Kelly v. Fairfield, City of, Alabama et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE all of Mr. Kelleys claims except for his claim for declaratory and injunctive relief (count fifteen). On or before July 22, 2015, the parties shall confer and electronically a file a notice with a proposed amended scheduling order attached. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 7/13/2015. (KEK)
2015 Jul-13 AM 09:50
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CITY OF FAIRFIELD, ALABAMA, }
Case No.: 2:13-cv-01012-MHH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
When plaintiff Santano Kelley tried to stop two Fairfield police officers
from towing his cars from a private lot, the officers arrested Mr. Kelley for
obstructing governmental operations. A state court jury eventually found Mr.
Kelley not guilty of the charge. As a result of his arrest and prosecution, Mr.
Kelley filed suit against the City of Fairfield, Fairfield Police Chief Leon Davis,
and the two officers who arrested him, Julius Hunter and Kelvin Dudley.1 The
The caption of Mr. Kelley’s third amended complaint also names as defendants any Fairfield
police officers who are Offficers Hunter’s and Dudley’s supervisors. “As a general matter,
fictitious party pleading is not permitted in federal court” unless “the plaintiff’s description of the
defendant is so specific to be at the very worse, surplusage.” Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d
734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Mr. Kelley’s general
reference to any and all of Officers Hunter’s and Dudley’s supervisors is not sufficiently specific
to state a claim against these officers. Therefore the Court will dismiss Mr. Kelley’s claims
against these officers without prejudice. See Richardson, 598 F.3d at 738 (affirming dismissal of
“John Doe (Unknown Legal Name), Guard, Charlotte Correctional Institute” because this
description “was insufficient to identify the defendant among the many guards employed” at the
institute); Moulds v. Bullard, 345 Fed. Appx. 387, 390 (11th Cir. 2009) (affirming dismissal of
operative complaint alleges several 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims and several state law
claims, including conspiracy, abuse of process, outrage, respondeat superior,
violation of state due process, and trespass. Mr. Kelley also seeks a declaration
that Fairfield Ordinance 878 is unconstitutional. (See Doc. 57).
The defendants have asked the Court to dismiss all claims except for Mr.
Kelley’s claim for declaratory relief.2 (Docs. 60, 61, 62). For the reasons provided
below, the Court finds that the motions are well-taken. Mr. Kelley’s § 1983 claims
based upon his arrest and prosecution fail to state a claim, so the Court will dismiss
those claims. The Court will dismiss Mr. Kelley’s state law tort claims against
Officers Dudley and Hunter because those claims either fail to state a claim, or the
officers are immune from liability for those claims. As a result, Mr. Kelley’s
respondeat superior claim against the City of Fairfield and Chief Davis fails too.
Mr. Kelley’s claim for declaratory relief shall proceed forward.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain, “a short and plain
“John Doe corrections officers” when plaintiff “failed to describe some of those officers” and
“gave general descriptions of others, such as by indicating the duty stations to which they were
The Court held a hearing on the defendants’ motions on October 22, 2014. A court reporter
was present, and a transcript is available upon request.
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 8(a)(2). “Generally, to survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss and meet the
requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a complaint need not contain ‘detailed
factual allegations,’ but rather ‘only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Maledy v. City of Enterprise, 2012 WL 1028176, at *1
(M.D. Ala. Mar. 26, 2012) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555,
570 (2007)). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
“If the complaint contains a claim that is facially subject to an affirmative defense,
that claim may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6).” LeFrere v. Quezada, 582 F.3d
1260, 1263 (11th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). When evaluating a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must view the allegations of the operative
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Watts v. Fla. Int’l Univ., 495
F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Fairfield Ordinance 878
On April 5, 1993, the City of Fairfield City Council adopted Ordinance 878.
Ordinance 878 prohibits persons from leaving wrecked or non-operating vehicles
on public streets or private property. (Doc. 57, ¶ 37; Doc. 64-1).3 The ordinance
provides in relevant part:
Section 4. Disposition of Wrecked or Discarded Vehicles. No person
in charge or control of any property within the City whether as owner,
tenant, occupant, lessee, or otherwise, shall allow any partially
dismantled, non-operating, wrecked, junked, or discarded vehicles to
remain on such property longer than seventy-two hours; and no person
shall leave any such vehicle on any property within the City for a
longer time than seventy-two hours; . . . .
