Queen v. Collier
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - Because the Fourteenth Amendment governs Mr. Queens excessive force claim, the Court GRANTS Officer Colliers motion to dismiss (Doc. 13) and DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Mr. Queens Fourth Amendment claim. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 7/29/2016. (KEK)
2016 Aug-01 AM 08:30
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
RODNEY DOUGLAS QUEEN,
Case No.: 5:15-cv-01109-MHH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In this § 1983 action, plaintiff Rodney Douglas Queen asserts excessive
force claims against Officer Christopher Collier under the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments. Mr. Queen’s claims pertain to an incident in which Officer Collier
used force on Mr. Queen at the Morgan County Jail. Officer Collier has filed a
motion to dismiss Mr. Queen’s Fourth Amendment excessive force claim. In the
motion, Officer Collier argues that Mr. Queen may not pursue a claim under the
Fourth Amendment because Mr. Queen was a pretrial detainee at the time of the
incident. For the reasons discussed below, the Court agrees. Mr. Queen may
pursue his Fourteenth Amendment claim, but the Court will dismiss his Fourth
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). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must view the
allegations in a complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Watts v. Fla. Int’l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007). A court must
accept well-pled facts as true. Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228,
1231 (11th Cir. 2000).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKRGOUND
On July 17, 2013, officers from the Trinity Police Department stopped the
vehicle in which Mr. Queen and two of his friends were riding. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 3, 4).
The officers arrested the driver of the vehicle for driving under the influence of
alcohol. (Doc. 1, ¶ 5). After finding alcohol in the passenger area of the vehicle,
the officers arrested Mr. Queen and the other passenger for illegal possession of
prohibited liquor. (Doc. 1, ¶ 6).
Without incident, the Trinity officers transported Mr. Queen to the Morgan
County Jail and released him to the custody of the officers there. (Doc. 1, ¶ 7). In
the booking area, Detention Officer Collier assumed custody of Mr. Queen. (Doc.
1, ¶ 12). Officer Collier removed Mr. Queen’s handcuffs, patted him down, and
removed his personal effects. (Doc. 1, ¶ 12). Officer Collier then escorted Mr.
Queen to a holding cell, where Mr. Queen waited for further processing. (Doc. 1, ¶
Approximately one hour and forty minutes later, Officer Collier removed
Mr. Queen from the holding cell to fingerprint and photograph him. (Doc. 1, ¶ 14).
During the fingerprinting and photographing process, Officer Collier became
agitated with Mr. Queen. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17). Officer Collier placed his right arm
around Mr. Queen’s neck in a choke-type hold and began to physically force Mr.
Queen out of the photographing/fingerprinting area and back toward the holding
cell. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20). Officer Collier kept his right arm wrapped tightly around Mr.
Queen’s neck while applying leverage from Mr. Queen’s rear and side. (Doc. 1, ¶
22). Officer Collier forced Mr. Queen’s left arm behind his back and pushed Mr.
Queen into an open area leading to the holding cells. (Doc. 1, ¶ 22). Officer
Collier then “used his left arm and right foot to immobilize [Mr. Queen’s] left leg
as he spun him around and slammed him face-first into the concrete floor.” (Doc.
1, ¶ 23). As Mr. Queen’s face and head hit the floor, Mr. Queen’s right arm landed
awkwardly, jamming it into his shoulder socket. (Doc. 1, ¶ 23). “Officer Collier,
who is considerably larger than [Mr. Queen], rotated his body on top of [Mr.
Queen] and used his entire body weight to drive [Mr. Queen] into the concrete face
first.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 23).
Officer Collier asked a nearby officer to sound an alarm to summon the
assistance of other detention officers. (Doc. 1, ¶ 25). Several other officers
responded and jumped on Mr. Queen, pinning him to the floor. (Doc. 1, ¶ 26).
“As one officer sat on [Mr. Queen’s] legs to immobilize them, [Officer] Collier
repositioned himself on top of [Mr. Queen] with his right knee in [Mr. Queen’s]
back.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 26). Officer Collier and the other officers then dragged Mr.
Queen by his arms into a holding cell. (Doc. 1, ¶ 26).
“Once in the holding cell, [Mr. Queen] was placed face-down on the floor,
and his hands were handcuffed behind his back.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 28). One of the blows
to Mr. Queen’s head caused him to lose consciousness and memory of the events
following the impact. (Doc. 1, ¶ 29). Mr. Queen remained on the floor of the
holding cell with his hands cuffed behind his back until he regained consciousness
and was able to request medical attention. (Doc. 1, ¶ 31).
Mr. Queen saw a nurse at the jail and complained of extreme pain in his
right shoulder. (Doc. 1, ¶ 32). In addition, Mr. Queen had a one-inch laceration on
the bridge of his nose. (Doc. 1, ¶ 32). Shortly after seeing the nurse, Mr. Queen
was released on bond. (Doc. 1, ¶ 32).
After his release, Mr. Queen went to the hospital where he learned that his
right shoulder was fractured. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 33-34). Doctors performed surgery to
repair the fracture. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 36-38). Mr. Queen continues to have pain and
limited mobility in his right arm and shoulder as a result of the injuries that he
sustained at the Morgan County Jail. (Doc. 1, ¶ 39).
On July 1, 2015, Mr. Queen filed this federal lawsuit against Officer Collier
in his individual capacity. (Doc. 1). Mr. Queen asserts two claims against Officer
Collier pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. First, Mr. Queen asserts that while he was
an arrestee, Officer Collier deprived him of his Fourth Amendment right to be free
from the use of excessive force. Second, Mr. Queen asserts that if his status had
changed from an arrestee to a pre-trial detainee by the time of his confrontation
with Officer Collier, then Officer Collier deprived him of his Fourteenth
Amendment right to due process and to be free from the administration of
punishment, physical or otherwise, before being convicted of a criminal offense.
