United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants', Steven Yarbrough
(“Officer Yarbrough”) and the Town of Parrish
(collectively “Defendants”), motion for partial
judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. 27.) Plaintiff Larry Donald
Johnson alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state-law claims for
false imprisonment, conversion, theft, and negligent
practices. Defendants have moved for judgment on the
pleadings regarding Plaintiff's § 1983 Fourth
Amendment claim for unreasonable search and seizure and
state-law claim for false imprisonment. For the reasons
stated below, Defendants' motion for partial judgment on
the pleadings is due to be granted.
is a resident of the Town of Parrish, which is situated in
Walker County, Alabama. Walker County is a dry county. Under
Alabama Code § 28-4-201, et. seq., it is
unlawful to sell, offer to sell, or personally possess more
than three quarts of liquor and a case of beer, or three
quarts of wine and a case of beer, in such counties. On
August 20, 2014, Officer Yarbrough “caused or
induced” DeBrian Sudduth (“Magistrate
Sudduth”), a magistrate for the Town of Parrish, to
sign two warrants for Plaintiff's arrest for having
unlawfully possessed and sold alcoholic beverages without a
license. (Doc. 1 Ex. A at ¶¶ 11-12.) Magistrate
Sudduth set bond for each violation at $500.00 cash, and then
signed warrants purportedly “without a complaint,
affidavit, or other written statement made under oath.”
(Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.)
Yarbrough then executed the warrants despite knowing that he
had obtained the warrants “without a complaint,
affidavit, or other written statement made under oath.”
(Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.) On August 20, 2014, at
10:28 A.M., pursuant to the warrants, Officer Yarbrough
stopped, detained, arrested, and transported Plaintiff to the
Parrish Jail. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff paid the
Parrish town clerk a $1, 000.00 cash bond to secure his
release. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Afterward, Plaintiff
was required to return to court to answer the charges against
him to avoid suspension of his driver's license and
forfeiture of his cash bond. (Id. at ¶ 16.) On
October 2, 2014, the Municipal Court of Parrish acquitted
Plaintiff of all charges. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Upon
acquittal, Plaintiff made demand to the city clerk for the
return of his $1000.00 cash bond. (Id. at ¶
18.) However, the Town of Parrish had “impermissibly
spent [Plaintiff's] money, and would need time to get the
money up.” (Id.) As a result, Plaintiff was
required to wait weeks before his cash bond was returned to
him in full. (Id. at ¶ 19.)
initially filed suit against Officer Yarbrough, the Town of
Parrish, and Magistrate Sudduth in the Circuit Court of
Walker County, Alabama. Magistrate Sudduth timely removed
this action to federal court on April 7, 2017. (Doc. 1.) On
April 14, 2017, Magistrate Sudduth filed a motion to dismiss,
citing judicial immunity. (Doc. 3.) Although the Court first
granted in part and denied in part Magistrate Sudduth's
motion to dismiss, it later dismissed Plaintiff's claims
against Magistrate Sudduth on the ground of absolute judicial
immunity on August 3, 2018. (See Docs. 16 & 23.)
The Court's scheduling order set a deadline for Plaintiff
to add new causes of action by March 29, 2019. (Doc. 26.) On
March 1, 2019, Officer Yarbrough and the Town of Parrish
filed the present motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc.
27.) Plaintiff filed a response brief on April 4, 2019. (Doc.
30.) In his response brief, Plaintiff requested leave to
amend his Complaint to state a malicious prosecution claim.
12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are
closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move
for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).
“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 West Palm Beach, 250 F.3d 1299, 1301 (11th Cir.
2001). “In determining whether a party is entitled to
judgment on the pleadings, [the Court] accept[s] as true all
material facts alleged in the non-moving party's pleading
. . . view[ing] those facts in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party.” Perez v. Wells Fargo,
N.A., 774 F.3d 1329, 1335 (11th Cir. 2014). A motion for
judgment on the pleadings is governed by the same standard as
a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Carbone
v. Cable News Network, Inc., 910 F.3d 1345, 1350 (11th
Cir. 2018). Accordingly, to survive a motion for judgment on
the pleadings, “a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted).
