Armstrong et al v. Boaz, City of et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - For the reasons outlined above, the court DENIES the Plaintiffs motions for leave to amend their complaint. (Doc. 161; Doc. 166). Signed by Judge Annemarie Carney Axon on 8/31/2018. (KEK)
2018 Aug-31 AM 09:30
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROBIN ZAK ARMSTRONG, et al.,
QUENTIN SCOTT, et al.,
Case No.: 4:16-cv-01065-ACA
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unlawful detention action. Defendants, City of
Boaz Police Officers Quenton Scott and Brandon Hester, arrested pro se Plaintiffs
Robin Zak Armstrong and Timothy-Brian Armstrong. The Plaintiffs allege that
Officer Scott and Officer Hester violated their civil rights by not taking them
directly to a magistrate judge for a probable cause determination after the arrests.
Before the court are the Plaintiffs’ motions for leave to amend their
complaint. (Doc. 161; Doc. 166). The parties have fully briefed the motions.
(Doc. 161; Doc. 162; Doc. 166; Doc. 167). For the reasons explained below, the
court DENIES the motions for leave to amend.
The Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint on June 30, 2016. (Doc. 1). The
Plaintiffs’ original complaint asserted various claims against a number of
defendants, including Officers Scott and Hester, the City of Boaz, Mayor Tim
Walker, Boaz City Prosecutor Danny Smith, and Captain Michael Hempel. (Doc.
1). The Defendants moved to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ complaint. (Doc. 13; Doc.
15). Pending a ruling on the motions to dismiss, the court (Hopkins, J.) stayed
discovery. (Doc. 29).
In response to the motions to dismiss, the Plaintiffs filed an amended
complaint. (Doc. 30; Doc. 30-1; Doc. 31). The court (Hopkins, J.) struck the
Plaintiffs’ amended complaint as an improper shotgun pleading and as noncompliant with Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because the
Plaintiffs did not receive leave of court or consent of the opposing parties to file
the amended complaint. (Doc. 37 at 3-6). The court (Hopkins, J.) gave the
Plaintiffs an opportunity to file another amended complaint. (Doc. 37 at 10).
On November 21, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint.
The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the second amended
complaint on January 11, 2017.
On February 14, 2017, without
obtaining leave to amend or consent of the opposing parties, the Plaintiffs filed a
third amended complaint. (Doc. 46). The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
third amended complaint. (Doc. 51).
On July 24, 2017, the court (Hopkins, J.) granted in part and denied in part
t h e Defendants’ motion to dismiss the third amended complaint. (Doc. 81). In
addition to dismissing other claims, the court (Hopkins, J.) dismissed Ms.
Armstrong’s § 1983 claims against the City of Boaz for failure to train and failure
to enforce policy and terminated the City of Boaz as a defendant. (Doc. 81 at 1721). Following the ruling, the only claims remaining in this action are Ms.
Armstrong’s Fourth Amendment unlawful detention claim against Officer Hester
and Mr. Armstrong’s Fourth Amendment unlawful detention claim against Officer
Scott. (Doc. 81 at 59).
The Plaintiffs and the remaining defendants, Officer Scott and Officer
Hester, submitted a report of the parties’ planning meeting, and the court (Hopkins,
J.) entered a scheduling order. (Doc. 92; Doc. 94). The scheduling order imposed
the following relevant deadlines:
• Plaintiffs’ deadline to amend pleadings: October 2, 2017;
• Discovery deadline: April 4, 2018; and
• Dispositive motion deadline: May 4, 2018.
On May 2, 2018, the Defendants filed motions for summary judgment.
(Doc. 148; Doc. 149). The Plaintiffs filed responses on May 30, 2018. (Doc. 156;
Doc. 157; Doc. 158). The Defendants filed a reply on June 13, 2016. (Doc. 160).
On June 14, 2018, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to amend their
complaint to reassert claims against the City of Boaz. (Doc. 161). On June 20,
2018, the Clerk reassigned this action to the undersigned. (Doc. 163). On July 2,
2018, the Plaintiffs filed an amended motion for leave to amend their complaint
and stated that “[i]n order to allow for ample time for [the undersigned] to review
this case as well as to allow Claimants to address their property damage [sustained
during a June 28, 2018 storm], Claimants wish to postpone the filing of their
amended Claim no later than August 20, 2018.” (Doc. 166 at 2). On August 20,
2018, the Plaintiffs personally delivered to the Clerk’s Office an amended
complaint and certified mail service packets. Because the court had not yet ruled
on the Plaintiff’s motions for leave to amend, at the court’s instruction, the Clerk
did not file the amended complaint or process the certified mail service packets.
Instead, the Clerk stamped the material as received pending resolution of the
motions for leave to amend. (See August 20, 2018 staff note).
