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McCoy v. Miller

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 29, 2014

DERON McCOY, JR., Plaintiff,
DAVID L. MILLER et. al., Defendants.


JULIE A. ROBINSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Deron McCoy, Jr. filed this suit against Defendants Michael Robinson, David Miller, Chris Schultz, and Lee Campbell, in their individual and official capacities, for several constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment, seeking monetary, compensatory, and punitive damages. Before the Court is Defendants David Miller, Chris Schultz, and Lee Campbell's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 67). The matter is fully briefed and the Court is prepared to rule. The Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion to dismiss for the reasons set forth below.

I. Factual Allegations

The following facts are alleged in the Second Amended Complaint and are construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Defendants Miller, Schultz and Campbell are police officers for the Hutchinson Police Department. On October 19, 2010, Officers Miller, Schultz, and Campbell arrived at Plaintiff's residence in Hutchinson, Kansas, which he shared with his girlfriend and infant daughter. Officers knocked on the door and requested entry into Plaintiff's residence but did not provide an explanation for why they wanted to gain entry. Not until Plaintiff's trial did Officer Campbell testify that the officers were dispatched to investigate a "disturbance call." Plaintiff and his girlfriend denied the request because the officers did not have a search warrant. Plaintiff and his girlfriend further explained that no person from their residence contacted the police department, and therefore, officers had no reason to search their residence. Still, Officer Miller instructed Officer Schultz to kick open the back door of the residence to gain access. After Officer Miller kicked open the door, the officers entered the residence with their weapons drawn and pointed at Plaintiff and his girlfriend. Thereafter, Plaintiff and his girlfriend were arrested for obstruction of justice.

Plaintiff was initially released on bond for several months and then later held in the Reno County jail until completion of the proceedings in which Michael Robinson was the prosecutor. Plaintiff alleged that the Kansas court acquitted him, reasoning that a person could not be adjudged guilty of obstruction of justice while exercising his constitutional right to be free from searches and seizures.

Plaintiff then filed this action, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Eighth Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights and state law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment. In an order of February 20, 2013, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim for failure to state a claim.[1] Defendants now move for dismissal of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and Plaintiff's state law claims on the ground that the statute of limitations has run.

II. Legal Standard

Defendants move to dismiss the official and individual capacity claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and because they are entitled to qualified immunity. The requirements underlying the legal sufficiency of a claim stem from Rule 8(a), which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."[2] To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must present factual allegations, assumed to be true, that "raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " and must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."[3] "[T]he complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims."[4] The plausibility standard does not require a showing of probability that a defendant has acted unlawfully, but requires more than "a sheer possibility."[5] "[M]ere labels and conclusions, ' and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' will not suffice; a plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations to support each claim."[6] Finally, the Court must accept the nonmoving party's factual allegations as true and may not dismiss on the ground that it appears unlikely the allegations can be proven.[7]

The Supreme Court has explained the analysis as a two-step process. For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court "must take all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [but] we are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'"[8] Thus, the court must first determine if the allegations are factual and entitled to an assumption of truth, or merely legal conclusions that are not entitled to an assumption of truth.[9] Second, the court must determine whether the factual allegations, when assumed true, "plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief."[10] "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."[11]

Because Plaintiff pursues his action pro se, the Court must remain mindful of additional considerations. A pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.[12] Thus, if a pro se plaintiff's complaint can reasonably be read "to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, [the court] should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements."[13] However, it is not "the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant."[14] For that reason, the court should not "construct arguments or theories for the plaintiff in the absence of any discussion of those issues, "[15] nor should it "supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on plaintiff's behalf."[16]

III. Discussion

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts claims for violations of his Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights. "Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights, but provides a recovery for the deprivation of federal rights."[17] The statute "imposes liability for violations of rights protected by the constitution or laws of the United States, not for violations of duties of care arising out of tort law."[18] "To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law."[19] Furthermore, plaintiff must allege a violation of his own rights, and not the rights of someone else.[20]

A. Fourth Amendment Claims

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by forcibly entering his home without a warrant, consent, probable cause, or exigent circumstances. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable government intrusion on the home.[21] While there is a presumption that warrantless searches and seizures inside a home are unreasonable, that presumption can be rebutted "[w]hen faced with special law enforcement needs, diminished expectations of privacy, minimal intrusions, or the like, the Court has found that certain general, or individual, circumstances may render a warrantless search or seizure reasonable."[22] "One important exception to the warrant requirement is the presence of exigent circumstances, such as the presence of evanescent evidence or an emergency requiring the officer's aid."[23] In determining whether the risk of personal danger creates exigent circumstances, ...

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