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Henley v. Payne

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

December 30, 2019

THOMAS BRUCE HENLEY, Plaintiff - Appellant,
TODD PAYNE, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 4:18-cv-00029-HLM

          Before WILLIAM PRYOR, MARTIN, and KATSAS, [*] Circuit Judges.


         Thomas Henley was arrested as he rode his bicycle through the grounds of the former Cloverleaf Elementary School and was charged with criminal trespass. Three weeks later he was released from jail. Then a few days after that, the trespass charge was dropped when Mr. Henley pled guilty to unrelated charges. This appeal requires us to decide whether Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364 (1994) bars Mr. Henley's civil action for false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because Heck does not apply to Mr. Henley's case, the District Court's dismissal of his § 1983 claim must be vacated. Mr. Henley also brought several other state and federal claims against officers of the Bartow County Sherriff's Office. We vacate and remand the dismissal of his state false imprisonment claim against Deputy Payne but affirm the dismissal of his other claims.



         In April 2015, Mr. Henley rented storage unit A-17 from the Cartersville Storage Company in Cartersville, Georgia. He was, at that time, homeless, and used the storage unit as temporary shelter.

         On February 24, 2016, Mr. Henley was riding his bicycle along West Felton Road, heading toward his storage unit. Mr. Henley decided to take a shortcut through the property of the defunct Cloverleaf Elementary School. The school's property line was next to that of the storage facility, and Mr. Henley had taken this shortcut on earlier occasions without incident. He says there were no signs warning against trespassing on or around the school property, but there was a sign listing the property "for sale."

         That evening, Deputy Todd Payne and at least four other deputies in the Bartow County Sheriff's Office were present on the school property. Although Mr. Henley does not allege specifically why the deputies were present that night, he does allege, on information and belief, that the school was sometimes used for tactical training of Bartow County law enforcement personnel.

         Mr. Henley entered the school property around 9:30 p.m. Within 60 seconds of his entry onto the school property, he says he was "accosted and detained" by Deputy Payne and the other deputies and put into handcuffs. Mr. Henley attempted to explain that he was trying to get to the storage facility and tried to show Deputy Payne a copy of the storage unit rental contract he kept in his backpack. Another deputy allegedly told Mr. Henley, "we don't give a damn what [you're] doing here . . . this ain't your property!"

         Mr. Henley was put under arrest and taken to the Bartow County Jail in Cartersville. At 5:51 a.m. the next day, Deputy Payne executed a warrant for Mr. Henley's arrest charging him with misdemeanor criminal trespass in violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-7-21(b)(1). The warrant states that Mr. Henley "did knowingly and without authority enter upon the [school] property without permission from [the] owner for an unlawful purpose." Mr. Henley's bond was set at $5, 000 despite his allegation, on information and belief, that the typical bond amount for a person charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass in Bartow County is $1, 000.

         Mr. Henley was held in police custody for 21 days. By his account, he experienced "extreme depression and mental anxiety" during his confinement. In 2006, Mr. Henley had been declared mentally disabled by a Social Security Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The ALJ found that Mr. Henley had various impairments, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder from having been attacked in prison during an earlier stay there.

         On March 7, 2016, Mr. Henley sent a letter by certified mail to Clark Millsap, who was then and still is the Bartow County Sheriff. In the letter, Mr. Henley told Sheriff Millsap about the events leading up to the arrest as set forth in the complaint. He also informed Sheriff Millsap of the bond. Mr. Henley described himself as a "disabled, 58-year-old man" with a "long criminal history." He concluded his letter by asking Sheriff Millsap to "please help me with this." Mr. Henley says Sheriff Millsap took no action in response to the letter.

         On March 17, 2016, Mr. Henley's mother paid a nonrefundable bond of $540 to free Henley from jail. On April 4, 2016, Mr. Henley again wrote to Sheriff Millsap, this time asking him to withdraw the trespassing warrant and reimburse his mother for the $540 bonding fee, plus $733 for his own lost Social Security wages. Mr. Henley hand-delivered the letter to Sheriff Millsap's office and requested that Millsap respond within ten days. Sheriff Millsap did not respond or take any of the corrective actions Mr. Henley requested.

