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Brown v. Taylor

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

May 16, 2019

CLARENCE D. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLISON TAYLOR, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John McBrite United States Distract Judge

         Came on for consideration the motion of defendants Tarrant County, Texas ("County"), and Dee Anderson ("Sheriff") to dismiss. Also came on for consideration the motion of plaintiff, Clarence D. Brown, for leave to file third amended complaint and/or supplement to plaintiff's second amended complaint. The court, having considered the motions, the responses, the replies, the record, and applicable authorities, finds that the motion to dismiss should be granted and that the motion for leave to amend should be denied.

         I.

         Background

         On October 1, 2012, plaintiff filed his original complaint in this action complaining of his treatment as a civilly committed sexually violent predator between 2011 and 2012. Doc.[1]1. The court dismissed plaintiff's claims, Docs. 17 & 18, and plaintiff appealed. Doc. 21. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded the action for further proceedings. Docs. 45 & 46 . On October 26, 2016, plaintiff filed his amended complaint. Doc. 55. By order and final judgment signed October 27, 2016, court ordered a dismissal of certain claims and parties, Docs. 57 & 58, and, by-memorandum opinion and order and final judgment signed November 4, 2016, the court dismissed the remaining claims asserted by plaintiff. Docs. 62 & 63. The court also denied plaintiff leave to file a further amended complaint (which had been filed November 3, 2016, Doc. 60, and which although titled both "original" and "first amended" complaint was actually the second amended complaint). Doc. 61. Plaintiff again appealed. Doc. 64. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. Doc. 72.

         Pursuant to the Fifth Circuit's mandate, plaintiff was allowed to proceed with his second amended complaint.[2] The only claims that remain pending are plaintiff's due process claims against Sheriff and County, and a retaliation claim against Greg Basham.[3] Doc. 72; Doc. 73.

         II.

         Grounds of the Motion to Dismiss

         County and Sheriff assert three grounds in support of their motion. First, Sheriff is entitled to qualified immunity. Second, plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to establish a plausible municipal liability claim against County. And, third, service of process on Sheriff was defective.[4]

         III.

         Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Pleading Standards

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in a general way, the applicable standard of pleading. It requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), "in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks and ellipsis omitted). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the "showing" contemplated by Rule 8 requires the plaintiff to do more than simply allege legal conclusions or recite the elements of a cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & n.3. Thus, while a court must accept all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, it need not credit bare legal conclusions that are unsupported by any factual underpinnings. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) ("While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.").

         Moreover, to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the facts pleaded must allow the court to infer that the plaintiff's right to relief is plausible. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. To allege a plausible right to relief, the facts pleaded must suggest liability; allegations that are merely consistent with unlawful conduct are insufficient. Id. In other words, where the facts pleaded do no more than permit the court to infer the possibility of misconduct, the complaint has not shown that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 679. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         B• Qualified Immunity

         Qualified immunity insulates a government official from civil damages liability when the official's actions do not "violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). For a right to be "clearly established," the right's contours must be "sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right." Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987). Individual liability thus turns on the objective legal reasonableness of the defendant's actions assessed in light of clearly established law at the time. Hunter v. Bryant. 502 U.S. 224, 228 (1991); Anderson, 483 U.S. at 639-40. In Harlow, the court explained that a key question is "whether that law was clearly established at the time an action occurred" because "[i]f the law at that time was not clearly established, an official could not reasonably be expected to anticipate subsequent legal developments, nor could he fairly be said to 'know' that the law forbade conduct not previously identified as unlawful." 4 57 U.S. at 818. In assessing whether the law was clearly established at the time, the court is to consider all relevant legal authority, whether cited by the parties or not. Elder v. Holloway, 510 U.S. 510, 512 (1994). If public officials of reasonable competence could differ on the lawfulness of defendant's actions, the defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015); Malley V. Brigqs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986); Fraire v. City of Arlington, 957 F.2d 1268, 1273 (5th Cir. 1992)." [A] n allegation of malice is not sufficient to defeat immunity if the defendant acted in an objectively reasonable manner." Malley, 475 U.S. at 341.

         In analyzing whether an individual defendant is entitled to qualified immunity, the court considers whether plaintiff has alleged any violation of a clearly established right, and, if so, whether the individual defendant's conduct was objectively reasonable. Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 231 (1991); Duckettv. City of Cedar Park, 950 F.2d 272, 276-80 (5th Cir. 1992). In so doing, the court should not assume that plaintiff has stated a claim, i.e., asserted a violation of a constitutional right. Siegert, 500 U.S. at 232. Rather, the court must be certain that, if the facts alleged by plaintiff are true, a violation has clearly occurred. Connelly v. ...


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