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Graham v. City of Dallas

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 26, 2019

LAKETTA GRAHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF DALLAS, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION

          IRMA CARRILLO RAMIREZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         By Special Order No. 3-251, this pro se case was referred for full case management. Based on the relevant filings and applicable law, the plaintiff's complaint should be DISMISSED with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 27, 2016, Laketta Graham (Plaintiff) filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Dallas (City). (See doc. 3; doc. 11 at 1.)[1] She alleges that on August 30, 2015, an on-duty city worker sexually assaulted her. The incident was reported to the police, and the worker pleaded guilty to sexual assault in a criminal case. The worker is no longer employed by the City. (See doc. 3; doc. 11 at 1-3.) Plaintiff claims that the City violated her constitutional rights because she has a right to be free from sexual assault. (See doc. 11 at 1, 5.) She specifically does not claim that the violation of her constitutional rights was the result of an official policy or custom of the City of Dallas. (See doc. 11 at 5.) She seeks monetary and punitive damages. (See doc. 11 at 1, 6.)

         II. PRELIMINARY SCREENING

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, her complaint is subject to screening under § 1915(e)(2). Both § 1915(e)(2)(B) provides for sua sponte dismissal of the complaint, or any portion thereof, if the Court finds it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

         III. SECTION 1983

         Plaintiff sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of her constitutional rights.

         Section 1983 “provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of a citizen's ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States” and “afford[s] redress for violations of federal statutes, as well as of constitutional norms.” Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994). To state a claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must allege facts that show (1) she has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation occurred under color of state law. See Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155 (1978); Cornish v. Corr. Servs. Corp., 402 F.3d 545, 549 (5th Cir. 2005).

         Municipalities, including counties and cities, may be held liable under § 1983. Hampton Co. Nat'l Sur., LLC v. Tunica Cty., 543 F.3d 221, 224 (5th Cir. 2008). A municipality may be liable under § 1983 if the execution of one of its customs or policies deprives a plaintiff of his or her constitutional rights. Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978); Jones v. City of Hurst, Tex., No. 4:05-CV-798-A, 2006 WL 522127, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 2, 2006) (citing Board of County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997)). It is well-settled that a municipality cannot be liable under a theory of respondeat superior, however. Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 578 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing cases). “Under the decisions of the Supreme Court and [the Fifth Circuit], municipal liability under section 1983 requires proof of three elements: a policy maker; an official policy; and a violation of constitutional rights whose ‘moving force' is the policy or custom.” Id. (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694); see also Valle v. City of Houston, 613 F.3d 536, 541-42 (5th Cir. 2010); Cox v. City of Dallas, 430 F.3d 734, 748 (5th Cir. 2005). Official municipal policy includes the decisions of a government's lawmakers, the acts of its policymaking officials, and practices so persistent and widespread as to practically have the force of law. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-95.

         “The description of a policy or custom and its relationship to the underlying constitutional violation . . . cannot be conclusory; it must contain specific facts.” Spiller v. City of Texas City, Police Dep't, 130 F.3d 162, 167 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Fraire v. City of Arlington, 957 F.2d 1268, 1278 (5th Cir. 1992)); accord Piotrowski, 237 F.3d 578-79. “[A] complaint must contain either direct allegations on every material point necessary to sustain a recovery . . . or contain allegations from which an inference fairly may be drawn that evidence on these material points will be introduced at trial.” Campbell v. City of San Antonio, 43 F.3d 973, 975 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). In Spiller, the Fifth Circuit found insufficient an allegation that “[the officer] was acting in compliance with the municipality's customs, practices or procedures.” Spiller, 130 F.3d at 167. It has also found that a single incident is not enough to infer an official policy or custom. See World Wide Street Preachers Fellowship v. Town of Columbia, 591 F.3d 747, 753-54 (5th Cir. 2009); Pineda, 291 F.3d at 329; Piotrowski, 237 F.3d at 581.

         Here, Plaintiff expressly confirmed that she does not allege that the violation of her constitutional rights was the result of an official policy or custom of the City, and she does not allege any persistent or widespread practice that caused the violation of her rights. (See doc. 11 at 5.) She has therefore failed to allege a constitutional violation by the City.

         IV. ...


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