Section 5. Impounding. The Chief of Police or any member of his
department designated by him is hereby authorized to remove or have
removed, any vehicle left at any place within the City which
reasonably appears to be in violation of this Ordinance or lost, stolen,
or unclaimed. Any vehicle so taken up and removed shall be stored in
a suitable place provided by the City. A permanent record giving the
date of the taking of each vehicle, the place where found and taken
and a description of the vehicle shall be kept by the Chief of Police.
(Doc. 57, ¶ 38; Doc. 64-1, p. 2).
The ordinance also permits the City of Fairfield, after posting a notice, to
sell at public auction every six months vehicles that the City seizes under the
ordinance. (Doc. 64-1, p. 2). At no time relevant to Mr. Kelley’s claims was
Ordinance 878 declared invalid.
The Court may consider the text of Ordinance of 878 without converting the defendants’
motions to dismiss into motions for summary judgment because the ordinance is central to Mr.
Kelley’s claim, and the authenticity of the ordinance is unchallenged. See Urquilla-Diaz v.
Kaplan Univ., 708 F.3d 1039, 1053 n.12 (11th Cir. 2015).
Mr. Kelley’s Arrest and Prosecution
On May 27, 2011, Fairfield police officers Julius Hunter and Kelvin Dudley
removed cars from a private lot located at the corner of 58th Street and Avenue C in
Fairfield because the cars had been left on the lot in violation of Fairfield
Ordinance 878. (Doc. 57, ¶¶ 12-13, 37). Mr. Kelley owned some of the cars that
were parked on the lot.
After neighbors notified Mr. Kelley that the officers were on the property,
Mr. Kelley drove his wrecker to the lot. (Doc. 57, ¶ 12-13). He told Officers
Hunter and Dudley that they were not allowed on the property.
explained that he had permission to use the property, and he asked the officers not
to tow his vehicles. (Doc. 57, ¶¶ 14-15). When Mr. Kelley started to hook one of
his cars to his wrecker, Officers Hunter and Dudley arrested Mr. Kelley for
obstruction of government operations. (Doc. 57, ¶¶ 16-17). Officers Dudley and
Hunter handcuffed Mr. Kelley and took him to the City of Fairfield jail. Mr.
Kelley made bond and received a June 9, 2011 court date. (Doc. 57, ¶¶ 18-19).
On June 9, 2011, the Fairfield Municipal Court would not accept Mr.
Kelley’s “not guilty” plea, denied Mr. Kelley’s request for an attorney, and found
Mr. Kelley guilty without a trial. (Doc. 57, ¶ 21). Mr. Kelley learned afterwards
that Fairfield Municipal Court records indicate that he pled guilty. (Doc. 57, ¶ 22).
Mr. Kelley appealed his municipal court conviction. (Doc. 57, ¶ 24). The
Circuit Court of Jefferson County set Mr. Kelley’s case for a jury trial on March 3,
The jury found Mr. Kelley not guilty of obstruction of government
operations. (Doc. 57, ¶ 27).
Mr. Kelley filed a third amended complaint against the defendants on
August 20, 2014. (Doc. 57). Mr. Kelley asserts eight federal § 1983 claims
(counts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and twelve). He also asserts state
law claims for conspiracy (count eight); abuse of process, malicious prosecution,
and false imprisonment (count nine); outrage/intentional infliction of emotional
distress (count ten);4 respondeat superior (count eleven); violation of state due
process (count thirteen); and trespass (count fourteen). Mr. Kelley also challenges
the constitutionality of Fairfield Ordinance 878; Mr. Kelley seeks a declaration that
the ordinance is unconstitutional (count fifteen).
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the defendants ask the
Court to dismiss all of Mr. Kelley’s claims, except the claim for declaratory relief.
(Docs. 60, 61, 62). The parties fully briefed the defendants’ motions to dismiss.
When the Court gave Mr. Kelley leave to file his third amendment complaint, the Court
instructed Mr. Kelley that he should not include a claim for intentional infliction of emotional
distress because the claim is not applicable to the incidents about which Mr. Kelley complains.
(Doc. 56). The Court explained in that order why Mr. Kelley’s intentional infliction of
emotional distress claim was not viable as a matter of law. (Doc. 56, p. 2, n. 1). Mr. Kelley
concedes that his outrage claim should be dismissed. (Doc. 64, p. 44). Therefore, the Court will
dismiss with prejudice Mr. Kelley’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
(Docs. 60-1, 60-2, 60-3, 63, 67).
