King v. Alabama Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER as follows: 1) The 7 Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to all claims against the AL DOC; 2) The 7 Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to all claims for damages against the individual Dfts in their official capacity, but den ied as to claims for prospective injunctive relief; 3) The 7 Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to Count Three, and Count Three is hereby DISMISSED without prejudice; 4) The 7 Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as to the fictitious parties; 5) The case will proceed against the remaining parties on Count Two and Count Four. Signed by Honorable Judge W. Harold Albritton, III on 7/2/2012. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist) (wcl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, M. FOSTER,
A. JAMES, SGT. LIGON, ABC, DEF,
GHI, JKL Designating the person, entity
or agency who or which conspired,
with, participated in the deprivation
of Plaintiff’s civil rights or was
deliberately indifferent thereto.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case is before the court on a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #7), filed by the Defendants,
the Alabama Department of Corrections (“Department of Corrections”), Sergeant Larry Ligon
(“Ligon”), and Mose Foster (“Foster”). The Plaintiff filed a Complaint (Doc. # 1) in this case on
March 30, 2012, and an Amended Complaint (Doc. # 2) on April 3, 2012. In the Amended
Complaint, the Plaintiff brings claims for conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985
(Count Two),1 excessive force (Count Three), and deliberate indifference (Count Four) against
Department of Corrections, Foster, A. James, Ligon, and fictitious Defendants.
The Defendants Department of Corrections, Ligon, and Foster have moved to dismiss the
Amended Complaint, and also to notify the court that Defendant A. James is no longer employed
The factual allegations of the Amended Complaint are contained within a section
labeled “Count One.”
with the Department of Corrections and has not been properly served in this case. The Plaintiff
filed a Response to the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 19) on June 15, 2012, and the
Defendants filed a Reply to the Plaintiff’s Response on June 21, 2012. (Doc. # 20).
For reasons to be discussed, the Motion to Dismiss is due to be GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
II. MOTION TO DISMISS
The court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, Hishon v. King & Spalding,
467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), and construes the complaint in the plaintiff's favor, Duke v. Cleland, 5
F.3d 1399, 1402 (11th Cir. 1993). In analyzing the sufficiency of pleading, the court is guided
by a two-prong approach: one, the court is not bound to accept conclusory statements of the
elements of a cause of action and, two, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court
should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to entitlement
to relief. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).
“[A] plaintiff's obligation to
provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions,
and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Id. (citation omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations,” but instead the complaint must contain
“only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. The factual
allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555.
The allegations of the Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint are as follows:
The Plaintiff is incarcerated in the Alabama Department of Corrections’ Easterling
Correctional Center in Clio, Alabama. He is currently serving out a ten year sentence stemming
from his conviction of robbery in the first degree in the Circuit Court of Calhoun County,
On November 29, 2011, Defendants Foster and James, employees of the Department of
Corrections, collected King from his cell and handcuffed him behind his back. The two
Defendants then took him to an administrative hearing over which Defendant Ligon was to
preside. During the hearing, Foster struck King, who was still in handcuffs, in the face in front
of Ligon and another unidentified officer. After witnessing Foster strike King, Ligon told Foster
to take King out of the hearing. Once back in King’s cell, Foster and James began to beat King
until he became unconscious. While King was in a diminished state because of the physical
assault, three other unidentified officers beat King. King states that he suffered injuries to his
face, nose, back, neck, wrist, and arm, suffered hearing loss, and therefore, he brings claims for
damages against all Defendants.
The Defendants have moved to dismiss three different portions of the Plaintiff’s
Amended Complaint. First, the Defendants have moved to dismiss all claims against the
Department of Corrections as well as against the individual Defendants in their official capacity
pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment. Second, the Defendants have moved the court to dismiss
the Plaintiff’s conspiracy claim for failure to state a claim. Lastly, the Defendants have moved
to dismiss all fictitious parties from the Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint alleging that there is no
ficitious party practice under federal law. The court will address each contention in turn.
The Defendants have moved to dismiss all claims against the Department of Corrections,
and the claims for damages against the individual Defendants in their official capacities.
The Supreme Court has explained that “[i]t is clear, of course, that in the absence of
consent a suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant
is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment.” Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465
U.S. 89, 101 (1990). “This jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief
sought.” Id.; Zatler v. Wainwright, 802 F.2d 397, 400 (11th Cir. 1986) (citing Quern v. Jordan,
440 U.S. 332, 340-45 (1979)) (no abrogation of state immunity for § 1983 claims); Fincher v.
State of Florida Dept of Labor and Emp’t Security-Unemployment Appeals Comm’n, 798 F.2d
1371, 1372 (11th Cir. 1986) (same as to § 1985 actions). According to the Amended Complaint,
the Alabama Department of Corrections is an agency of the state of Alabama. (Doc. # 2, ¶ 4).
