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Hamilton v. Judicial Correctional Services LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 13, 2019

EMERSON HAMILTON, et al., Plaintiffs,



         This matter is before the court on CHC Companies, LLC's (“CHC”) and Correct Care Solutions, LLC's (“CCS”) Motion to Dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 74). The Motion has been fully briefed and is under submission. (Docs. # 76, 80).

         I. Background

         This case is one of a series of several cases, primarily putative class action suits, that have been brought against Judicial Correction Services, Inc. (“JCS”), corporate entities related to JCS, and municipalities that contracted with JCS for probation supervision services. (Doc. # 72).[1] In these cases, the court has ruled on numerous motions to dismiss, several substantive dispositive motions following discovery, and one motion for class certification.

         Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint in this case, like the complaints in all of the other cases, focuses on probation services provided by JCS to various municipalities in the state of Alabama. (Doc. # 72). The vast majority of the well-pleaded facts in the Fourth Amended Complaint relate to JCS. (Id.). Based on a careful review of the Fourth Amended Complaint, the only well-pleaded (i.e., non-conclusory) facts alleged regarding CHC and CCS are (1) that “CHC merged with Defendant JCS on September 30, 2011”, and (2) that “CCS purchased Defendant CHC in 2014.” (Doc. # 72 at ¶¶ 20-21). The remaining allegations are wholly conclusory. For example, Plaintiffs allege “CHC directed and controlled Defendant JCS's operations . . . .” (Doc. # 72 at ¶ 20) and “CCS . . . directed and controlled Defendant JCS's operations . . . .” (Doc. # 72 at ¶ 21). Plaintiffs further allege “[e]ach of the plaintiffs [] was sentenced to probation, which Defendant JCS, Defendant CHC, and/or Defendant CCS extended beyond two (2) years.” (Doc. # 72 at ¶ 24)). To further illustrate the conclusory nature of the allegations regarding CHC and CCS, the court notes that Plaintiffs allege “Plaintiff Antonio Calhoun was continuously kept on probation by Defendants JCS, CHC and CCS for approximately six (6) years, from February 12, 2009, through at least February 5, 2015.” (Doc. # 72 at ¶ 29). Interestingly, according to earlier allegations of the Fourth Amended Complaint, CHC did not “merge” with JCS until 2011, and CCS did not “purchase” JCS until 2014. (Doc. # 72 at ¶¶ 20-21). Therefore, it is not plausibly alleged that either CHC or CCS kept Mr. Calhoun on probation from 2009 through 2015. There are similar examples of this type of conclusory factual allegations in the amended pleading.

         Plaintiffs make no effort, in this fourth iteration of their Complaint, to provide supporting factual detail to flesh out these conclusory allegations regarding CHC and CCS.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the 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).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 Fed.Appx. 136, 138 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If the court determines that all of the well-pleaded facts, accepted as true, do not state a claim that is plausible, the claims are due to be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         III. Analysis

         Count I of the Fourth Amended Complaint asserts a Violation of Due Process claim presumably against all Defendants. (Doc. # 72 at ¶¶ 22-43). Counts II, III, and IV contain Civil Conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 involving different municipal courts, again presumably against all Defendants. (Doc. # 72 at ¶¶ 44-68). Count V contains a Money Had and received claim, against presumably against all Defendants.

         A. Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint Is An Impermissible Shotgun Pleading

         Each count of the Fourth Amended Complaint adopts and incorporates by reference all previous allegations. (Doc. # 72 at ¶¶ 22, 44, 58, 65, and 69). The Eleventh Circuit has explained that “[t]he typical shotgun complaint contains several counts, each one incorporating by reference the allegations of its predecessors, leading to a situation where most of the counts (i.e., all but the first) contain irrelevant factual allegations and legal conclusions.” Strategic Income Fund, L.L.C. v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Wagner v. First Horizon Pharm. Corp., 464 F.3d 1273, 1279 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Shotgun pleadings are those that incorporate every antecedent allegation by reference into each subsequent claim for relief or affirmative defense.”). Shotgun pleadings violate rule 8(a)(2)'s direction that the pleading provide a “short and plain statement” of a plaintiff's claims and Rule 8(d)(1)'s direction that each allegation “be simple, concise, and direct.” ...

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