On this record, the Court considers the
Official Capacity Claims against Chief Davis, Officer Hunter,
and Officer Dudley
The Court will dismiss Mr. Kelley’s official capacity claims against Chief
Davis, Officer Hunter, and Officer Dudley because the Court treats suits against
municipal officers in their official capacities as suits against the municipality itself.
See Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 776 (11th Cir. 1991) (“Because suits
against a municipal officer sued in his official capacity and direct suits against
municipalities are functionally equivalent, there no longer exists a need to bring
official-capacity actions against local government officials, because local
government units can be sued directly. . . .”). Mr. Kelley has named the City of
Fairfield as a defendant in this action, so his official capacity claims against Chief
Davis and Officers Hunter and Dudley are unnecessary.
Mr. Kelley’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims
§ 1983 Claims against Officers Dudley and Hunter in their
Individual Capacities (Counts Two, Three, Twelve)
Mr. Kelley’s § 1983 claims against Officers Dudley and Hunter for unlawful
arrest, failure to prevent unlawful arrest, and due process violations are barred by
the doctrine of qualified immunity. “Qualified immunity shields government
officials performing discretionary functions from liability in their individual
capacities unless their conduct violated clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights.” Davis v. Markley, 601 Fed. Appx. 799, 801 (11th Cir. 2015)
(citing Andujar v. Rodriguez, 486 F.3d 1199, 1202 (11th Cir. 2007)). “Police
officers receive qualified immunity from false-arrest claims if they had arguable
probable cause to make the arrest.” Id. (citing Kingsland v. City of Miami, 382
F.3d 1220, 1232 (11th Cir. 2004)). “Arguable probable cause exists where
reasonable officers in the same circumstances and possessing the same knowledge
as the [d]efendants could have believed that probable cause existed to arrest [the]
[p]laintiff.” Grider v. City of Auburn, Ala., 618 F.3d 1240, 1257 (11th Cir. 2010)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “Whether an officer possesses
arguable probable cause depends on the elements of the alleged crime and the
operative fact pattern.” Id.
Officers Dudley and Hunter charged Mr. Kelley with obstruction of
governmental operations. Under Alabama law:
a person commits the crime of obstructing governmental operations
if, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference or by any
other independently unlawful act, he: (1) intentionally obstructs,
impairs or hinders the administration of law or other governmental
functions; or (2) intentionally prevents a public servant from
performing a governmental function.
Ala. Code § 13A-10-2. Mr. Kelley acknowledges that he “protested to the seizure
of [his] vehicles” from the private lot, and he “attempted to remove a vehicle by
hooking it to his wrecker” to prevent the officers from impounding his car. (Doc.
57, ¶¶ 15-16).
Reasonable officers, in the same circumstances, could have
believed that Mr. Kelley was interfering with Officers Dudley and Hunter’s
execution of a valid municipal ordinance, such that the officers had probable cause
to arrest Mr. Kelley. Therefore, Officers Dudley and Hunter had arguable probable
cause to arrest Mr. Kelley for obstruction of governmental operations, and Officers
Dudley and Hunter are entitled to qualified immunity on Mr. Kelley’s §1983
unlawful arrest claim. Because Officers Dudley and Hunter had arguable probable
cause to arrest Mr. Kelley, Mr. Kelley cannot state a § 1983 claim for failure to
protect from unlawful arrest, assuming such a claim exists.5 Therefore, the Court
will dismiss counts two and three.
Qualified immunity also bars Mr. Kelley’s §1983 claim for violations of his
due process rights based on Officers Dudley and Hunter’s enforcement of
Ordinance 878. The Eleventh Circuit has held that when police officers enforce a
statute that later is declared unconstitutional, the officers are entitled to qualified
Police officers in a position to intervene to prevent another officer’s excessive force have a duty
to so. Ensley v. Soper, 142 F.3d 1402, 1407 (11th Cir. 1998). But it is unclear whether the duty
to intervene exists for constitutional violations other than excessive force. See Jones v. Cannon,
174 F.3d 1271, 1286 (11th Cir. 1999) (“There is no controlling authority clearly establishing that
once a police officer knows another officer has fabricated a confession in a police report for a
warrantless arrest, that police officer has a constitutional duty to intervene to stop the other
officer’s conduct.”); Roddy v. City of Huntsville, 947 F. Supp. 2d 1271, 1300 (N.D. Ala. 2013)
(“Officer Lucas had no clearly established duty to intervene to prevent, much less undo, an
unlawful arrest by a police officer of equal rank.”); Mehta v. Foskey, 877 F. Supp. 2d 1367, 1381
(S.D. Ga. 2012) (“This Court is at pains to discern a clear rule in the Eleventh Circuit case law
regarding an officer’s liability for failing to intervene in an unlawful arrest. . . .”).
