United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
KENNETH E. MORRIS, Plaintiff,
LORI COLLIER INGRAM, et al., Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court are the Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Lori
Collier Ingram (Doc. 19), Motion to Dismiss by LaDonna B.
Spivey (Doc. 21), and Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill (Doc. 25). The District Judge has referred this
matter to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for
consideration and disposition or recommendation on all
pretrial matters as may be appropriate. Doc. 4.
Defendants' motions are fully briefed and are ripe for
recommendation to the United States District Judge. For the
reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that the
Defendants' motions (Docs. 19, 21, and 25) be GRANTED.
lawsuit arises out of a judgment entered in a state court
child support case filed against Plaintiff in Houston County,
Alabama. Doc. 1 at 5. Plaintiff alleges that a hearing was
held in that case on February 17, 2010. Id. at 3,
Doc 1-1 at 3, and Doc. 1-2. Exhibit A to Plaintiff's
Complaint, entitled “Findings/Recommendation/Order
Establishing Paternity and Setting Amount of Child Support,
” indicates that Plaintiff was present at that hearing
and signed “acknowledge[ing] receipt of a copy of these
findings on 2-17-2010.” See Doc. 1-2. On March
23, 2010, Defendant Lori Collier Ingram, the district judge
presiding over the case, signed the portion of Exhibit A
adopting the findings regarding paternity and child support
and entering a final order. Doc. 1-2.
January 27, 2012, Defendant Spivey, as Attorney for Houston
County Department of Human Resources, filed a Motion for
Continuing Garnishment advising the court that Plaintiff was
awaiting a lump sum payment of social security benefits and
asking the court to enter an order for continuing garnishment
with respect to that payment. Doc. 1-1 at 3 and Doc. 1-4.
Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Spivey mailed a copy of that
motion to him at an address that was incorrect. Doc. 1 at 5.
On February 8, 2012, Defendant Ingram issued the requested
order. Doc. 1-2.
February 13, 2012, Defendant Spivey had a process of
garnishment issued to the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) by the District Court of Houston County.
Doc. 1-4. Plaintiff states the process of garnishment
“was ordered at a hearing that I was not present for
nor notified of” until he was served with a
“default judgment.” Doc. 1-1 at 3. He also states
that he “was mailed this notice after the hearing at
been [held].” Doc. 1-1 at 13. Plaintiff was confined at
the Houston County Jail beginning August 22, 2011, and
“[d]uring the process of garnishment.” Doc. 1-1
and 1-5. The “default judgment” and
“notice” to which he refers, attached as Exhibit
D to his Complaint, is the process of garnishment issued on
February 8, 2012, and a copy of what appears to be a mailing
label addressed to Plaintiff at the Houston County Jail. Doc.
1-1 at 3 and Doc. 1-5. Plaintiff does not dispute receiving
this notice; his complaint is that it was mailed to him after
a hearing that he did not attend. Doc. 1-1 at 3, 13. Based on
a review of the documents submitted to the court by the
parties, there is no indication that a hearing was ever held.
has not provided the court with the date on which his initial
lump sum payment from the SSA was garnished. Plaintiff
submitted a copy of his child support payment summary for
April 2010 through December 2012, which shows a lump sum
payment on February 1, 2012, but Plaintiff failed to explain
what each payment represents or the source of each payment.
See Doc. 31-1. Plaintiff submitted two statements
showing that his 2011 and 2012 benefits were offset for a
garnishment or tax levy, but there is no date listed for the
offset. Docs. 1-6 and 1-7. Nevertheless, it appears that
Plaintiff had already begun to receive regular monthly
benefits at least by October 30, 2012, because on that date
the SSA sent him two letters explaining that there had been a
change in the amount deducted from his monthly benefits to
pay child support as a result of the garnishment order. Doc.
31-1 at 18-19, 26. One month later, the SSA mailed a letter
to Plaintiff advising that his monthly benefits would cease
because they learned that he had been imprisoned for
conviction of a crime. Doc. 31-1 at 27.
now brings this federal action against Defendant LaDonna
Spivey, the attorney who represented the State of Alabama
Department of Human Resources in Houston County; Defendant
Lori Collier Ingram, the Houston County district judge who
presided over the case; and Defendant Nancy Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. He
asserts claims against these Defendants for violations of
their oaths of office; fraud; civil conspiracy; and
violations of his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Thirteenth, and
Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See generally Docs. 1 and 1-1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
ruling on a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “the
Court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint as
true and construes them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Speaker v. U.S. Dep't of Health
& Human Servs. Ctrs. for Disease Control &
Prevention, 623 F.3d 1371, 1379 (11th Cir. 2010). In
order to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, a
complaint must satisfy the pleading standard of Rule 8 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that a
plaintiff submit a “short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8
announces does not require ‘detailed factual
allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
general, then, a pleading is insufficient if it offers only
mere “labels and conclusions” or “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action[.]” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557) (a complaint does not suffice under Rule
8(a) “if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]'
devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'”).
Thus, in order to survive Defendants' motions to dismiss,
Plaintiff's complaint “must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for
relief which is plausible on its face.'”
Urquilla-Diaz v. Kaplan Univ., 780 F.3d 1039, 1051
(11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
“A claim is factually plausible where the facts alleged
permit the court to reasonably infer that the defendant's
alleged misconduct was unlawful. Factual allegations that are
‘merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability, however, are not facially plausible.”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]
. . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If there are
“enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence” that supports the
claims alleged in the complaint, then the claim is
“plausible” and the motion to dismiss should be
denied and discovery in support of the claims should
commence. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Nevertheless,
Rule 8 “does not unlock the doors of discovery for a
plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. Ultimately, in assessing
the plausibility of a plaintiff's claims, the court is to
avoid conflating the sufficiency analysis with a premature
assessment of a plaintiff's likelihood of success because
a well-pleaded claim shall proceed “even if it strikes
a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable,
and ‘that a recovery is very remote and
unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556
(quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236
Plaintiff's Claims Based on Violation ...