Jeffery Richie v. Wharton Cty Shrf Dept STAR, et al
UNPUBLISHED OPINION FILED. [12-20014 Affirmed ] Judge: PEH , Judge: PRO , Judge: LHS Mandate pull date is 03/12/2013 [12-20014]
Date Filed: 02/19/2013
IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
United States Court of Appeals
FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
February 19, 2013
Lyle W. Cayce
JEFFERY ALAN RICHIE,
WHARTON COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT STAR TEAM; SERGEANT
TOMMY JOHNSON; CHIEF BILL COPELAND; SERGEANT GRADY SMITH;
TWO UNKNOWN INDIVIDUALS; DEPUTY CRAIG HOWELL; SERGEANT
RAYMOND JANSKE; ONE UNKNOWN DEPUTY; LISA ENGLAND; DR.
JULIA LAWSON, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; MARC
TIJERINA; JASON MICAM; JAMES MOLINA; RODDY RODRIGUEZ; WAYNE
DENSON; EL CAMPO POLICE DEPARTMENT; WHARTON COUNTY
SHERIFF DEPARTMENT MEDICAL DIVISION; UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
MEDICAL BRANCH, Galveston, TX; JAMES ELLIOTT,
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Southern District of Texas
USDC No. 4:09-CV-464
Before HIGGINBOTHAM, OWEN, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
Jeffery Alan Richie, Texas prisoner # 1481626, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
complaint against the Wharton County Sheriff’s Department STAR Team
Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not
be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR.
Date Filed: 02/19/2013
(“STAR Team”) and the individual officers who comprised the STAR Team; other
officers from the Wharton County Sheriff’s Department and the El Campo Police
Department; and members of the Wharton County Sheriff’s Department Medical
Division and other medical personnel.
Richie contends that various
constitutional violations occurred during the execution of a no-knock search and
arrest warrant at his home and in connection with the medical care that he
received for injuries, which he allegedly sustained during the execution of the
warrant. The district court dismissed the claims regarding Richie’s medical care
and retained the remaining claims for further proceedings.
Sergeants Grady Smith and Wayne Denson (“Smith Defendants”) moved
for summary judgment. The STAR Team, Sergeant Tommy Johnson, Chief Bill
Copeland, and Deputy Craig Howell (“the STAR Defendants”) also moved for
summary judgment and to dismiss the claims against the STAR Team; the STAR
Defendants did not seek summary judgment on a claim of excessive force against
Chief Copeland. Richie moved for summary judgment against all defendants.
The district court granted the Smith Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment, denied Richie’s motions for summary judgment, and partially granted
and partially denied the STAR Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The
district court dismissed Richie’s claims against the STAR Team on the ground
that it was not a jural entity with the capacity to be sued. The district court
retained Richie’s claims that Chief Copeland used excessive force and denied
Richie’s right to equal protection and that Sergeant Johnson failed to intervene
to protect Richie. The district court also ordered the Wharton County Sheriff’s
Department to provide the names of two unknown officers who participated in
the search; the officers were identified as Sergeant James Elliot and Deputy
The district court granted motions by the Smith Defendants, the STAR
Team, and Deputy Howell to sever their claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Date Filed: 02/19/2013
Procedure 21. The district court dismissed the claims against those defendants
with prejudice and entered a final judgment solely as to those defendants.
The district court denied Richie’s motion to alter or amend the judgment
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). The district court has stayed
the proceedings against the remaining defendants pending the resolution of this
appeal. We have jurisdiction to consider this appeal notwithstanding the
unresolved claims that remain pending in the district court. Allied Elevator, Inc.
v. E. Tex. State Bank, 965 F.2d 34, 36 (5th Cir. 1992).
Richie argues that the district court wrongly dismissed his claims against
the STAR Team. He alleges that he named the officers who are members of the
STAR Team as defendants in their individual capacities and argues that the
members of the STAR team are liable for any constitutional violation committed
by any member of the STAR Team.