immunity for arrests made before the statute was declared invalid. Cooper v.
Dillon, 403 F.3d 1208, 1220-21 (11th Cir. 2005) (“At the time of Cooper’s arrest,
the statute had not been declared unconstitutional, and therefore it could not have
been apparent to Dillon that he was violating Cooper’s constitutional rights.”).
When Officers Dudley and Hunter arrested Mr. Kelley, Ordinance 878 was in
effect. Officers Dudley and Hunter were “entitled to assume the current version
[of Ordinance 878 was] free from constitutional flaws.” Id. at 1220. Therefore,
Officers Dudley and Hunter are entitled to qualified immunity on Mr. Kelley’s §
1983 claim for violation of his due process rights because the officers arrested Mr.
Kelley while enforcing a municipal ordinance that had not been declared
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss count twelve against
Officers Dudley and Hunter.
§ 1983 Claims Against Chief Davis in his Individual
A supervisor may be individually liable under § 1983 only “if he personally
participates in the act that causes the constitutional violation or where there is a
causal connection between his actions and the constitutional violation that his
subordinates commit.” Am. Fed’n of Labor & Congress of Indus. Orgs. v. City of
Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1190 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal citation omitted). Because
Mr. Kelley’s underlying § 1983 claims against Officers Dudley and Hunter fail to
state a claim, Mr. Kelley’s § 1983 supervisory liability claims against Chief Davis
necessarily fail as a matter of law. See Mann v. Taser Intern., Inc., 588 F.3d 1291,
1308 (11th Cir. 2009) (“The central tenant in both offenses is a constitutional or
statutory violation, which we have not found. As such, Plaintiffs’ claims under a
theory of supervisory liability fail because the underlying § 1983 claims fail.”);
Lepper v. Nguyen, 368 Fed. Appx. 35, 40 (11th Cir. 2010) (“Lepper’s supervisory
liability claims against Willis and Singer fail because Lepper has not shown a
constitutional violation by persons under their supervision or control.”).
§ 1983 Claims Against the City of Fairfield
“To establish municipality liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must show ‘a
direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged
constitutional violation.’” Willis v. Mock, 600 Fed. Appx. 679, 685 (11th Cir.
2015) (quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989)). “But ‘an
inquiry into a governmental entity’s custom or policy is relevant only when a
constitutional deprivation has occurred.’” Id. (quoting Rooney v. Watson, 101
F.3d 1378, 1381 (11th Cir. 1996)).
Because Mr. Kelley’s complaint does not state a claim against Officers
Dudley and Hunter for a violation of his constitutional rights, Mr. Kelley cannot
state a § 1983 claim against the City of Fairfield.
See id. (because neither
individual defendant violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights, the plaintiff’s
claim against the City failed as a matter of law); McDowell v. Brown, 392 F.3d
1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2004) (“[T]o impose § 1983 liability on a municipality, a
plaintiff must show . . . that [her] constitutional rights were violated. . . .”); see also
City of Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986) (neither the city nor its
police commission had § 1983 liability where the jury found that a police officer
had not violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights). Accordingly, the Court will
dismiss all § 1983 claims against the City of Fairfield.
Mr. Kelley’s Claim for Violation of State Due Process
Mr. Kelley’s claim for violations of Alabama’s version of the due process
clause fails to state a claim. The Supreme Court of Alabama has noted that there is
no authority that “recognizes a private right of action for monetary damages based
on violations of the provisions of the Constitution of Alabama.” Matthews v. Ala.
Agric. & Mech. Univ., 787 So. 2d 691, 698 (Ala. 2000); see also Tomberlin v.