As such, this court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the Plaintiff’s claims for damages or injunctive
relief against the Department of Corrections.
As to the individual Defendants in their official capacity, the Eleventh Amendment also
bars federal damage suits against state officials in their “official capacity” because such actions
seek recovery from state funds. Hobbs v. Roberts, 999 F.2d 1526, 1528 (11th Cir. 1993). The
Plaintiff argues, and the Defendants agree, that these individuals, in their official capacity, are
still subject to prospective injunctive relief. See, e.g., Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 167 (1908).
However, the Plaintiff is unable to refute the well settled law which bars a suit for monetary
damages against individuals employed by a state agency acting in their official capacity.
The Motion to Dismiss is, therefore, due to be GRANTED as to all the claims against the
Alabama Department of Corrections, and as to all the claims for monetary damages against each
individual Defendant in his official capacity.
The Defendants have also moved to dismiss Count Two of the Amended Complaint,
arguing that the Plaintiff has failed to adequately allege a conspiracy claim. The Defendants
argue that the Amended Complaint contains only a conclusory allegation of conspiracy and does
not articulate the nature and scope of the conspiracy. The Plaintiff counters in his Response
Brief by simply reciting the elements of a conspiracy claim, see Denney v. City of Alabany, 247
F.3d 1172, 1190 (11th Cir. 2001), and by providing a conclusory statement that all the officers
acted in concert with one another.
The Plaintiff’s allegations from the Amended Complaint regarding conspiracy are merely
that the Defendants “unlawfully deprived and conspired to deprive the plaintiff of his legal
rights. . . .” (Doc. # 2). Neither this conclusory allegation nor the conclusory allegations from
the Plaintiff’s Response Brief is sufficient to state a claim for conspiracy. The Eleventh Circuit
has explained that the court’s first step in analyzing the allegation of a conspiracy is to
“eliminate any allegations in the Plaintiff’s complaint that are merely legal conclusions.” Am.
Dental Ass’n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1293 (11th Cir. 2010). After having done so, there
is nothing left in the Amended Complaint to prove a conspiracy on behalf of the Defendants
other than each one’s parallel conduct. Such conduct is insufficient to establish a claim of
conspiracy. See id. at 1294-95.
The conspiracy claim is, therefore, due to be dismissed. The Plaintiff will have an
opportunity to re-plead the claim in order to set forth a factual basis for this claim, if he wishes to
Lastly, the Defendants seek dismissal of the fictitious parties in this case stating that the
use of such designations is improper in federal court. In response, the Plaintiff cites cases
standing for the proposition that “the use of fictitious names in federal-court pleadings, while not
ideal, is both commonplace and sensible.” Mann v. Darden, 630 F. Supp. 2d 1305, 1312 (M.D.
Ala. 2009) (citing Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980)). The Mann opinion
also states that “plaintiffs can use fictitious names for real defendants when it appears that, for
example, discovery will reveal the defendant’s actual name.” Mann, 630 F. Supp. 2d at 1312
(citing Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1215–16 (11th Cir.1992)). The Plaintiff seeks to retain
these Defendants for purposes of relation back to the time of filing. See id. However, the
Defendants cite Richard v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734 (11th Cir. 2010), for the proposition that “[a]s
a general matter, fictitious-party pleading is not permitted in federal court” subject to a few
limited exceptions. Id. at 738. The present case, one in which an individual has identified real
parties and used specific descriptors which could readily lead to identification of the unknown
parties after discovery, is one such exception. See Dean, 951 F.2d at 1215-16.
Because the issues have not been raised, the court will not decide at this point in the case
whether the Plaintiff will be able to satisfy the relation back rule based on the identification of
the Defendants he has provided in the Amended Complaint, or whether his designation is
otherwise sufficient. However, the court declines to dismiss the fictitiously named Defendants
merely because they are named as fictitious defendants.
For the reasons discussed, it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. The Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to all claims against the Alabama
Department of Corrections.
2. The Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to all claims for damages against the
individual Defendants in their official capacity, but denied as to claims for prospective injunctive
3. The Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to Count Three, and Count Three is hereby
DISMISSED without prejudice.
4. The Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as to the fictitious parties.
5. The case will proceed against the remaining parties on Count Two and Count Four.
Done this 2nd day of July, 2012.
/s/ W. Harold Albritton
W. HAROLD ALBRITTON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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