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Hughes v. City of Dallas

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

July 15, 2019



          JANE J. BOYLE, JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant City of Dallas's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, filed on Novemer 20, 2018. Doc. 9. For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Mark and Cory Hughes (“Plaintiffs”) are two brothers who attended a protest against police brutality in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016. Doc. 1, Pls.' Orig. Compl., ¶ 12. During the protest, Mark Hughes carried a long-gun as a statement affirming the Second Amendment rights of African Americans. Id. ¶ 13. Before joining the rest of the protestors, Mark Hughes presented his rifle to a law-enforcement officer for inspection. Id. ¶ 15.

         At about 8:55 p.m., shots rang out at the protest site. Id. ¶ 16. Mark Hughes, following the advice of Cory Hughes, turned his rifle over to the police to limit the risk of being mistaken for the shooter. Id. The police provided Mark Hughes with a receipt and business card so the gun could be retrieved the next day. Id. Around 10:52 p.m., the Dallas Police Department (“DPD”) released a photograph of Mark Hughes on Twitter with the caption “This is our suspect! Please help us find him!” Id. ¶ 17. After learning of the Twitter post, Mark Hughes turned himself in to the police. Id. ¶ 18. The police then placed Mark Hughes under arrest, confiscating his shirt and car keys before taking him to police headquarters. Id. Cory Hughes went to police headquarters after learning of his brother's arrest. Id. ¶ 19. Upon his arrival at police headquarters, Cory Hughes was also detained by the authorities. Id. Plaintiffs were allegedly then questioned without proper Miranda warnings, while a lawyer hired by the Hughes family was denied access to the Hughes brothers. Id. ¶ 20. After the brothers “denied any involvement with the shooting and passed forensic testing, ” they were returned to the downtown area. Id. However, the police did not return Mark Hughes's gun, car keys, or shirt at that time. Id. Additionally, the police did not remove the Twitter post identifying Mark Hughes as a suspect for two months. Id. ¶ 21. DPD also allegedly rebuffed repeated requests made by Mark Hughes that his possessions be returned. Id. ¶ 22.

         On July 9, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a complaint with this Court against the City of Dallas (“City”) and DPD alleging various federal and state claims: unlawful seizure of a person (id. ¶¶ 23-27), unlawful seizure of property (id. ¶¶ 28-31), negligent training (id. ¶¶ 32-38), conversion/trespass (id. ¶¶ 39-44), and the intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. at 11). On November 20, 2018, the City filed a motion to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. 9, Def.'s Mot. Plaintiffs filed a response on January 15, 2019. Doc. 14. Defendant replied on February 5, 2019. Doc. 17. Thus, the motion is now ripe for review.


         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes the court to dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “[t]he court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must 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). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. When well-pleaded facts fail to achieve this plausibility standard, “the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). The court will “not look beyond the face of the pleadings to determine whether relief should be granted based on the alleged facts.” Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 530 U.S. 1229 (2000).

         III. ANALYSIS

         In the Plaintiffs' original complaint, five separate claims are made for: (1) unlawful seizure of a person; (2) Fourth Amendment property seizure; (3) negligent training; (4) conversion/trespass, and; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. It is not always clear which claims are alleged against which defendant, but it appears that the City is implicated in all five claims.

         The first three claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The final two claims, conversion/trespass and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, stem from state tort law. The Court first addresses whether DPD is an entity capable of being sued at all. The Court then will discuss the state-law claims, then the § 1983 claims.

         A. DPD is a non-jural entity and cannot be sued

         Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that the capacity of an entity like DPD to be sued shall be determined by the law of the state in which the district court is seated. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(b)(3). Thus, Texas law determines whether DPD possesses the capacity to be sued. Because the City of Dallas is a home-rule municipality, Texas law grants the City the authority to organize a police force. See Tex. Loc. Gov't Code § 341.003. The City's Charter states that the City may sue and be sued, but does not grant the same right to DPD. See Dallas, Tex., Charter ch. II, § 1(2). Because the City Charter does not give DPD the power to sue or be sued, Plaintiffs may not bring suit against DPD, since it has no legal existence. Darby v. Pasadena Police Dep't, 939 F.2d 311, 313 (5th Cir. 1991) (applying similar logic to another police department); Maxwell v. Henry, 815 F.Supp. 213, 215 (S.D. Tex. 1993) (same). Plaintiffs did not respond to the City's characterization of DPD as a non-jural entity.

         The Court agrees that DPD is not capable of being sued. Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES with ...

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