Clark, 1 F. Supp. 3d 1213, 1234 (N.D. Ala. 2014) (dismissing state law due
process claim at the 12(b)(6) stage for failure to state a claim because “the
Alabama constitution does not create a private right of action to sue for monetary
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss Mr. Kelley’s state law due
Mr. Kelley’s State Law Tort Claims (Counts Eight, Nine,
and Fourteen) against Officer Dudley and Officer Hunter
Assuming that Mr. Kelley has properly asserted state law claims for
conspiracy, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, false imprisonment, and
trespass, state-agent immunity and statutory discretionary-function immunity under
Alabama Code § 6-5-338 bar those state law tort claims against Officers Dudley
and Hunter.6 “State-agent immunity protects state employees, as agents of the
State, in the exercise of their judgment in executing their work responsibilities.”
Ex parte Kennedy, 992 So. 2d 1276, 1280 (Ala. 2008). In Ex parte Cranman, 792
So. 2d 392 (Ala. 2000), a plurality of the Alabama Supreme Court clarified the
scope of Alabama’s state-agent immunity doctrine. That doctrine bars suit against
law enforcement officers “exercising judgment in the enforcement of criminal laws
of the State, including but not limited to, law enforcement officers’ arresting or
attempting to arrest persons” unless the officer acted willfully, maliciously,
fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his legal authority, or under a mistaken
interpretation of law, or if the Constitution or laws of the United States or Alabama
require otherwise. Cranman, 792 So. 2d at 405; see also Ex parte City of Midfield,
161 So. 3d 1158, 1163 (Ala. 2014).
As the Court explains in note 7, the Court concludes that Mr. Kelley has not stated a claim for
malicious prosecution or abuse of process.
Section 6-5-338 of the Alabama Code provides that a law enforcement
officer is “immun[e] from tort liability arising out of his or her conduct in
performance of any discretionary function within the line and scope of his or her
law enforcement duties.” Ala. Code § 6-5-338(a). “Cranman’s test for state-agent
immunity governs whether law enforcement officers are entitled to statutory,
discretionary-function immunity under § 6-5-338(a).” Brown v. City of Huntsville,
608 F.3d 724, 741 (11th Cir. 2010); see also Kennedy, 992 So. 2d at 1281 (in
Blackwood v. City of Hanceville, 936 So. 2d 495 (Ala. 2006), the Alabama
Supreme Court “held that the test for determining whether an officer is entitled to
immunity under § 6-5-338(a) is the one articulated in Cranman relating to State
In short, under Alabama law, a defendant who “(1) is a peace officer, (2) is
performing law enforcement duties, and (3) is exercising judgment or discretion” is
entitled to immunity. Howard v. City of Atmore, 887 So. 2d 201, 204 (Ala. 2003)
(internal quotations omitted). When a defendant establishes that “the plaintiff’s
claims arise from a function that would entitle the State agent to immunity,” the
burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that the state-agent acted “willfully,
maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond his or her authority.” Ex parte
Randall, 971 So. 2d 652, 663–64 (Ala. 2007) (internal quotations omitted).
Officers Dudley and Hunter are peace officers who were exercising their
judgment in arresting and pressing charges against Mr. Kelley. Therefore, the
burden shifts to Mr. Kelley to demonstrate that Officers Dudley and Hunter acted
“willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond [their] authority.” See
Randall, 971 So. 2d at 663–64. Mr. Kelley has not met this burden.
In his third amended complaint, Mr. Kelley states in a conclusory fashion
that Officers Dudley’s and Hunter’s conduct was “gross, willful, intentional and
malicious,” (Doc. 57, p. 12), but Mr. Kelley does not provide factual allegations,
which, if proven, would show that Officers Dudley and Hunter acted beyond their
authority or with the requisite intent for Mr. Kelley to overcome the officers’
defense of state-agent immunity.7 The facts that Mr. Kelley alleges do not support
Mr. Kelley’s complaint contains one factual allegation that could be characterized as an
allegation of willful conduct. Mr. Kelley asserts that Officer Hunter “made false statements in
the [state] Complaint” pertaining to the obstruction of government operations charge against Mr.
