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Roberson v. Walker

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

July 31, 2018

SHERIFF GERALD “HOBBY” WALKER, et al., Defendants.



         Before this Court are the Motions to Dismiss of Defendants Gerald Walker (“Walker”), Sandor Csitar (“Csitar”), and Tommy Moore (“Moore”)[1]; and of Defendant Adam Whitehead (“Whitehead”). (See Docs. 6 & 9-1.) Plaintiff alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and malicious prosecution against the Defendants for their roles in his arrest and detention in the Winston County jail in early January 2016. The Defendants' Motions to Dismiss have been fully briefed and are ripe for decision. For the following reasons, Defendants Walker, Csitar, and Moore's Motion to Dismiss (doc. 6) is due to be GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART; Defendant Whitehead's Motion to Dismiss (doc. 9-1) is due to be DENIED.

         I. Introduction [2]

         Plaintiff is an attorney who practiced in Birmingham, Alabama for over thirty years before returning to his hometown of Haleyville, Alabama in 2013. Part of Plaintiff's practice in Haleyville involved filing federal lawsuits against Defendant Walker and other law enforcement officials for alleged constitutional violations. On January 8, 2016, Plaintiff traveled to Double Springs, Alabama to conduct personal errands and to meet with a work-release inmate at the Winston County jail. The inmate had requested that Plaintiff meet with him to discuss obtaining his release on bond. Plaintiff completed his errands and then entered the jail to meet with the inmate.

         Upon entering the booking area of the jail, Plaintiff spoke with Defendant Csitar, the jail administrator. Plaintiff could not recall the name of the inmate, as he had never spoken with him personally and only had some “telephone message slips.” Plaintiff asked Csitar if he could look at the list of current work-release inmates to help him remember the client he was to meet with; Csitar refused to allow Plaintiff to do so. Plaintiff argued with Csitar, and then demanded to see the then-sheriff, Defendant Walker. Because Defendant Walker was not in the jail at the time, Plaintiff waited in the booking area for him to arrive. Csitar then told Plaintiff that if he did not leave the jail he would be arrested, so Plaintiff left.

         Plaintiff later encountered Defendant Walker in the parking lot behind the sheriff's office. Defendant Walker likewise refused to allow Plaintiff to visit the inmates. Plaintiff argued that such a refusal was a violation of the inmate's Sixth Amendment rights and threatened to sue Defendant Walker. Both sides continued their “loud discussion” with “profanities . . . exchanged by both parties.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 10.) A number of law enforcement and corrections officers gathered in the parking lot to witness the argument. At some point, an officer asked if Plaintiff would take a test to determine if he was on drugs or intoxicated. Plaintiff asked if he was under arrest; the officer informed Plaintiff he was not. Plaintiff then left the area.

         Plaintiff was subsequently pulled over by Double Springs police officers and sheriff's deputies “miles away” from Double Springs, arrested, and taken back to the Winston County jail. Plaintiff was searched at the prison, but no contraband was found. After approximately seventy-two hours, Plaintiff was told by officials that he was being charged with possession of marijuana, promoting prison contraband, escape, obstructing governmental operations, and two counts of disorderly conduct. These charges were based on Defendant Csitar's discovery of marijuana in the jail near the area where Plaintiff was searched.

         On January 9, 2016, while Defendant Whitehead, a jail nurse, was examining Plaintiff. Whitehead brought up Plaintiff's involvement in a suit against law enforcement officers on behalf of an inmate who had died in the Winston County jail. Whitehead allegedly was upset with Plaintiff for this lawsuit and told him that he needed to “respect the badge.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.) Plaintiff told him that “he did not know how he could ‘respect the badge,' given how the jail staff had mistreated and neglected [the inmate] to the point that it caused his death.” (Id.)

         Whitehead allegedly became upset with Plaintiff for this statement. Whitehead who is much larger than Plaintiff picked up Plaintiff and carried him to his cell where Whitehead threw Plaintiff to the ground. Plaintiff landed on the metal grate, and sustained numerous injuries including a broken rib. Plaintiff subsequently demanded medical treatment; although he was allowed to see a nurse, he never received pain medication or an X-ray. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Whitehead “initiated another criminal charge [of harassment] against [Plaintiff]” on January 10, 2016 for the statements Plaintiff made to Defendant Whitehead in an effort to justify the injuries Plaintiff received. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         Plaintiff remained in the jail until January 15, 2016, when he was involuntarily committed to the Walker Baptist Hospital Behavioral Medicine Unit. Although Plaintiff does not state when he was released from the Winston County jail, he does allege that the amount of bail set for his seven criminal offenses was $60, 000. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants “set” his bail above the statutory maximum allowed for the offenses he was charged with and that Defendants set such bail as “cash only” in order to increase the difficulty for Plaintiff to make bail. (Id. ¶ 22.) After Plaintiff's criminal charges were set for a hearing, the district attorney dismissed all charges against him with prejudice.

         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)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “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.” Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). 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. 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. Review of the complaint is “a context-specific task that requires [this Court] to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. If the pleading “contain[s] enough information regarding the material elements of a cause of action to support recovery under some ‘viable legal theory, '” it satisfies the notice pleading standard. Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Orgs. v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683-84 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Section 1983 Claims against Defendants ...

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