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Harcrow v. Harcrow

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

September 16, 2019

MARY BETH HARCROW, Plaintiff,
v.
CLYDE HARCROW, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 53), which was filed on August 12, 2019. Through the Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommends that Defendant Longmire's and Defendant Richardson's motions to dismiss (Doc. Nos. 14, 44) be granted in part and denied in part. The Magistrate Judge further recommends that Plaintiff be granted leave to amend her complaint to include the allegations she has made in other filings that supplement her claims, and that Defendant Walker's motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 24) be granted and Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Walker in her official and individual capacities be dismissed.

         Longmire, Richardson, and Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. Nos. 54, 55). After a de novo review, and for the following reasons, the parties' objections are OVERRULED and the Report and Recommendation is ADOPTED.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.02, a district court reviews de novo any portion of a report and recommendation to which a specific objection is made. United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001). General or conclusory objections are insufficient. See Zimmerman v. Cason, 354 Fed.Appx. 228, 230 (6th Cir. 2009). Thus, “only those specific objections to the magistrate's report made to the district court will be preserved for appellate review.” Id. (quoting Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987)). In conducting the review, the court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For purposes of a motion to dismiss, a court must take all the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepts its allegations as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). Allegations of a complaint drafted by a pro se litigant are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers in the sense that a pro se complaint will be liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Longmire and Richardson

          Longmire and Richardson disagree with the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that their motions to dismiss be denied with respect to Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims and that Plaintiff be granted leave to amend her complaint. (Doc. No. 54).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must allege that each defendant (1) deprived her of a federal constitutional or statutory right (2) while acting under color of state law. Hahn v. Star Bank, 190 F.3d 708, 717 (6th Cir. 1999). In their respective motions to dismiss, Longmire and Richardson argued Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims against them failed because they were not acting under color of law for purposes of liability under Section 1983, and because Plaintiff's allegations that they aided and abetted C. Harcrow's illegal conduct were too vague to state a claim for relief. (Doc. No. 53 at 7 (citing Doc. Nos. 15, 45)). The Magistrate Judge correctly pointed out that Longmire or Richardson could be considered state actors subject to liability under Section 1983 if they conspired with a state official to violate Plaintiff's rights, and that to plead such a conspiracy, Plaintiff needed to allege “that there was a single plan, that [each] alleged coconspirator shared in the general conspiratorial objective, and that an overt act was committed in furtherance of the conspiracy that caused [Plaintiff ] injury . . .” (Doc. No. 53 at 13 (citing Memphis, Tennessee Area Local, Am. Postal Workers Union v. City of Memphis, 361 F.3d 898, 905 (6th Cir. 2004)).

         The Magistrate Judge determined Plaintiff's first amended complaint adequately alleged the first and third elements of a Section 1983 conspiracy but failed to sufficiently allege the second element, that Longmire and Richardson shared in the conspiratorial objective, because the unelaborated allegations of aiding and abetting were insufficient to demonstrate what Longmire and Richardson each did to violate Plaintiff's asserted constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 53 at 14).

         However, the Magistrate Judge noted Plaintiff's other filings contained additional pertinent factual allegations against Longmire and Richardson, including:

• Longmire and Richardson pleaded with the Doe Officers to have Harcrow arrested during the alleged trespass on September 18, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 7, 50.)
• One of the Doe Officers told Harcrow that he had “heard all about [her]” and intended to arrest ...

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