United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
STEPHEN M. DOYLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Edith C. Bowman, alleges that Deputy Sheriff Teddy Hancock
sexually assaulted her twice while she was a pretrial
detainee in the Chambers County Detention Facility. Amd.
Compl. (Doc. 31) ¶¶ 7-9, 15-19, 20-24. She brings a
six-count complaint against Hancock and his alleged supervisor,
Sid Lockhart, the Sheriff of Chambers County, Alabama,
alleging Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional-tort
claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 31). Sherriff
Lockhart has moved to dismiss plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment claims, Counts III & IV, for failure to state a
claim. (Doc. 38). Sheriff Lockhart's motion is due to be
granted because pretrial detainees are protected from
unlawful force by the Fourteenth Amendment, not the Fourth.
Piazza v. Jefferson Cty., Ala., 923 F.3d 947, 952
(11th Cir. 2019).
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court
accepts the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint
as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Speaker v. HHS CDC, 623 F.3d 1371, 1379
(11th Cir. 2010). Legal conclusions are not entitled to the
presumption of truth. Am. Dental Assoc. v. Cigna,
605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010). Therefore, the court
should first eliminate any allegations that are merely legal
conclusions and then determine whether the remaining
well-pleaded factual allegations plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief. Id. Dismissal is warranted
when a dispositive legal issue precludes relief or if the
claim is based upon a meritless legal theory. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-327 (1989). The Supreme
Court instructs that “a claim must be dismissed without
regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory
or on a close but ultimately unavailing one.”
Id. at 327.
brings Fourth Amendment claims against Sheriff Lockhart for
alleged deliberate indifference to an unlawful seizure by
Hancock, Count III, and for supervisory
liability. Count IV. The amended complaint explicitly
alleges that plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time of
the alleged sexual assaults. Amd. Compl. (Doc. 31) ¶ 94.
This allegation is incorporated by reference in the Fourth
Amendment claims against Sheriff Lockhart. Amd. Compl. (Doc.
31) ¶¶ 100, 111. The amended complaint also alleges
that plaintiff was incarcerated in the Chambers County
Detention Facility following her arrest on theft charges and
failure to make bond. Amd. Compl. (Doc. 31) ¶¶ 7-9.
These well-pleaded facts further establish that plaintiff was
a pretrial detainee, not a prisoner.
Piazza, the Eleventh Circuit recently held that the
Fourteenth Amendment, not the Fourth, governs the use of
force against pretrial detainees. 923 F.3d at 951-952. The
Eleventh Circuit held that “[w]hile the Fourth
Amendment prevents the use of excessive force during arrests,
and the Eighth Amendment serves as the primary source of
protection . . . after conviction, it is the Fourteenth
Amendment that protects those who exist in the
in-between-pretrial detainees.” Id. at 952
(internal citations omitted).
argues that the Fourth Amendment's objective
reasonableness standard should apply rather than a
shocks-the-conscience due process standard. Pl's Opp.
(Doc. 43) ¶ 4. However, in Piazza the Eleventh
Circuit explains that “a pretrial detainee raising a
Fourteenth Amendment claim needn't prove an officer's
subjective intent to harm but instead need show only that the
force purposely or knowingly used against [her] was
objectively unreasonable.” Id. (internal
quotes and citation omitted). Force used against a pretrial
detainee is unconstitutional if it is more severe than is
necessary to achieve a permissible governmental objective.
Id. The Eleventh Circuit observed that
“inasmuch as it entails an inquiry into the objective
reasonableness of the officers' actions, the Fourteenth
Amendment standard has come to resemble the test that governs
excessive-force claims brought by arrestees under the Fourth
Amendment.” Id. at 952-953. Therefore,
plaintiff's inability to bring a claim directly under the
Fourth Amendment appears to have little, if any, substantive
effect and Counts III and IV are duplicative of Counts V and
also argues that her status as a trustee gave her more
freedom within the jail than typical detainees enjoy and made
her subject to seizure within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment. Pl's Opp. (Doc. 43) ¶¶ 8-11. Not
surprisingly, plaintiff cites no legal authority to support
this position. As the Eleventh Circuit makes clear in
Piazza, determining what constitutional provision
governs the use of force in a particular case turns strictly
on the legal status of the plaintiff as an arrestee, convict,
or pretrial detainee. 923 F.3d at 951-952. It does not
require a detailed factual inquiry into the amount of freedom
from restraint enjoyed by the prisoner, detainee, or arrestee
at the time force was used. Id. The court rejects
such a fact-specific test as unworkable because prisoners and
detainees are subject to widely different levels of restraint
depending on the nature of the facility in which they are
housed, their prison employment, exercise schedule, and a
myriad of other factors concerning day-to-day life in jail.
In contrast, the controlling Eleventh Circuit test turns
strictly on the plaintiff's legal status which is
relatively straight-forward to ascertain. Piazza,
923 F.3d at 951-952.
reasons stated above, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the
Magistrate Judge that Defendant Sheriff Lockhart's
Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 38) be GRANTED and that
Counts III and IV of the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 31) be
dismissed. It is further
that the parties are DIRECTED to file any objections to the
said Recommendation on or before September 20,
2019. Any objections filed must specifically
identify the findings in the Magistrate Judge's
Recommendation to which the party is objecting. Frivolous,
conclusive, or general objections will not be considered by
the District Court. The parties are advised that this
Recommendation is not a final order of the court and,
therefore, it is not appealable.
to file written objections to the proposed findings and
recommendations in the Magistrate Judge's report shall
bar the party from a de novo determination by the District
Court of issues covered in the report and shall bar the party
from attacking on appeal factual findings in the report
accepted or adopted by the District Court except upon grounds
of plain error or manifest injustice. Nettles v.
Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404 (5th Cir. 1982); see Stein
v. Reynolds Sec., Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11th Cir. 1982);
see also Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206
(11th Cir. ...