United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
REBECCA RUTHERFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court in this pro se civil rights lawsuit is a Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 52) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) filed by Defendants, the City of Dallas, Texas (the
“City”), and Dallas Police Officers Alexander
Zabriskie, Sean Robinson, Ryan Cordova, and Jon Lumbley
(collectively, the “Police Officers”) (together
with the City, “Defendants”). For the reasons
stated, the District Court should GRANT Defendants'
Morris Devon Smith's (“Smith”) claims arise
out of a July 2016 incident at a Dallas Police Department
(“DPD”) station where police officers stopped
Smith as he attempted to enter the building to use the
restroom. Am. Compl. at 4 (ECF No. 49). The officers
searched Smith for weapons and asked him why he was visiting
the police station. Id. at 4. Smith told them he
needed to use the restroom he believed was available to
public citizens. Id. At one point, he told four
police officers that he would stop coming to the police
station if the police would only stop traveling down his
residential street two to three times per day. Id.
at 6. Under the authority of the Texas Mental Health Code,
Smith was arrested without a warrant and taken to a mental
health facility. Smith alleges that, before, during, and
after the arrest, he was wrongfully denied access to a public
restroom and that the arrest was wrongful.
at least the second attempt by Smith to state a claim for
relief against the named Defendants. Smith originally sued
the City, and DPD, as well as the individual Police Officers.
Original Compl. at 1-2 (ECF No. 3). Defendants and DPD filed
a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Defs.' Mot. (ECF No. 7). The Magistrate Judge
filed formal Findings, Conclusions, and a Recommendation
(“FCR”) that the District Court grant DPD and
Defendants' motion to dismiss and allow Smith to file an
amended complaint. FCR at 8-9 (ECF No. 38). The District
Court entered an Order Accepting the FCR (ECF No. 44), and
Smith timely filed an Amended Complaint no longer naming DPD
among the other Defendants. Defendants subsequently filed
their renewed Motion to Dismiss in response to the Amended
Complaint. Smith did not file a response to the Motion.
Therefore, the Court considers the Motion without the benefit
of a response.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, a party may move to
dismiss an action when the plaintiff's complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “the
district court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and
view them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196
(5th Cir. 1996) (citing McCartney v. First City
Bank, 970 F.2d 45, 47 (5th Cir. 1992)). The well-pleaded
facts must permit the court to infer more than just the mere
possibility of misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
requires the Court to conduct a two-part test: first, the
Court must identify which allegations in the complaint are
legal conclusions because the Court need not assume those
conclusions are true; second, the Court must “consider
the factual allegations in the complaint to determine if they
plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.”
Id. at 680-81. This second determination is a
“context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. at 679 (citation omitted).
“But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the
court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,
the complaint has alleged-but is has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.' ” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
their renewed Motion to Dismiss, Defendants contend the Court
should dismiss Smith's Amended Complaint for two reasons:
(1) Smith's claims against the Police Officers are
“redundant of [his] claims against the City[;]”
and (2) the “[c]omplaint fails to plead a plausible
§ 1983 claim against the City because Smith fails to
plead facts supporting the existence of an official municipal
policy or a City custom having the force of municipal policy
which caused his injury.” Mot. at 2. Defendants raised
both of these issues with respect to Smith's original
Complaint. Def. Mot. (ECF No. 7). Indeed, the Court granted
Defendants' first motion to dismiss on the same grounds
asserted against Amended Complaint. Rather than address the
issues previously identified by the Court, Smith used his
opportunity to replead to add new details about his arrest
and dispute the veracity of police incident reports he filed
on the docket in this case. Pl.'s Notice at 15 (ECF No.
16). Smith persists in suing the Police Officers in their
official capacities and again fails to plead any damages. Am.
Compl. at 1-2. Even accepting the nonconclusory allegations
in his Amended Complaint as true, Smith has again failed to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
District Court should dismiss Smith's claims against the
Police Officers in their official capacity because those
claims are redundant of Smith's claims against the City.
“Official capacity suits ‘generally represent
only another way of pleading an action against an entity of
which an officer is an agent.'” Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (quoting Monell
v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690
n.55 (1978)). Pleading an official capacity suit is redundant
of a suit against the governmental entity. See Dreyer v.
City of Southlake, 2007 WL 2458778, at *10 (N.D. Tex.
Aug. 22, 2007) (“[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all
respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the
entity. It is not as suit against the official
personally, for the real party in interest is the
entity.”) (emphasis in original), aff'd sub
nom. Dreyer v. Yelverton, 291 Fed.Appx. 571 (5th Cir.
2008). Smith's official-capacity claims should be
dismissed because those claims are actually claims against
the City. See id. (quoting Thompson v. City of
Arlington, 838 F.Supp. 1137, 1143 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 17,
1993)) (holding that “since the official-capacity
claims are in reality claims against [the] City, the Court
will dismiss those claims as to the individual
Smith's claims against the City should be dismissed
because his Amended Complaint fails to establish municipal
liability under section 1983. Section 1983 does not create
any substantive rights but instead provides a remedy for
violations of federal statutory and constitutional rights.
Sepulvado v. Jindal, 729 F.3d 413, 420 n.17 (5th
Cir. 2013). To state a section 1983 claim, “a plaintiff
must (1) allege a violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) demonstrate
that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person [or
entity] acting under color of state law.” Whitley
v. Hanna, 726 F.3d 631, 638 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing
James v. Tex. Collin Cty., 535 F.3d 365, 373 (5th
Cir. 2008)). Smith seeks to recover from the City for the
alleged conduct of the Police Officers; however, a
municipality cannot be liable under a theory of
respondeat superior. Piotrowski v. City of
Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 578 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing
Bd. of Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403
(1997)). Rather, a plaintiff claiming municipal liability
under section 1983 must prove three elements: “(1) an
official policy (2) promulgated by the municipal policy maker
(3) was the moving force behind the violation of a
constitutional right.” Peña v. City of Rio
Grande City, 879 F.3d 613, 621 (5th Cir. 2018) (citing
Hicks-Field v. Harris Cty., 860 F.3d 803, 808 (5th
Cir. 2017)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Official
policy is defined as:
1. A policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision
that is officially adopted and promulgated by the [city]
lawmaking officers or by an official to whom the lawmakers
have delegated policy-making authority; or
2. A persistent, widespread practice of city officials or
employees which, although not authorized by officially
adopted and promulgated policy, is so common and well settled
as to constitute a custom that fairly represents [city]
policy. Actual or constructive knowledge of such custom must
be attributable to the governing body of the ...