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James v. City of Russell

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

November 6, 2013

ERIC JAMES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF RUSSELL, KANSAS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Monti L. Belot UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This case comes before the court on defendants’ motion to dismiss. (Doc. 11). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision.[1] (Docs. 12, 16). Defendants’ motion is granted for the reasons herein.

I. Facts

On June 25, 2011, plaintiff Eric James was arrested for domestic battery and intentional bodily harm. At the time of his arrest, plaintiffs A.J., M.J. and I.J, James’ children, were placed in protective custody. Defendant Lonnie Whitten, an officer employed by defendant City of Russell, Kansas, placed the children into the care of their maternal grandparent.

Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that defendants Whitten and Danny Hoffman, another officer, violated plaintiffs’ civil rights. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that their Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated. Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs’ complaint on the basis that it fails to state a claim and that Whitten and Hoffman are entitled to qualified immunity.

II. Motion to Dismiss Standards: FRCP 12(b)(6)

The standards this court must utilize upon a motion to dismiss are well known. To withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)). All well-pleaded facts and the reasonable inferences derived from those facts are viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Archuleta v. Wagner, 523 F.3d 1278, 1283 (10th Cir. 2008). Conclusory allegations, however, have no bearing upon this court’s consideration. Shero v. City of Grove, Okla., 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007). In the end, the issue is not whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to support his claims. Beedle v. Wilson, 422 F.3d 1059, 1063 (10th Cir. 2005).

III. Analysis

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, any person who “under color of . . . [law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, . . . any [person] . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured.” Section 1983 was enacted to provide protections to those persons wronged by the misuse of power. While the statute itself creates no substantive civil rights, it does provide an avenue through which civil rights can be redeemed. See Wilson v. Meeks, 52 F.3d 1547, 1552 (10th Cir. 1995). To state a claim for relief in a section 1983 action, plaintiffs must establish that they were (1) deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law. See American Mfr’s. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999).

A. Fourth Amendment

1. Wrongful Arrest

Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that James was “unlawfully arrested.” (Doc. 1 at 2). The complaint does not specify, however, who arrested James or why the arrest was unlawful. When a warrantless arrest is the basis for a 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant officer lacked probable cause. Buck v. City of Albuquerque, 549 F.3d 1269, 1281 (10th Cir. 2008). In addition, a plaintiff must allege personal involvement by the defendant officer. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1156 (10th Cir. 2008)(“Individual liability under § 1983 must be based on personal involvement in the alleged constitutional violation.”)

Because James’ wrongful arrest claim fails to state a claim for which relief may be ...


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