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Sellers v. Adams

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Waco Division

April 10, 2017

COREY LAMAR SELLERS #0118204 McLennan County



         Before the Court are Plaintiff's Complaint (#1) and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (#22). Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.


         At the time he filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff was confined in the McLennan County Jail. Plaintiff asserts that he was arrested and charged following an illegal search and seizure by Defendant.

         Plaintiff alleges that police arrived at the motel where he was staying in response to a domestic disturbance call involving Plaintiff and Brittany Bishop. Defendant questioned Plaintiff and learned that Plaintiff was staying in a different room than the one where the domestic disturbance had occurred. After speaking with Defendant, Plaintiff alleges he went to another friend's room. Shortly thereafter the police knocked on the door of that room and told Plaintiff to come with them. Plaintiff was then led back to his own room where Defendant had already entered and begun a search. Plaintiff was questioned about a package containing illegal drugs that Defendant had found in the dresser in Plaintiff's room and Plaintiff denied all knowledge of the package and its contents. Compl. (#1) at 4-6. Following the alleged illegal search, Plaintiff was charged with possession of methamphetamine. Mot. (#22) at Ex. 1. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to two years in prison. Id.

         Plaintiff sues Officer Adams. He seeks $50, 000 in compensatory damages and $500, 000 in punitive damages.


         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of a case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) the complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff and all facts pleaded therein must be taken as true. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 mandates only that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” this standard demands more than unadorned accusations, “labels and conclusions, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         The Supreme Court has made clear this plausibility standard is not simply a “probability requirement, ” but imposes a standard higher than “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The standard is properly guided by “[t]wo working principles.” Id. First, although “a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint, ” that “tenet is inapplicable to legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678-79. Second, “[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         Thus, in considering a motion to dismiss, the court must initially identify pleadings that are no more than legal conclusions not entitled to the assumption of truth, then assume the veracity of well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether those allegations plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. If not, “the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Despite this, courts remain obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (reiterating longstanding rule that documents filed pro se are to be construed liberally).

         II. Application

         Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appears to argue that his constitutional rights were violated by Defendant's search of his motel room. Defendant explains that if the Court were to find that the search was unconstitutional, such a finding would attack the constitutionality of Plaintiff's conviction for possession of methamphetamine because it was only through the search that the illegal drugs were discovered. In Heck, the Supreme Court held:

[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus . . . . Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the ...

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