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Richardson v. University of Texas Systems

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

October 18, 2019

JONATHAN LEE RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER

          XAVIER RODRIGUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On this day, the Court considered the partial motion to dismiss (docket no. 39) brought by Defendant Sean Callahan. After carefully considering the motion and supporting and opposing memoranda, the court grants the partial motion to dismiss.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 14, 2017, the San Antonio Police Department (“SAPD”) and University of Texas at San Antonio (“UTSA”) dispatched several police officers, including Defendant Sean Callahan (“Callahan”), who worked at UTSA-PD, to Highview Place Apartments to respond to a shooting. Callahan knocked on Plaintiff Jonathan Lee Richardson's apartment door after receiving a bystander tip that the apartment was a “trap house.” Docket no. 1-6 at 5. Plaintiff opened the door and alleges his pants started to fall as he was coming outside. Id. As Plaintiff moved to pull up his pants, Plaintiff alleges that Callahan pushed Plaintiff against a wall and then took Plaintiff to the ground. Id. Plaintiff alleges Callahan threw him onto a bed of rocks and shoved his knee into Plaintiff's back. Id. Callahan allegedly then placed Plaintiff in handcuffs and threw him down on a curb. Id.

         On February 14, 2019, Plaintiff filed his original petition in the 45th District Court in Bexar County, Texas, bringing multiple state and federal claims against multiple defendants, including Callahan individually and in his official capacity as a UTSA police officer, and UTSA. Docket no. 21. Defendants then removed to this court on March 18, 2019. Docket no.1. On May 31, 2019, this Court dismissed any § 1983 claims against UTSA and Callahan in his official capacity. Docket no. 21 at 5. The Court also dismissed without prejudice all state-law claims against UTSA pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). Id. at 12. The Court further denied Plaintiff's request for leave to amend as to UTSA. Id. at 14. Plaintiff's federal and state-law claims against Callahan individually remain. Id.

         Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint on June 21, 2019. Docket no. 25. Plaintiff again brings multiple federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and multiple state-law claims against Callahan individually and in his official capacity. Id. Plaintiff further alleges Callahan acted ultra vires during his encounter with Plaintiff, is a person under § 1983, and deprived Plaintiff of rights, privileges, and immunities afforded to him by the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Texas while “[a]cting under the color [of state] law.” Id. at 11, 14, 15, 17, 23.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Callahan moves to dismiss Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against him in his official capacity based on Eleventh Amendment immunity, and to dismiss Plaintiff's state-law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on Section 101.106 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Docket no. 39. In opposition, Plaintiff argues the § 1983 claims “preempt any conceivable provision of section [1]01.106 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.” Docket no. 40 at 10.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” to survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations; however, the plaintiff's obligation in providing the grounds for relief requires more than mere labels, conclusions, or formulaic recitals of the elements for a cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true but not conclusory allegations, legal conclusions, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Tuchman v. DSC Commc'ns. Corp., 14 F.3d 1067 (5th Cir. 1994); see also Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005) (“We do not accept as true conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions”).

         II. Section 1983 claims against Callahan in his official capacity

         Callahan argues Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against him in his official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Docket no. 39 at 3. For the reasons stated[1] below, the court agrees and grants the partial motion to dismiss these claims.

         An official capacity suit brought under § 1983 against a state official is treated as if the suit is against the state entity. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). In the instant case, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims for damages against Callahan in his official capacity are treated as suits against UTSA, which is not a “person” amenable to suits under § 1983. See Stotter v. Univ. of Tex. at San Antonio, 508 F.3d 812, 821 (5th Cir. 2007) (holding a state university is an arm of the state and not a “person” under § 1983). Further, such an action for damages brought against UTSA in federal court is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. U.S. Const. amend. XI; see Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989) (holding § 1983 does not abrogate a State's Eleventh Amendment immunity). An award for damages on an official-capacity claim would not be paid individually by Callahan, but by UTSA, and is thus barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky, 473 U.S. at 166 (clarifying recovery of damages in an official capacity suit must be from the government entity and not an official's personal assets).

         Plaintiff alleges that Callahan acted ultra vires and is thus stripped of any immunity defense. Docket no. 25 ¶ 39, 42; docket no. 40 at 4. While Eleventh Amendment immunity is broad to necessarily preserve the principles of federalism, it does not categorically bar a private citizen's suits against a state officer in their official capacity. Fontenot v. McCraw, 777 F.3d 741, 752 (5th Cir. 2015). In Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), the Supreme Court created an “exception” to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity on the theory that an ultra vires act “is simply an illegal act upon the part of a state official in attempting, by the use of the name of the state, to enforce a legislative enactment which is void because unconstitutional.” Id. “In determining whether the doctrine of Ex parte Young avoids an Eleventh Amendment bar to suit, a court need only conduct a ‘straightforward inquiry into whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing ...


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