United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
RICHARD B. FARRER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Order concerns the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, Captain Joel Janssen,
Lieutenant Darren Williams, Sergeant Roxanne Mathai, and
Deputy Officer Pedro Correa. See Dkt. No. 14. Also
at issue are two documents filed as “motions”
that the Court has, in the interest of justice, construed as
responses by Plaintiff Richard Anthony Montez to the Motion
to Dismiss. See Dkt. No. 20 (order explaining that
the two motions will be construed as responses to the Motion
to Dismiss). The parties have consented to trial by a
magistrate judge, and authority for this Order therefore
stems from those consents and 28 U.S.C. 636(c). See
Dkt. Nos. 11, 15 (consents) & 18 (reassignment order).
Defendants' motion requests dismissal of Montez's
claims or, in the alternative, an order directing Montez to
file a more definite statement.
motion has merit. But the Court is mindful of its obligation
to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's complaint.
Accordingly, before Montez's claims are dismissed, Montez
will be ordered to file-within 30 days from the date of this
Order-a more definite statement to address the issues
discussed in this Order. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).
Montez is advised that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8(a)(2) requires a complaint to contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
the Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 14, is GRANTED IN
PART, and Montez will be required to file a more
Factual and Procedural Background
claims at issue arose while Plaintiff Montez was a pretrial
detainee in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center (BCADC).
At their core, the claims involve the alleged confiscation of
Montez's belongings and other actions by BCADC officers
following an incident at the BCADC that didn't directly
involve Montez. Dkt. No. 1 at 4-5. Montez further alleges
that BCADC personnel made threatening remarks and improperly
handled his grievances, and that one officer shined a
flashlight in his eyes, causing headaches and vision
problems. Montez also complains about allegedly unsanitary
conditions at the BCADC. Dkt. No. 6 at 1-2. In addition to
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, Montez names four BCADC
officers as Defendants: Sergeant Mathai; Deputy Officer
Correa; Lieutenant Williams; and Captain Janssen.
filing his Complaint, Montez filed three advisories. Dkt.
Nos. 4, 5, 6. The first, Dkt. No. 4, corrects an error in the
Complaint. The second, Dkt. No. 5, corrects another error and
provides additional allegations. The third, Dkt. No. 6,
raises further allegations concerning allegedly unsanitary
conditions at the BDADC.
filed a motion to dismiss in April of 2019. In lieu of a
response, Montez filed two documents (shortly after the
motion to dismiss and in late May of 2019, respectively)
styled as “motions, ” Dkt. Nos. 16, 19, which the
Court will construe as responses to the motion to dismiss
because they address and take issue with the Motion to
discussed further below, the Motion to Dismiss has merit. But
in the interest of justice, and given Montez's pro se
status, the Court will order a more definite statement
instead of dismissing the action at this time. See Great
Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter &
Co., 313 F.3d 305, 329 (5th Cir. 2002) (noting that
court should allow a plaintiff at least one opportunity to
cure pleading deficiencies before dismissing a case,
“unless it is clear that the defects are incurable or
the plaintiffs advise the court that they are unwilling or
unable to amend in a manner that will avoid
dismissal”). Matters that ought to be addressed in
Montez's more definite statement are discussed next.
liability. It's not entirely clear whether
Montez's claims against Sheriff Salazar are lodged
against the Sheriff in his official or individual capacity.
Claims lodged against a public official, like the Sheriff, in
his “official capacity” are claims against the
governmental entity the official represents-in this case,
Bexar County. Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 27 (1991);
Brooks v. George County, Miss., 84 F.3d 157, 165
(5th Cir. 1996). Here, to the extent there is an
official-capacity claim, it must be clarified. As currently
alleged, there's no factual basis provided capable of
supporting the imposition of municipal liability.
the claims against the Sheriff as claims against Bexar County
brings us to the well-settled proposition that a county
cannot be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for the
actions of its employees. See Monell v. New York City
Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978).
Montez, however, nonetheless asserts that the basis for
Sheriff Salazar's (i.e., the County's)
alleged liability is his status as “the employer”
of BCADC personnel and “the company[']s
head[.]” Dkt. Nos. 1 at 3; 5 at 3. To state a claim for
municipal liability upon which relief may be granted, a
plaintiff must allege facts that, if taken as true, reflect
an injury caused by some official policy, practice, or custom
of the governmental entity. See id. at 691; Bd.
of County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403-04
(1997). Montez fails to allege any such facts, and he offers
only a scattered few conclusory assertions along these lines.
Cf. Cantu v. Moody, 933 F.3d 414, 421 (5th
Cir. 2019) (noting the insufficiency of “conclusions
without any factual allegations to support them”)
(citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681).
clear, Montez alleges no facts suggesting that any policy,
practice, or custom of Bexar County, or any widespread
pattern or longstanding custom or practice on the part of
Bexar County's Deputy Sheriffs, harmed him in a way that
could support a colorable § 1983 claim. In his first
“response, ” Montez merely asserts, without any
factual support, that there is a policy or practice of
officers confiscating various items belonging to detainees
and thereby denying them access to materials necessary for
hygiene. See Dkt. No. 16. This revised version of
Montez's claim fails not only because it is too
conclusory but also because state law supplies an adequate
remedy via a claim for conversion. See DeMarco v.
Davis, 914 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2019) (citing
Murphy v. Collins, 26 F.3d 541, 543 (5th Cir.
1994)). Moreover, a claim for the denial of access of
materials necessary for maintaining hygiene is not
actionable, and is properly dismissed, if “some measure
of hygiene [was] provided” and the allegations do not
describe extreme conditions. Ruiz v. LeBlanc, 643
Fed.Appx. 358, 362 (5th Cir. 2016) (quotation omitted).
doesn't allege facts consistent with a failure-to-train
or inadequate-training claim. And even if he did, any such
claim would fail here because there is alleged no
“pattern of similar incidents” and no allegation
capable of supporting a conclusion that the inadequacy of the
training provided was both “obvious and obviously
likely to result in a constitutional violation.”
Snyder v. Trepagnier, 142 F.3d 791, 798 (5th Cir.
1998); Cozzo v. Tangipahoa Par. Council-President