United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MARKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Lowndes County
Commission's and Defendant Lowndes County Sheriff's
Office's motion to dismiss filed on October 16, 2017.
(Doc. # 16). This motion has been fully briefed by the
parties. (Docs. # 17, 19, & 20).
Claims Against the Lowndes County Sheriff's
Lowndes County Sherriff's Office moves this Court to
dismiss all claims against it since it is not a legal entity
subject to suit. (Docs. # 16 & 17). In his response, the
plaintiff represents that he “is willing to dismiss all
claims against Defendant Lowndes County Sheriff's Office
to the extent that it is the only [sic] office, and not to be
construed as a dismissal against Defendant West or Defendant
Lowndes County Commission.” (Doc. # 19). Because the
Lowndes County Sheriff's Office is not a legal entity
subject to suit, all claims against the Lowndes County
Sheriff's Office are dismissed with prejudice.
Claims Against the Lowndes County Commission.
plaintiff claims that while he was present at the Lowndes
County Courthouse for a bond hearing, “he was brutally
attacked by Lowndes County Deputy Sheriff Christopher West,
acting on behalf of the Defendant Lowndes County Commission
and/or the Defendant Lowndes County Sheriff's
Office.” (Doc. 1, pp. 2-3, paras. 5-6). Defendant
Lowndes County Commission moves this Court to dismiss all
claims against it, arguing that it cannot be held vicariously
liable for the acts of the sheriff or his deputies. (Docs. #
16 & 17). In his response, the plaintiff objects to the
motion, alleging that the Lowndes County Commission is liable
for the actions of Deputy Sheriff Christopher West because
the alleged events took place inside the Lowndes County
Courthouse. (Doc. # 19). The plaintiff asserts that the
County Commission has the authority, among other things, to
“direct, control, and maintain the property of the
county, ” “designate the rooms to be occupied by
the officers entitled to rooms therein, ” “change
the location of the courts and the designation of the rooms
for officers as it may deem best and most expedient, ”
and “may lease such office rooms in a convenient
location in the county site.” (Doc. 19-1, p. 3). Based
upon the Lowndes County Commission's responsibilities
with respect to the Lowndes County Courthouse, the plaintiff
argues, without citation to supporting authority, that
“the Lowndes County Commission should be held liable
for the actions of a sheriff's deputy over whom it would
have supervisory and/or administrative control when that
deputy is providing a service to county commission while
working inside of the Lowndes County Courthouse.” (Doc.
19-1, p. 5). The Court disagrees.
is well-settled that “Alabama sheriffs, when executing
their law enforcement duties, represent the State of Alabama,
not their counties.” McMillian v. Monroe County,
Ala., 520 U.S. 781, 783 (1997). Accordingly, a County
Commission may not be held liable for the tortious acts of an
Alabama sheriff or his deputies. See id.; see
also Ex parte Sumter County, 953 So.2d 1235, 1239 (Ala.
2006) (“[A] sheriff is not an employee of a county for
the purposes of imposing liability on the county.”).
court is not persuaded by the plaintiff's argument that
the Lowndes County Commission becomes liable for the acts of
a deputy sheriff when events giving rise to liability take
place in the Lowndes County Courthouse. In an analogous case,
the Eleventh Circuit held that a County Commission is not
liable for the tortious actions of a sheriff or his deputies
in the management of a county jail. Turquitt v. Jefferson
County, Ala., 137 F.3d 1285, 1292 (11th Cir. 1998). In
Turquitt, the court recognized that, although the
County Commission was charged with building and funding the
county jail, these duties did not render sheriffs or their
deputies actors of the county in their management of jails.
See Id. at 1289-90. Rather, the court held that
sheriffs and their deputies were still actors of the state.
although the Lowndes County Commission is charged with
several duties relating to the operation of the Lowndes
County Courthouse, those duties do not render the Lowndes
County Sheriff or his deputies actors of the county upon
entering the courthouse. Alabama sheriffs and their deputies
are actors of the state, and accordingly, the Lowndes County
Commission cannot be held liable for their alleged tortious
foregoing reasons, it is
that the defendants' motion to dismiss (doc. # 16) be and
is hereby GRANTED and all claims against the Lowndes County
Sheriff's Office and the Lowndes County ...