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K.J.C. v. City of Montgomery

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

February 27, 2018

K.J.C., Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          W. Keith Watkins CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         According 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.

         On 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).

         Upon an 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 in part.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action under 28 U. S. C. §§ 1331, 1367. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A 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).

         A 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)).

         To 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.

         III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's 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.

         Three 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.

         The 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).

         Plaintiff 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.

         Noticeably 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.

         IV. ...


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