United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
SAMANTHA MALONE, HOLLY KIMMONS, MARK BLEDSOE, ANDY FENNELL, and TRAVIS MOSELY, on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF DECATUR, ALABAMA; EMILY BAGGETT; CHRISTY MILLER; UNIVERSAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC.; and PROFESSIONAL PROBATION SERVICES, Defendants.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the defendants' motions to
dismiss the second amended complaint. (Docs. 42, 44, 45, 48,
53). The parties have fully briefed the motions. After
considering the parties' submissions, the Court grants in
part and denies in part the motions to dismiss as set forth
12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint
for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint against the
“liberal pleading standards set forth by Rule
8(a)(2).” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “Specific facts are
not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson,
551 U.S. at 93 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555, (2007)); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(Rule 8 generally does not require “detailed factual
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must view
the allegations in a complaint in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ.,
495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007). A court must accept
well-pleaded facts as true. Grossman v. Nationsbank,
N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000). In other
words, “[o]n a motion to dismiss, the facts stated in
the . . . complaint and all reasonable inferences therefrom
are taken as true.” Bickley v. Caremark RX,
Inc., 461 F.3d 1325, 1328 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing
Stephens v. Dep't of Health & Human
Servs., 901 F.2d 1571, 1573 (11th Cir. 1990)).
Nevertheless, on a motion to dismiss, courts “are not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986).
to this standard, the Court describes the facts alleged in
the second amended complaint in the light most favorable to
Samantha Malone, Holly Kimmons, Mark Bledsoe, Andy Fennell,
and Travis Mosely are residents of the City of Decatur,
Alabama. (Doc. 41, ¶¶ 15- 19). Defendant City of
Decatur is a municipal corporation located in Morgan County,
Alabama. (Doc. 41, ¶ 20). Defendant Emily Baggett is the
prosecutor for Decatur. (Doc. 41, ¶ 21).
Defendant Christy Miller is one of several attorneys who may
be appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants in the
Decatur Municipal Court. (Doc. 41, ¶ 22). Defendant
Professional Probation Services (PPS) is a corporation with
its principal place of business in Georgia. (Doc. 41, ¶
24). PPS is registered with the Alabama Secretary of State
and was actively engaged in business in Alabama and Decatur
at all times relevant to this case. (Doc. 41, ¶ 24). PPS
is a wholly owned subsidiary of defendant Universal Health
Services, Inc. (UHS), one of the country's largest health
care management companies. (Doc. 41, ¶¶ 24-25). The
plaintiffs assert that the defendants have been
“extorting money from impoverished individuals under
threat of jail” and “misusing the criminal
justice system and probation process for profit.” (Doc.
41, ¶ 1).
plaintiffs allege that the City of Decatur contracted with
PPS to provide probation services to the Municipal Court.
(Doc. 41, ¶ 8). When an individual appearing before the
Municipal Court is assessed fines or costs and cannot pay
them in full, the Municipal Court orders that individual to
serve a suspended sentence and places the individual on
probation with PPS for a number of months. (Doc. 41,
¶¶ 36, 39). According to the plaintiffs, each month
that an indigent defendant is on PPS-administered probation,
the Municipal Court requires the defendant to pay a specified
amount toward his fine and a $35.00 supervision fee to PPS.
(Doc. 41, ¶ 40). The plaintiffs allege that when an
individual cannot make one of the monthly payments, PPS
alerts the Municipal Court, and the Municipal Court initiates
probation revocation proceedings. (Doc. 41, ¶ 47). The
Municipal Court charges individuals who cannot make a monthly
payment with violation of their probation, increases the
length of the term of probation, and imposes additional fees
and fines. (Doc. 41, ¶ 50).
plaintiffs allege that they were incarcerated under this
scheme for failure to pay the fees charged by PPS. They also
allege that the City, through its contract with PPS,
“has affected hundreds of low income people who were
issued traffic tickets and/or arrested for
misdemeanors.” (Doc. 41, ¶ 11). In their second
amended complaint, the plaintiffs assert the following claims
on behalf of themselves and a potential class of similarly
situated individuals: violation of the Fourteenth Amendment
against the City of Decatur; violation of the Fourth
Amendment against the City of Decatur, Ms. Baggett, and Ms.
Miller; violation of the Sixth Amendment against the City of
Decatur, Ms. Baggett, and Ms. Miller; false imprisonment
against the City of Decatur, Ms. Baggett, and Ms. Miller;
RICO violations (18 U.S.C. § 1962(a) - (d)) against UHS
and PPS; and abuse of process against PPS. (Doc. 41,
plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages and
“such other relief as the Court deems just and
appropriate.” (Doc. 41, pp. 46-47). The defendants have
moved to dismiss most of these claims. (Docs. 42, 44, 45, 48,
Ms. Baggett's Motion to Dismiss
Baggett asks the Court to dismiss all claims against her
because she is entitled to prosecutorial immunity. The
plaintiffs argue that Ms. Baggett is not entitled to immunity
because she was “acting at the behest of a third-party
intent on maximizing its profits on the backs of indigent
defendants.” (Doc. 18, p. 16). The plaintiffs allege
the following facts with respect to Ms. Baggett:
• “Defendant Emily Baggett (“Baggett”)
acting under color of law in her individual and official
capacity has prosecuted individuals in the [C]ity of Decatur
for being unable to pay fines and fees on municipal
violations using a policy, practice or custom in violation of
said individuals' constitutional rights.” (Doc. 41,
• “Defendant Emily Baggett (“Baggett”)
is the Prosecutor for the City of Decatur, Alabama. The
Prosecutor position for the City of Decatur is a full time
job.” (Doc. 41, ¶ 21).
