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Mayfield v. Harvey County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, District of Kansas

March 26, 2015

Kent Mayfield and Tonya Mayfield, Plaintiffs,
v.
Harvey County Sheriff’s Department, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, JUDGE

Before the court is Harvey County defendants’[1] motion to dismiss (Dkt. 37). This case arises out of the shooting of plaintiffs Kent and Tonya Mayfield’s dog. Plaintiffs, acting pro se, brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking monetary damages against three sets of defendants: (1) the Harvey County District Court (“District Court”), (2) eight Harvey County defendants, and (3) six John/Jane Doe defendants.[2] Plaintiffs allege Fourth Amendment violations, Due Process violations, various state-law torts, and crimes against defendants. On February 11, 2015, the court dismissed all claims against the District Court. (Dkt. 49). The Harvey County defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim and further assert qualified immunity as a defense. As discussed below, plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim against defendant Bethards remains; all other claims against all other defendants are dismissed.

I. Background

Consistent with the court’s obligation to accept as true plaintiffs’ alleged facts when determining the sufficiency of a pleading, the following factual background is adopted from the complaint. (Dkt. 1).

On July 13, 2014, at about 8:30 am, Harvey County Sheriff deputies Jim Bethards and Carman Clark were driving by plaintiffs’ house. They saw two of plaintiffs’ dogs lying peacefully in plaintiffs’ front yard. Plaintiffs were not home. The deputies entered plaintiffs’ property without a warrant. Clark shot at one of the dogs and missed. Bethards then shot and killed the second dog on plaintiffs’ front porch. The deputies removed the deceased dog from the porch and covered the blood with dirt. The deputies left the scene. Plaintiffs were notified of the killing by a local witness and returned home at about 9:45 am.

Plaintiffs encountered Clark talking to a neighbor and approached them to learn about the incident. Tonya Mayfield and plaintiffs’ two children remained in plaintiffs’ pickup truck. Plaintiff Kent Mayfield approached Clark while openly carrying a firearm. Clark threatened to use deadly force unless Kent surrendered his firearm. Kent complied. Clark returned Kent’s firearm at the end of the encounter, but retained the ammunition magazine overnight. The magazine was returned the following day, July 14, 2014, but only after plaintiffs contacted the Harvey County District Attorney about the incident.

Also on July 14, 2014, plaintiffs met with Sheriff Walton and explained that they thought crimes had been committed against them. Sheriff Walton refused to make the officers apologize for their actions. At a later, unspecified date, Sheriff Walton released unspecified inflammatory information to the local media with intent to harm plaintiffs. Sheriff T. Walton, Corporal Tim Boese, Sergeant Scott Motes, Undersheriff Todd Hanchett, and other unspecified officers were aware of the allegedly criminal acts of Bethards and Clark “but did nothing to stop the criminal cover up of their actions.” (Dkt. 1, at 2).

II. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Each allegation within the complaint “must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). “The complaint must give the defendant adequate notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds of that claim.” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). The complaint must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but the complaint must state “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted). The allegations must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Where a complaint fails to sufficiently plead a plausible claim to relief, the complaint may be dismissed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

“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.” Igbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (clarifying and affirming Twombly ‘s probability standard). “While the 12(b)(6) standard does not require that [a] [p]laintiff establish a prima facie case in [his] complaint, the elements of each alleged cause of action help to determine whether [the] [p]laintiff has set forth a plausible claim.” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1192 (10th Cir. 2012).

Although pro se filings are to be construed liberally, the court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff’s complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff’s behalf.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1096 (10th Cir. 2009). “Pro se parties must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.” Hall v. Witteman, 584 F.3d 859, 864 (10th Cir. 2009).

III. Analysis

A. Plaintiffs State A Fourth Amendment Claim Against Bethards

The Fourth Amendment provides that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not ...


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