The Plaintiffs seek leave to amend their complaint after the amended
pleading deadline established in the scheduling order. Therefore, the Plaintiffs
must show “good cause” and receive the court’s consent. Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4)
(“A schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge’s
consent.”); see Southern Grouts & Mortars, Inc. v. 3M Co., 575 F.3d 1235, 1241
(11th Cir. 2009) (“A plaintiff seeking leave to amend its complaint after the
deadline designated in a scheduling order must demonstrate ‘good cause’ under
Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b).”). “This good cause standard precludes modification unless
the schedule cannot be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the
extension.” Sosa v. Airprint Sys., Inc., 133 F.3d 1417, 1418 (11th Cir. 1998)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
By waiting until eight months after the pleading-amendment deadline to
seek leave to amend, the Plaintiffs have not demonstrated good cause for the
amended pleading. The Plaintiffs attempt to justify the delay by citing to the
court’s order staying discovery pending a ruling on the Defendants’ motion to
dismiss. The Plaintiffs argue that they were “denied the right to discovery” and
“were barred from obtaining any discoverable evidence” to support their claims
against the City of Boaz. (Doc. 161 at 1, ¶¶ 3-4). The Plaintiffs also submit they
“were denied access to PUBLIC records by Wrongdoers.” (Doc. 161 at 1, ¶ 5)
(emphasis in original). Therefore, according to the Plaintiffs, they “were unable to
include any specific evidence in their Third Amended Claim.” (Doc. 161 at 1, ¶ 5).
The Plaintiffs misunderstand the purpose and timing of discovery.
The Supreme Court has cautioned that “the doors of discovery” are not open
“for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). And in the Eleventh Circuit, “discovery follows the
filing of a well-pleaded complaint. It is not a device to enable the plaintiff to make
a case when his complaint has failed to state a claim.” Carter v. DeKalb Cty., Ga.,
521 F. App’x. 725, 728 (11th Cir. 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted; emphasis in original); see e.g., Tolbert v. Trammell, 2014 WL 3892115, at
*9 (N.D. Ala. Aug. 4, 2014) (“Pleadings that fail to state a claim are not entitled to
discovery to improve their factual foundation.”) (citing Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 679).
Therefore, the Plaintiff’s contention that their inability to conduct discovery
prevented them from stating a plausible claim against the City of Boaz is not
Despite their arguments concerning alleged obstacles to discovery, in their
motion for leave to amend, the Plaintiffs state that “[c]laimants were able to obtain
sufficient evidence via the admissions and interrogatories of [Officer Scott and
Officer Hester] to support their claims against the CITY OF BOAZ.” (Doc. 161 at
3, ¶ 14) (emphasis in original). The Plaintiffs suggest that they will “incorporate
newly discovered evidence provided by [Officer Scott and Officer Hester] in their
admissions and interrogatories” into their proposed amended claim against the City
of Boaz. (Doc. 161 at 3). Missing from the Plaintiffs’ submission is a proposed
amended complaint or other information about the nature of the “newly discovered
evidence” or how it relates to the proposed amended claim against the City of
Boaz. Therefore, the Plaintiffs have not shown good cause for the proposed
amendment. Long v. Satz, 181 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 1999) (“A motion for
leave to amend should either set forth the substance of the proposed amendment or
attach a copy of the proposed amendment.”); Smith v. School Bd. of Orange Cty.,
487 F.3d 1361, 1367 (11th Cir. 2007) (district court did not abuse its discretion in
denying pro se plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend where plaintiff alleged that
“discovery had produced new violations of the [l]aw that must be addressed within
the counts of the complaint, but he failed to further indicate what those new
violations were, what facts supported them, and why those facts previously were
undiscoverable”) (internal quotation marks omitted; alteration in original).
In addition, the Plaintiffs have not shown that they exercised diligence in
seeking leave to amend once armed with the information that they argue supports
an amended claim against the City of Boaz. At the latest, the Plaintiffs had in their
possession all of the Defendants’ discovery responses by March 30, 2018. (See
Doc. 101; Doc. 102; Doc. 111; Doc. 112; Doc. 113; Doc. 114; Doc. 130; Doc. 131;
Doc. 135; Doc. 136). Yet, the Plaintiffs did not file a motion for leave to amend
until two and a half months later on June 14, 2018. (Doc. 161). The Plaintiffs
have offered no explanation for this delay.
Even if the Plaintiffs were able to overcome Rule 16(b)’s good cause hurdle,
amendment would not be appropriate under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Where a plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint after he previously
filed an amended complaint or after a responsive pleading has been filed, the
plaintiff may amend the complaint “only with the opposing party’s written consent
or the court’s leave,” and “the court should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). But the court need not allow the amendment
“(1) where there has been undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, or repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; (2) where allowing
amendment would cause undue prejudice to the opposing party; or (3) where
amendment would be futile.” Bryant v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir.
A number of factors weigh against amendment under the circumstances of
this case. First, the Plaintiffs have had three previous opportunities to adequately
state a claim against the City of Boaz, and they have been unable to cure the
deficiencies. They will not receive a fourth chance. Second, undue delay and
prejudice to the Defendants weigh against amendment. The discovery deadline
passed nearly five months ago.
The Defendants filed motions for summary
judgment nearly four months ago, and the motions are fully briefed and under
submission for the court’s review. Therefore, amendment is not proper at this
stage in the proceedings. See Smith, 487 F.3d 1361 at 1367 (district court properly
denied leave to amend on untimeliness grounds because the defendant’s motion for
summary judgment had been pending for one month before plaintiff filed a motion
for leave to amend); Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc. v. Olin Corp., 313 F.3d 1307,
1315 (11th Cir.2002) (“[I]t is not an abuse of discretion for a district court to deny
a motion for leave to amend following the close of discovery, past the deadline for
amendments and past the deadline for filing dispositive motions.”).
For the reasons outlined above, the court DENIES the Plaintiffs’ motions
for leave to amend their complaint. (Doc. 161; Doc. 166).
DONE and ORDERED this August 31, 2018.
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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