Kelley. (Doc. 58, ¶ 25). That factual allegation, though bare-boned, might be enough to enable
Mr. Kelley to avoid Officer Hunter’s immunity defense, but Mr. Kelley’s state law claims
against Officer Hunter still fail. The purported false statements are relevant to Mr. Kelley’s
malicious prosecution and abuse of process claims, but Mr. Kelley’s third amended complaint
does not state a claim under Alabama law for either malicious prosecution or abuse of process.
Under Alabama law, “[t]he elements of malicious prosecution are: (1) a judicial proceeding
initiated by the defendant, (2) the lack of probable cause, (3) malice, (4) termination in favor of
the plaintiff, and (5) damage.” Moon v. Pillion, 2 So. 3d 842, 845 (Ala. 2008) (internal
quotations and citations omitted). Because Officers Dudley and Hunter had probable cause to
arrest Mr. Kelley, see pp. 8-9, supra, Mr. Kelley cannot state a claim for malicious prosecution.
To state a claim for abuse of process under Alabama law, a plaintiff must plead facts that
demonstrate: “(1) the existence of an ulterior purpose; (2) a wrongful use of process, and (3)
malice.” Moon, 2 So. 3d at 846. “‘[A]buse of process will not lie [where] no result was obtained
that is unlawful or improperly attainable under the law.’” Id. at 847 (quoting Dempsey v.
Denman, 442 So. 3d 63, 65 (Ala. 1983)) (plaintiff could not prove abuse of process claim where
the conclusory labels that he uses to describe Officer Dudley’s and Officer
Hunter’s conduct. Therefore, Officers Dudley and Hunter are immune from Mr.
Kelley’s state law claims. The Court will dismiss the state law claims against the
Mr. Kelley’s Respondeat Superior Claim Against Chief Davis and
the City of Fairfield (Count Eleven)
Mr. Kelley’s respondeat superior claim fails to state claim upon which relief
may be granted. Mr. Kelley alleges that as a result of the City of Fairfield’s and
Chief Davis’s negligent supervision and control over Officers Dudley and Hunter,
the officers unlawfully seized and arrested him in violation of constitutional rights.
(Doc. 57, ¶ 93). “Municipalities may not be held liable for constitutional
deprivations on the theory of respondeat superior.” Doe v. Sch. Bd. of Broward
Cnty., Fla., 604 F.3d 1248, 1263 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Denno v. Sch. Bd. of
Volusia Cnty., Fla., 218 F.3d 1267, 1276 (11th Cir. 2000)). And “supervisory
officials are not liable for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the
basis of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.” Keith v. DeKalb Cnty., Ga.,
plaintiff alleged that officer misrepresented facts to the criminal court because the plaintiff was
found not guilty on the charge). Mr. Kelley acknowledged in his complaint that a jury found that
he was not guilty of the obstruction of government operations charge against him. (Doc. 57, ¶
27). Therefore, Mr. Kelley’s abuse of process claim fails to state a claim.
Because Mr. Kelley cannot state a claim for malicious prosecution or abuse of process, the Court
need not determine whether Officers Dudley and Hunter are immune from liability for these
claims. Officer Hunter’s alleged false statement does not bear on Mr. Kelley’s conspiracy, false
imprisonment, or trespass claims; Officer Hunter is immune from those claims.
749 F.3d 1034, 1047 (11th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Therefore, to the extent that Mr. Kelley attempts to state a claim for
respondeat superior against the City and Chief Davis based on Officers Dudley and
Hunter’s alleged constitutional violations, his claim fails.
Moreover, for an employer to be liable under the theory of respondeat
superior, “the employee must first be liable for a tort.” Ott v. City of Mobile, 169
F. Supp. 2d 1301, 1314 (S.D. Ala. 2001); see also Latham v. Redding, 628 So. 2d
490, 495 (Ala. 1993) (“If the agent is not liable for any tort, the principal is also
absolved.”). As explained above, Mr. Kelley has failed to state a state law claim
against Officers Dudley and Hunter, or the officers are entitled to immunity on Mr.
Kelley’s state law tort claims. Therefore, Mr. Kelley may not state a respondeat
superior claim against the City of Fairfield or Chief Davis.
For the reasons outlined above, the Court DISMISSES WITH
PREJUDICE all of Mr. Kelley’s claims except for his claim for declaratory and
injunctive relief (count fifteen). On or before July 22, 2015, the parties shall
confer and electronically a file a notice with a proposed amended scheduling order
DONE and ORDERED this July 13, 2015.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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