Doc. # 25.) According to
the Magistrate Judge, the second motion to dismiss is due to
be granted with respect to Plaintiff's claims against
Chief Finley and Captain Gaskin in their official capacities
(because they are duplicative of the claims against the City)
and with respect to Plaintiff's Alabama law claims of
supervisory and municipal liability against the City in Count
Seven. But the Magistrate Judge found that the motion was due
to be denied with respect to Plaintiff's claims in Count
One against the City. The Magistrate Judge further found that
Counts Two through Six were not brought against the City,
Chief Finley, or Captain Gaskin (Doc. # 25, at 4 &
n. 5) and that Chief Finley and Captain Gaskin
“do not seek dismissal of Count one in their individual
capacities” (Doc. # 25, at 10 n. 7).
timely objected to the Recommendation on two grounds. (Doc. #
26.) First, Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's
finding that only one of Plaintiff's three § 1983
claims-Count One's Fourth Amendment Claim-was brought
against the City. Plaintiff argues that the other two §
1983 counts were brought against the City, Chief Finley, and
Captain Gaskin because those counts include references to
“Defendants, ” which Plaintiff argues refer to
the City, Chief Finley, and Captain Gaskin, as well as
Officer Williams. Second, Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate
Judge's finding that Count Seven is due to be dismissed
because the City is immune from supervisory and municipal
liability under Alabama law for the intentional and
deliberate acts of its agents. “This conclusion,
” Plaintiff argues, “conflates Plaintiff's
allegations as to Defendant Williams . . . with
Plaintiff's allegations against the City and Defendants
Finley and Gaskin.” (Doc. # 26, at 6- 7.) According to
Plaintiff, the City would be liable for Chief Finley and
Captain Gaskin's negligent failures to train and
supervise Officer Williams, which she argues caused Officer
Williams's tortious conduct. The City, Chief Finley, and
Captain Gaskin have not filed an objection.
absent from this procedural history is Officer Williams,
whose alleged actions are the heart of Plaintiff's
claims. Officer Williams has not filed a responsive pleading,
and the City has refused to defend him.