United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
this Court's ruling substantially denying the City of
Montgomery's (the "City") fully-briefed and
argued motion to dismiss, Order, ECF No. 98, the City seeks a
second bite at the apple. The City moves for judgment on the
pleadings, again asking this Court to dismiss all of Mr.
Carter's claims against it. See Mot. J.
Pleadings, ECF No. 200. In support of this de facto
motion for reconsideration, the Court relies principally on
McCiillough v. Finley ("AdcCnllough IF), an
Eleventh Circuit opinion evaluating a distinct issue in a
separate, albeit admittedly related, case involving different
parties and a different complaint. See 907 F.3d 1324
(11th Cir. 2018). Specifically, the City argues that
"the Eleventh Circuit has now definitively
rejected" this Court's ruling "that it could be
found that a City policy was the moving force behind the
alleged constitutional wrongs[.]" Mot. J. Pleadings 8-9,
ECF No. 200. For the reasons stated herein, the Court
disagrees. The City's motion will be
time, the Court also considers the City's Motion to
Dismiss Counts Eleven (money-had-and-received) and Count
Thirteen (false imprisonment). See Mot. Dismiss, ECF
No. 148. These causes of action were added to the Mr.
Carter's complaint after the city's initial motion to
dismiss. See Order, ECF No. 143. For the reasons
stated herein, that motion will be GRANTED
and those counts will be DISMISSED.
The City's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF No.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for
judgment on the pleadings "[a]fter the pleadings are
closed-but early enough not to delay trial."
"Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where there
are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Cannon v.
City of W. Palm Beach, 250 F.3d 1299, 1301 (11th Cir.
2001). In determining whether a party is entitled to judgment
on the pleadings, the Court accepts as true all material
facts alleged in the non-moving party's pleading and
views those facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Hawthorne v. Mac Adjustment, Inc.,
140 F.3d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir. 1998).
aside the state law claims discussed in Part II of this
opinion, nearly all of Mr. Carter's remaining claims
against the City seek relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
alleged constitutional violations related to the probation
program run within the City. See Second Am. &
Restated Corapl. Counts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, ECF No. 145.
1983 allows persons to sue municipalities acting under the
color of state law for violations of federal law. Hill v.
Cundiff, 797 F.3d 948, 976 (11th Cir. 2015). Under 1983,
"municipal liability is limited to action for which the
municipality is actually responsible." Pembaur v.
City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986). "A
municipality therefore may be held liable 'only if such
constitutional torts result from an official government
policy, the actions of an official fairly deemed to represent
government policy, or a custom or practice so pervasive and
well-settled that it assumes the force of law.'"
Hill, 797 F.3d at 977 (quoting Dermo v. Sch.Bd.
of Volusia Cty., Fla., 218 F.3d 1267, 1276 (11th Cir.
2000)). The municipality must be shown to have
"authority and responsibility over the governmental
function in issue[, ]" Grech v. Clayton Cty.,
335 F.3d 1326, 1330 (11th Cir. 2006), and the policy or
custom must be the "moving force" behind the
alleged constitutional torts. See Monell v. Dept. of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
the City argues that the Eleventh Circuit's opinion in
McCullough II forecloses a finding that the City had
authority and responsibility over Judicial Corrections
Services, Inc.'s ("JCS") actions and that any
policy by the City was the moving force behind the alleged
et al. v. The City of Montgomery el al is another case
pending before this Court arising from the probation system
operated by JCS in the City. 2:15-cv-463-RCL
("McCullough F). Although the underlying
subject matter between that case and the present action is
the same, the complaints are different, and the
McCullough plaintiffs made claims against a number
of persons not in this action, such as the City's chief
of police, the former chief of police, the presiding judge
and the former presiding judge of the City's Municipal
Court, and the mayor. See Id. On the same day that
the Court issued its order and opinion on the motions to
dismiss in this case, the Court issued an order and opinion
in McCullough I. See 2:15-cv-463-RCL, 2017 WL 956362
(M.D. Ala. Mar. 10, 2017). In that opinion, the Court held,
inter alia, that neither the presiding judge nor the
former presiding judge could rely on judicial immunity,
id. at *9, and that the chief of police, the former
chief of police, and the mayor could not rely on qualified
immunity. Mat* 12.
interlocutory appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed that
holding. 907 F.3d at 1135. For the judges, the Circuit found
that they are entitled to judicial immunity because all the
alleged acts were judicial in nature and the motivation
behind the acts is irrelevant to the immunity analysis.