• “The full time Prosecutor is Attorney Emily
Baggett.” (Doc. 41, ¶ 29).
• “Defense Counsel is not appointed in every case
and the City's full time prosecutor Emily Baggett informs
the Defendants that they are going to be placed on
probation.” (Doc. 41, ¶ 33).
• “The injuries of Plaintiffs and the proposed
class all arise out of the same policies and practices of
Defendants City of Decatur, Emily Baggett in her individual
and official capacity, Christy Miller in her individual and
official capacity and Professional Probation Services, the
wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Health Services,
Inc.” (Doc. 41, pp. 26-27).
• “The full time Municipal Prosecutor for the City
of Decatur, Emily Baggett, assisted in the furtherance of the
policy and custom of placing low income individuals who could
not afford to pay fines in full on probation with
Professional Probation Services.” (Doc. 41, pp. 28-29).
the plaintiffs' factual allegations concerning Ms.
Baggett pertain to her role as a municipal prosecutor. (Doc.
41, ¶ 5).
immunity has its roots in judicial immunity. Hart v.
Hodges, 587 F.3d 1288, 1294 (11th Cir. 2009)
(“[T]raditional common-law immunities for prosecutors
… derived from immunities recognized for judges
…”). Executive branch public officials are
entitled to absolute immunity from damages claims in actions
for activities that “are intimately associated with the
judicial phase of the criminal process.” Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976). In determining
whether certain activities are intimately associated with the
judicial phase of the criminal process, a functional approach
has evolved that “looks to the nature of the function
performed, not to the identity of the person who performed
it.” Hart, 587 F.3d at 1295-96 (citing
Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 269 (1993)).
The Supreme Court has applied functional analysis and
determined that prosecutors are immune from claims for
damages in a number of scenarios. See Van de Kamp v.
Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335 (2009) (failure to institute a
system of information-sharing among deputy district attorneys
regarding confidential jailhouse informants); Burns v.
Reed, 500 U.S. 478 (1991) (court appearance in support
of an application for a search warrant and presentation of
evidence at that hearing); Malley v. Briggs, 475
U.S. 335, 342-43 (1986) (malicious prosecution). Like judges,
“prosecutors do not enjoy absolute immunity from
[declaratory relief] claims.” Tarter v. Hury,
646 F.2d 1010, 1012 (5th Cir. 1981).
these principles, [the Eleventh C]ircuit has emphasized that,
‘[a] prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from
allegations stemming from the prosecutor's function as
advocate.'” Hart, 587 F.3d at 1295
(quoting Jones v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1281 (11th
Cir. 1999)). A prosecutor's function as an advocate
encompasses “acts undertaken in preparing for the
initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which
occur in the course of his role as an advocate.”
Hart, 587 F.3d at 1295 (quoting Jones 174
F.3d at 1281) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Specifically, this includes, and absolute immunity thus
extends to, “filing an information without
investigation, filing charges without jurisdiction, filing a
baseless detainer, offering perjured testimony, suppressing
exculpatory evidence, refusing to investigate . . .
complaints about the prison system, [and] threatening . . .
further criminal prosecutions . . . .” Henzel v.
Gerstein, 608 F.2d 654, 657 (5th Cir. 1979).
conduct about which the plaintiffs complain with respect to
Ms. Baggett pertains to her role as an advocate. Even if the
plaintiffs can demonstrate that Ms. Baggett chose to
prosecute individuals to benefit PPS, she is immune from
claims for damages for malicious prosecution. The plaintiffs
assert that a prosecutor's motive in initiating an action
may overcome immunity from damages for malicious prosecution,
but the plaintiffs offer no binding authority for their
assertion. The plaintiffs do not request declaratory relief.
Accordingly, because Ms. Baggett is entitled to absolute
immunity from the plaintiffs' damages claims for her
alleged prosecution of individuals in the City of Decatur,
the Court will grant Ms. Baggett's motion to dismiss the
plaintiffs' claims against her.
Ms. Miller's Motion to Dismiss
Miller asks the Court to dismiss all claims against her.
(Doc. 42, p. 2). She argues that the constitutional claims
against her cannot succeed because she is not a state actor,
and the plaintiffs do not allege facts against her to state a
claim of false imprisonment. (Doc. 35, p. 2).
plaintiffs allege the following facts with respect to Ms.
• “Defendant Christy Miller (“Miller”)
acting under color of law in her individual and official
capacity was appointed to defend individuals in the City of
Decatur Municipal Court and failed to provide any defense to
individuals but rather told individuals they had to sign up