United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
section 1983 matter is before the Court on Defendant Frankie
Byrne's Motion to Dismiss, [Doc. 9], the case in her
individual and official capacities pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6). The plaintiff has responded, [Doc. 11], and the
matter is ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, the
motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
Court must take the allegations in the Complaint as true. The
plaintiff is a Knox County resident, and Defendant Byrne is
employed by Knox County as an Animal Control Officer. Knox
County Ordinance section 6-34 limits the number of dogs that
may be housed in a Knox County residence. It also imposes a
duty upon the Animal Control Officers to provide advanced
notice to citizens, allowing the citizens the opportunity to
remedy any alleged overcrowding. In addition, the Ordinance
allows a citizen to produce a veterinarian recommendation to
obtain an exception to the Ordinance. The Ordinance states in
pertinent part: . . . .
(c) If it is determined that a person is in violation of this
section, such person shall be allowed 30 days from the notice
of violation to correct such violation. . . . .
(e) If all dogs and/or cats have been vaccinated and
inoculated against disease as recommended by a veterinarian
and such veterinarian will attest that such dogs and/or cats
are properly cared for, the animal control division may
exempt any restriction as specified in this section.
Byrne obtained a search warrant for the plaintiff's
property on the basis that the plaintiff was keeping more
dogs on the property than were allowed. On March 24, 2015,
Defendant Byrne served the search warrant upon the plaintiff
at 2003 Marshy Swamp Point, Knoxville, Tennessee, without any
prior notice. On that day, the county seized the animals and
then kept them at the local animal shelter. The county's
veterinarian examined the animals and determined that they
were in good health and properly kept. Subsequently, however,
the county charged the plaintiff with violating Tennessee
Code Annotated section 39-14-202, the animal cruelty statute.
Then, on March 27, 2015, the county condemned the
plaintiff's property, and she was forced to move. The
charges were eventually dropped, and the plaintiff paid the
animal shelter $1, 700 to retrieve her dogs.
plaintiff alleges in her Complaint that prior to March 24,
2015, she obtained a letter from her animals'
veterinarian, Dr. Patrick Hackett, who affirmed that the
plaintiff had met conditions for exception to Ordinance 6-34.
The plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Byrne knew the
plaintiff had obtained this letter, but did not include this
information in her application for a search warrant.
Standard of Review
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
eliminates a pleading or portion thereof that fails to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). Moreover, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)
requires the complaint to contain a “short plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6) requires the Court to construe the
allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff and accept all the complaint's factual
allegations as true. Meador v. Cabinet for Human
Res., 902 F.2d 474, 475 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court may
not grant a motion to dismiss based upon a disbelief of a
complaint's factual allegations. Lawler v.
Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1199 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court
must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the party
opposing the motion. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373,
377 (6th Cir. 1995). However, the plaintiff must allege facts
that, if accepted as true, are sufficient “to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level, ” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and
to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face, ” id. at 570; see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (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.”
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. Moreover, this Court need
not “‘accept as true a legal conclusion couched
as a factual allegation.'” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S.
265, 286 (1986)); see also Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at
678. Lastly, this Court may consider documents central to the
plaintiff's claims to which the complaint refers and
incorporates as exhibits. Amini v. Oberlin College,
259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001).
defendant moves to dismiss all Counts against her in her
individual and official capacities. This Court will address
each issue in turn.
defendant argues that the suit against her in her official
capacity is redundant because plaintiff has sued Knox County,
Tennessee. It is clearly established that official capacity
suits are, in all respects other than name, to be treated as
a suit against the governmental entity. See Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). The Sixth Circuit has
directed district courts that official capacity suits should
be dismissed where the same claims are also brought against
the county. Jackson v. Shelby County ...