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Alexander v. Hale

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 5, 2018

TODD ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL HALE, ET AL. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

          L. Scott Coogler United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Todd Alexander (“Plaintiff” or “Alexander”) brings this action against Defendants Michael Hale (“Hale”), in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Jefferson County; and James Burns in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as a Deputy Sheriff of Jefferson County (“Burns”) (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, in addition to state law. All claims relate to an alleged misuse, by Burns, of the Alabama Law Enforcement Tactical System database. Before the Court is a Motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Hale (doc. 5), and a Motion for service by publication filed by Plaintiff (doc. 9). For the reasons stated more fully herein, Defendant Hale's motion is due to be granted and Plaintiff's motion is due to be denied.

         I. Background [1]

         On March 18, 2015, Plaintiff entered into a contract with Burns to provide home renovation services. After the initial contract, the house was found to require more work than was initially anticipated, and the contract was amended-through agreement of both parties-to include an additional $500 payment, to cover the labor and materials costs for the unanticipated work. A disagreement then ensued between Plaintiff and Burns. Burns asserted that Plaintiff was taking too long and charging too much for the job, while Plaintiff insisted that Burns was reneging on the terms of their contract. Burns demanded that Plaintiff finish by a particular date and refused to remit any further payments until the job was completed. Plaintiff finished what work he could with the remaining materials, informed Burns that he would have to find someone else to complete the job, and did not return.

         On April 22, 2015, Burns filed a field incident report, claiming Plaintiff had defrauded him. Thereafter, on May 4, 2015, Burns signed a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest, and attached numerous supporting documents, including a printed copy of Plaintiff's profile from the Alabama Law Enforcement Tactical System (“LETS”) database. This LETS report was generated on April 15, 2015. Plaintiff alleges that Burns accessed LETS improperly, under false pretenses, and further, that he did so in order to pressure Plaintiff to accept a reduced payment for services already rendered.

         II. Standard of Review

          In general, a pleading must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint “must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc. 836 F.3d 1340, 1347-48 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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). Stated another way, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. A complaint that “succeeds in identifying facts that are suggestive enough to render [the necessary elements of a claim] plausible” will survive a motion to dismiss. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1296 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, this Court first “identif[ies] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. This Court then “assume[s] the[] veracity” of the complaint's “well-pleaded factual allegations” and “determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. Unless a plaintiff has “nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” the complaint “must be dismissed.” Id.

         III. Discussion

         A. Defendant Hale's Motion to Dismiss

          Hale moves to dismiss: all Federal claims against him in his official capacity based on the concept of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment; all Federal claims against him in his individual capacity, asserting qualified immunity; Plaintiff's state law invasion of privacy claim based on the doctrine of absolute immunity under the Alabama Constitution; and the claims for injunctive relief for lack of standing.

         1. Official Capacity Federal- and State-law Claims

         Hale argues that as Sheriff of Jefferson County, he is entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment and absolute immune under the Alabama Constitution with respect to any claim against him in his official capacity. Plaintiff concedes in his response to the motion to dismiss that such claims are due to be dismissed pursuant to existing law, stating that he “does not object to dismissal of official capacity claims against defendant Hale.” (Doc. 13 at 9, 22.) As such, to the extent that Plaintiff's complaint may be construed to state claims against Hale in his official capacity as Sheriff of Jefferson County, all such claims are due to be dismissed.

         2. Federal Individual Capacity Claims (42 U.S.C. §1983 - Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment); (42 U.S.C. §1983 - Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 ("DPPA")); (18 U.S.C. §1030(g) Computer Fraud and ...


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