Id. at 1330-33. For the other individual defendants,
the Circuit held that the McCullough complaint was
devoid of non-conclusory allegations connecting the mayor or
police chiefs to the alleged constitutional violations.
Id. at 1332-35. Accordingly, the mayor and police
chiefs were found to be entitled to qualified and state agent
immunity. Id. at 1335.
City attempted to participate in the appeal in
McCullough, but its appeal was dismissed. See
McCullough II, Order (Aug. 17, 2017) at 3, No. 17-11554.
The City claimed a right to appeal because the claims against
it were "both inextricably intertwined with and solely
dependent upon the actions" of one of the Municipal
Court judges. McCullough II, Appellants' Joint
Suppl. Mem. Jurisdiction, No. 17-11554. The Circuit rejected
this argument, stating that it was this Court's denial of
immunity that entitled the appellants to interlocutory appeal
and that the City could not "'piggyback" on the
other defendants' proper appeal. See McCullough
II, Order (Aug. 17, 2017) at 2, No. 17-11554.
Specifically, the Circuit held: (1) that the Court "left
open the possibility the judge and the City were
independently responsible for creating the policies at
issue;" (2) that "the City's liability does not
necessarily match the judge's;" and (3) that
"the City's appeal is not inextricably intertwined
with the judge's entitlement to immunity."
Id. at 3.
the City argues that the Circuit's decision in
McCullough //precludes its liability to separate
plaintiffs in a separate case. Specifically, the City relies
on this Court's incorporation of the reasoning from
McCullough I into its motion to dismiss opinion in
this case to argue that all the non-conclusory allegations in
the Carter complaint are either judicial acts or
insufficient to establish the City's liability. Mot. J.
Pleadings 9-13, ECF No. 200.
acts by the Municipal Court, the argument goes, may not be
attributed to the City because the City has no authority over
the Municipal Court. See Mot. J. Pleadings 7, ECF
No. 200; see also Turquitt v. Jefferson Cty., 137
F.3d 1285, 1292 (11th Cir. 1998) ("[L]ocal governments
can never be liable under § 1983 for the acts of those
whom the local government has no authority to
control.''). Municipal courts in Alabama are a part
of Alabama's unified judicial system. See Ala.
Const, of 1901, Art. VI, § 139(a) (stating that
"the judicial power of the state shall be vested
exclusively in a unified judicial system which shall consist
of . . . such municipal courts as may be provided by
law."); Ala. Code §12-1-2 (Same). The Supreme Court
of Alabama is authorized to create procedural and
administrative rules for municipal courts. Ala. Code §
12-2-19(a). State law grants municipal courts authority to
impose probation on defendants and set the conditions for
such probation. See Id. § 12-14-13. And the
Court of the Judiciary-a state court-is responsible for
sanctioning a municipal court judge for misconduct or ethical
violations. See Ala. Const, of 1901, Art. VI,
§§ 156 & 157. Accordingly, some courts in
Alabama have held at the summary judgment stage that the
municipality did not have control over JCS's actions and
therefore could not be held liable under § 1983,
see, e.g., Ray v. Judicial Corr. Servs., No.
2:12-cv-2819-RDP, 2017 WL 660842, at *12 (N.D. Ala. Feb. 17,
2017), a fact of which this Court was aware at the time of
its opinion on the City's motion to dismiss. Carter
v. City of Montgomery, No. 2:15-cv-555 (RCL), 2017 WL
957540, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 10, 2017).
this case is not at the summary judgment phase and Mr. Carter
has pleaded more in his complaint--a complaint unevaluated by
the Eleventh Circuit-than judicial acts. Under Alabama law,
the municipalities are responsible for "provid[ing]
appropriate facilities and necessary supportive personnel for
the municipal court and may provide for probation
services." Id. § 12- 14-12. This includes
the "power to contract with a private firm to aid in the
collection of delinquent municipal court fines."
Wilkfns v. Dan Haggeiiy & Assocs., Inc., 672
So.2d 507, 510 (Al. 1995). And here, Mr. Carter alleges that
the City exercised its administrative authority under Alabama
law to contract with JCS as part of a scheme to increase
revenue at the expense of its residents' constitutional
rights. E.g., Second Am. & Restated Compl.
¶¶ 27, 29, 101, ECF No. 145. In its contract, the
City granted JCS an "exclusive franchise" for the
provision of probation services. Id. ¶¶
27, 356. It allowed JCS officers to carry badges and refer ...