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Cox v. City of Jackson

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

September 30, 2019

STEVEN F. COX, KELLY FREEMAN, RUFUS IRVIN, KEITH FASON, ERNIE KIRK, and DAVID NAGY, Individually and on behalf of all similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF JACKSON, TENNESSEE, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          J. DANIEL BREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

         This action was initiated on February 11, 2019, by Plaintiffs Steven F. Cox and Kelly Freeman against the City of Jackson, Tennessee (the “City”); Chief of Police Julien Wiser; and City Court Clerk Daryl Hubbard pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docket Entry (“D.E.”) 1.) An amended complaint filed May 31, 2019, added Plaintiffs Rufus Irvin, Keith Fason, Ernie Kirk, and David Nagy and named the City as the sole Defendant. (D.E. 33.) The Plaintiffs sued individually and on behalf of all persons similarly situated.[1] Pending before the Court is the City's motion for judgment on the pleadings. (D.E. 44.) Plaintiffs have responded (D.E. 45), the Defendant has replied (D.E. 46), the Plaintiffs have sur-replied (D.E. 50), and the Defendant has responded to the sur-reply (D.E. 53).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The instant motion is governed by Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The same review standard is applied to motions brought under Rule 12(c) as to those filed under Rule 12(b)(6). Hindel v. Husted, 875 F.3d 344, 346 (6th Cir. 2017). That is, in analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion, courts are to “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all allegations as true to determine whether the complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Jackson v. City of Cleveland, 925 F.3d 793, 806 (6th Cir. 2019) (internal alterations & quotation marks omitted), reh'g en banc denied (June 27, 2019). “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.” Bullington v. Bedford Cty., Tenn., 905 F.3d 467, 469 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         PLAINTIFFS' ALLEGATIONS

         The amended complaint alleges the following. Plaintiff Cox was arrested by Jackson Police Department officers on March 1, 2018, and charged in Jackson City Court with aggravated assault and kidnapping. He was detained until the next day. On January 8, 2017, Freeman was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. She was also released the following day. Irvin was arrested on January 11, 2017, and charged with public intoxication. He remained in custody until January 23, 2017. Fason was taken into custody on March 8, 2016, and charged with driving on a revoked driver license and evading arrest. His detention ended on March 24, 2016. Kirk's arrest occurred on April 8, 2017, leading to a charge of driving on a revoked or suspended license. He was held in custody until April 17, 2017. Nagy was arrested on January 11, 2017, for driving on a revoked or suspended license and released on February 17, 2017.

         Plaintiffs allege that the City violated their constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to obtain properly sworn arrest warrants and/or affidavits of complaint based upon a finding of probable cause prior to arresting and detaining them, and that the municipality had an ongoing practice, policy, or custom of doing so. Plaintiffs further aver that the Defendant failed to properly train its employees in the appropriate procedures to be utilized in obtaining arrest warrants and/or affidavits of complaint. In addition, the Plaintiffs allege conspiracy among City employees to deprive them of their constitutional rights. The Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

         GOVERNING LAW

         Section 1983 Generally.

         Section 1983 provides that

[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under the statute, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) “the defendant acted under color of state law” and (2) “the defendant's conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights secured under federal law.” King v. United States, 917 F.3d 409, 432 (6th Cir. 2019), reh'g en banc denied (May 28, 2019).

         Municipal Liability.

         “Municipalities may be held liable under § 1983 for constitutional violations committed by their employees if the violations result from municipal practices or policies.” Baker v. City of Trenton, 936 F.3d 523, 535 (6th Cir. 2019) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978)). “Along with identifying the conduct properly attributable to the municipality, a plaintiff must also demonstrate that, through its deliberate conduct, the municipality was the moving force behind the injury alleged.” Rayfield v. City of Grand Rapids, ...


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