         On March 22, 2016, Mr. Henley pled guilty to unrelated charges of marijuana possession and harassing phone calls that had been pending before his encounter with the officers on the school grounds. Six days later, the trespass charge against Mr. Henley was dismissed "[p]ursuant to guilty plea in another case." The state also entered a separate dismissal for several other unrelated charges. Neither dismissal referenced the details of the guilty plea.


         Mr. Henley filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis before the District Court on February 5, 2018. The District Court granted the motion and ordered that Mr. Henley's complaint and attachments be docketed for a frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         The complaint alleges the facts described above and asserts claims against Sheriff Millsap and Deputy Payne under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint alleges that the officers deprived Mr. Henley of his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Mr. Henley alleges that Deputy Payne committed the state tort (and criminal offense) of false imprisonment, as well as malicious arrest.[1] Mr. Henley also alleges both defendants "inflicted extreme depression and mental anxiety" on him, which the District Court later construed as a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). Mr. Henley alleges Sheriff Millsap displayed deliberate indifference when he failed to correct Deputy Payne's misconduct and failed to address the issues Henley raised in his March 7 letter about his excessive bail. Mr. Henley also imputes to Sheriff Millsap "all of the unlawful and unconstitutional acts" allegedly committed by Deputy Payne. He further asserts that Sheriff Millsap is liable for excessive bail in violation of Mr. Henley's rights under the Eighth Amendment. Mr. Henley requests $540 to compensate him for the bonding fee, $1, 000 in damages per defendant per day of his confinement, $5, 000 in punitive damages per defendant, and $735 in lost Social Security benefits.

         On February 7, 2018, the District Court dismissed all claims against Sheriff Millsap in his individual and official capacities, the Eighth Amendment excessive-bail claim against Deputy Payne, and all claims against Deputy Payne in his official capacity. The court ruled that Mr. Henley failed to state viable § 1983 claims against Sheriff Millsap because Henley did not allege that Millsap "personally participated" in the purported unconstitutional actions. The court declined to impute the allegations against Deputy Payne to Sheriff Millsap because "supervisors are not subject to § 1983 liability under theories of respondeat superior or vicarious liability." The court similarly dismissed the state claims against Sheriff Millsap on the ground that Mr. Henley had not shown Millsap's personal participation in any of the alleged violations. Finally, the District Court dismissed all official capacity claims because the complaint failed to allege the existence of a policy, custom, or widespread practice on the part of Bartow County or that Bartow County waived its sovereign immunity.

         The District Court did allow Mr. Henley to proceed on his § 1983 false arrest claim and his state claims of false imprisonment, malicious arrest, and IIED against Deputy Payne. Then on May 22, 2018, Deputy Payne moved to dismiss the remaining claims in the complaint. First, he argued that the § 1983 claim is barred by the favorable-termination rule of Heck v. Humphrey because Mr. Henley's trespass charge terminated pursuant to a plea agreement. Deputy Payne also asked the court to dismiss the state law claims on the grounds that malicious arrest under Georgia law requires a favorable termination, which Mr. Henley cannot show; Henley was detained pursuant to a warrant obtained the morning after his arrest, thus defeating his claim of false imprisonment; and Henley's arrest was not "extreme or outrageous" so as to sustain his IIED claim.

         The District Court granted Deputy Payne's motion to dismiss. The court agreed with the deputy that Mr. Henley's § 1983 claim was barred by Heck because Henley cannot show that the criminal trespass charge was terminated in his favor. The court stated that, having dismissed Mr. Henley's federal claims, it would not ordinarily exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state claims. The court also noted that Mr. Henley resides in Texas so "it is possible that diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 may exist." The court then dismissed the state claims on the merits. This is Mr. Henley's timely appeal.


         We review the grant of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim de novo. Hill v. White, 321 F.3d 1334, 1335 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). We also review de novo questions of subject matter jurisdiction. City of Miami Gardens v. Wells Fargo & Co., 931 F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th Cir. 2019) (per curiam). For both, the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Dixon v. Hodges, 887 F.3d 1235, 1237 (11th Cir. 2018) (per curiam); Hill, 321 F.3d at 1335. "Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than ...

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