“A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”
Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Plaintiff's Implied Motion for Leave to Amend his
it can rule on Defendants' motion, the Court must first
determine whether to grant leave for Plaintiff to amend his
Complaint. Count One of Plaintiff's Complaint asserts a
cause of action under the Fourth Amendment pursuant to §
1983 for unreasonable search and seizure. In prior
submissions to this Court, Plaintiff has referred to this
claim as a claim of false arrest. However, the fact that
Officer Yarbrough obtained two warrants prior to arresting
Plaintiff belies any claim for false arrest. See Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 484 (1994) (“[U]nlike the
related cause of action for false arrest or imprisonment,
[malicious prosecution] permits damages for confinement
imposed pursuant to legal process.”); Carter v.
Gore, 557 Fed.Appx. 904, 906-07 (11th Cir. 2014)
(“The issuance of a warrant-even an invalid one as
[Plaintiff] alleges was issued here-constitutes legal
process, and thus, where an individual has been arrested
pursuant to a warrant, his claim is for malicious prosecution
rather than false arrest.”).
in his response to Defendants' motion for partial
judgment on the pleadings, asks the Court either to (1) grant
Plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint and re-characterize
his § 1983 Fourth Amendment claim as a claim for
malicious prosecution; or (2) construe his unreasonable
search and seizure claim under a malicious prosecution
courts are required to enter a scheduling order that
“limit[s] the time to join other parties [and] amend
the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3). The scheduling
order “controls the course of the action unless the
court modifies it, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(d), and “may
be modified only for good cause and with the judge's
consent, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). This good cause
standard precludes modification unless the schedule
“cannot be met despite the diligence of the party
seeking the extension.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16, Advisory
Committee's Note to 1983 Amendment.
to the scheduling order in the instant case, Plaintiff could
not add causes of action after March 29, 2019. (Doc. 26.)
Plaintiff's response requesting leave to amend was filed
on April 4, 2019. As a result, Plaintiff's request falls
outside of the Court's scheduling order deadline for
amendments, and Plaintiff must demonstrate good cause for his
delay in seeking to amend his Complaint.
has not demonstrated good cause for his delay. This case has
been pending for over two years. During this time, Plaintiff
has already litigated his Fourth Amendment claim under a
search and seizure theory against Magistrate Sudduth, who has
been dismissed on the grounds of judicial immunity. Although
Magistrate Sudduth was dismissed in August 2018, Plaintiff
did not request leave to amend his Complaint until April
2019, a delay of more than eight months. Plaintiff has not
attempted to make any showing to this Court as to why he
failed to seek leave to amend despite having ample time to do
so. As a result, Plaintiff has failed to show good cause as
required to amend his Complaint at this late stage.
the Court notes that its decision to deny Plaintiff's
requested amendment does not impact the outcome of this case.
To establish a § 1983 false arrest claim, a plaintiff
must show that the arrest occurred without a warrant or
probable cause. See Herren v. Bowyer, 850 F.2d 1543,
1547 (11th Cir. 1988). To establish a § 1983 malicious
prosecution claim, a plaintiff must prove two things: (1) the
elements of the common law tort of malicious prosecution;
and (2) a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights
to be free from unreasonable seizures. Grider v. City of
Auburn, Ala., 618 F.3d 1240, 1256 (11th Cir. 2010). In
Alabama, the common-law elements of malicious prosecution
are: “(1) a criminal prosecution instituted or
continued by the present defendant; (2) with malice and
without probable cause; (3) that terminated in the
plaintiff accused's favor; and (4) caused damage to the
plaintiff accused.” Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d
872, 881-82 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing Delchamps, Inc. v.
Bryant, 738 So.2d 824, 831-32 (Ala. 1999) (emphasis
of whether a warrant issued, Plaintiff would need to prove
that Officer Yarbrough lacked probable cause to prevail on
either a false arrest or a malicious prosecution claim. As
discussed below, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to allege
facts plausibly indicating a lack of probable cause for his
arrest. Plaintiff's attempt to amend his cause of action
thus would have no effect on the Court's decision.
Plaintiff will not be granted leave to amend his Complaint at
this late stage to add factual allegations that may support a
malicious prosecution claim.
Plaintiff's § 1983 Claim Against ...