Richie has not contested that the STAR Team, a group of Wharton County
Sheriff’s Department officers who have intensive training in certain areas, is a
political entity that does not enjoy a separate legal existence or that Wharton
County, the political unit that created the STAR Team, has not taken explicit
steps to grant the STAR Team independent authority. Therefore, Richie has
failed to challenge the district court’s determination that the STAR Team was
not subject to suit on the ground that it did not have the capacity to be sued. See
Darby v. Pasadena Police Dep’t, 939 F.2d 311, 313 (5th Cir. 1991).
To the extent that Richie argues that the component members of the STAR
Team, whom he identified individually, should be responsible for the acts of the
other members because they collectively constitute the STAR Team, his claim
is unavailing. He did not allege facts suggesting the existence of an agreement
between the STAR Team members to commit illegal acts and did not otherwise
raise the issue of whether there was a conspiracy among STAR Team members
to violate his constitutional rights. See Rodriguez v. Neeley, 169 F.3d 220, 222
(5th Cir. 1999). Further, Richie did not allege or set forth facts to suggest that
Date Filed: 02/19/2013
the members of the STAR Team were liable under a theory of bystander liability
for failing to prevent each other member from committing constitutional
violations. See Hale v. Townley, 45 F.3d 914, 919 (5th Cir. 1995). Also, no
liability exists under § 1983 under the theory of vicarious liability.
Thompkins v. Belt, 828 F.2d 298, 303-304 (5th Cir. 1987).
Richie argues that if the STAR Team were an improper party, he should
have been allowed to amend his complaint to name the appropriate defendants.
Nonetheless, Richie was able to allege his “best case” before his claims against
the STAR Team were dismissed, and any amendment now would be untimely.
Thus, the district court was not required to allow Richie to amend his complaint.
See Bazrowx v. Scott, 136 F.3d 1053, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998); Darby, 939 F.2d at
Richie also argues that the district court did not consider his claim that
the defendants violated the Fourth Amendment by unnecessarily destroying
property while they were executing the search and arrest warrant. Yet, the
record shows that the district court considered related claims that it construed
Richie to be raising. Also, Richie alleged that the property was destroyed by the
STAR Team. The district court dismissed all claims against the STAR Team as
not cognizable and, thus, effectively disposed of Richie’s claim. In any event,
even if the claim was overlooked, any error was harmless because Richie did not
establish that there was a genuine dispute as to a material fact. See FED. R. CIV.
P. 56(a). The summary judgment evidence established that the officers’ conduct
did not involve the excessive or unnecessary destruction of property and that any
damage was incidental to the execution of the warrant. See United States v.
Ramirez, 523 U.S. 65, 71 (1998).
Finally, Richie asserts that the manner in which he was detained during
the search was degrading and prolonged and involved an undue invasion of
privacy. While Richie arguably raised this claim in his complaint, the district
court did not address this claim in its decision on the parties’ summary judgment
Date Filed: 02/19/2013
motions. With the benefit of liberal construction, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520 (1972), Richie challenges that omission.
In light of the procedural posture of this appeal, Richie’s unreasonable
detention claim is not before this court. He has not alleged the defendants that
are the subject of this appeal committed the conduct underlying his claim. His
allegations concern defendants whose claims were severed from this action and
which remain pending in the district court (i.e., Chief Copeland, Sergeant
Johnson, Sergeant Elliot, and Deputy Molina) and we may not consider those
claims at this time. See Allied Elevator, 965 F.2d at 36. While Richie notes that
he was forced to be photographed while naked by Deputy Howell, he does not
dispute the district court’s finding that taking the pictures was reasonable and
not violative of his privacy rights. Because Richie has not contested that the
photographs were probative of matters related to the execution of the warrant
and that he had no expectation of privacy when the warrant was executed, he
has abandoned any challenge to the reasonableness of Deputy Howell’s conduct.
See Brinkmann v. Dallas Cnty. Deputy Sheriff Abner, 813 F.2d 744, 748 (5th Cir.
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