Officer Collier filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Mr. Queen’s Fourth
Amendment claim. Officer Collier argues that Mr. Queen “was clearly a pretrial
detainee whose excessive force claim is governed not by the Fourth but by the
Fourteenth Amendment.” (Doc. 14, p. 5). Alternatively, Officer Collier argues
that he is entitled to qualified immunity from any § 1983 claims premised upon the
Fourth Amendment because “there is no clearly established law that [Mr.] Queen
was an arrestee at the time of the events at issue . . . .” (Doc. 14, p. 2). Officer
Collier’s motion to dismiss has been fully briefed and is ripe for the Court’s
consideration. (Docs. 14, 16, 18, 19, 21).
A court evaluating a § 1983 claim like Mr. Queen’s must first identify the
precise constitutional violation charged. Daniel v. Hancock Cty. Sch. Dist., 626
Fed. Appx. 825, 829 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Franklin v. Curry, 738 F.3d 1246,
1250 (11th Cir. 2013)). “[A]ll claims that law enforcement officers have used
excessive force—deadly or not—in the course of an arrest . . . should be analyzed
under the Fourth Amendment and its ‘reasonableness’ standard.”
Athens-Clarke Cty., Ga., 378 F.3d 1274, 1279 n. 11 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 1871 (1989) (emphasis omitted)). On the other
hand, if an excessive force “claim arises out of events occurring while [a] plaintiff
is a pretrial detainee, the Fourteenth Amendment governs.” Fennell v. Gilstrap,
559 F.3d 1212, 1215 n. 4 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Garrett, 378 F.3d at 1279 n. 11).
Relying on the Supreme Court’s recent decision, Kingsley v. Hendrickson, -- U.S. ---, 135 S. Ct. 2466 (2015), Mr. Queen argues that the Court need not decide
which constitutional amendment applies to his excessive force claim because a
claim under either amendment is measured against an objective reasonableness
standard. The Court disagrees. In Kingsley, the Supreme Court stated that for a
pretrial detainee to prove an excessive force claim, he must show that the officer’s
use of force was objectively unreasonable.
Although Kingsley provided that
excessive force claims under the Fourteenth Amendment are governed by an
objective reasonableness standard, the Court did not collapse the standard for
arrestee and pretrial detainee excessive force cases into a single standard. Instead,
the Kingsley Court stated that in applying the “objectively unreasonable” aspect of
the pretrial detainee standard, courts must not only look to Graham’s “facts and
circumstances” inquiry, but
also account for the “legitimate interests that stem from [the
government’s] need to manage the facility in which the individual is
detained,” appropriately deferring to “policies and practices that in
th[e] judgment” of jail officials “are needed to preserve internal order
and discipline and to maintain institutional security.”
Kingsley, 135 S. Ct. at 2473 (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 540, 547
(1979)).1 Therefore, the Court must identify which constitutional standard applies
to Mr. Queen’s excessive force claim. See Daniel, 626 Fed. Appx. at 829.
In the Eleventh Circuit, “[t]he precise point at which a seizure ends (for
purposes of Fourth Amendment coverage) and at which pretrial detention begins
See Graham, 490 U.S. at 395 (“Determining whether the force used to effect a particular
seizure is ‘reasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of the nature
and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the
countervailing governmental interests at stake. . . . Because the test of reasonableness under the
Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application, however, its
proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular
case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat
to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to
evade arrest by flight.”).
[for purposes of Fourteenth Amendment coverage] is not settled . . . .” Hicks v.
Moore, 422 F.3d 1246, 1254 (11th Cir. 2005). The period of time between an
arrest and the beginning of pretrial detention is known as the “twilight zone.” See
Stephens v. Butler, 509 F. Supp. 2d 1098, 1108 (S.D. Ala. 2007). Because Officer
Collier’s use of force occurred after the arresting officers surrendered Mr. Queen to
jail personnel but before detention officers finished the booking process, this case
falls squarely in the twilight zone. In twilight zone cases, to identify the applicable
constitutional standard, a court must decide whether the force occurred closer to
the arrest or the detention end of the spectrum.
Two Eleventh Circuit excessive force cases illustrate this spectrum. The
first decision, Fennell v. Gilstrap, concerned a plaintiff who police arrested on
several misdemeanor charges. 559 F.3d at 1214. While in the arresting officer’s
squad car, the plaintiff became disruptive and combative, so the officer placed leg
restraints on the plaintiff. Id. When they arrived at the jail, the arresting officer
and other officers brought the plaintiff to a pat-down room. Id. The officers
placed the plaintiff on the ground because the plaintiff was “combative and
uncooperative during the pat down.” Id. The officers lifted the plaintiff to his feet
and then wrestled the plaintiff back to the ground. Id. at 1214-15. While on the
ground, the plaintiff grabbed an officer’s arm and started twisting it. Id. at 1215.
Hearing the officer’s cries, the defendant officer entered the room and attempted to
break the plaintiff’s grip by kicking the plaintiff in the arm, but the officer missed
and kicked the plaintiff in the face instead. Id. The plaintiff brought a section
1983 excessive force claim against the officer who kicked him in the face. Id.
“The district court understood [the plaintiff’s] § 1983 claim to assert a Fourteenth
Amendment violation, as the alleged excessive force occurred while he was a
pretrial detainee.” Id. at 1215. The Eleventh Circuit agreed that the Fourteenth
Amendment governed the plaintiff’s claim. Id. at 1215 n. 4 (citing Garrett, 378
F.3d at 1279 n. 11).
In the second case, Garrett v. Athens-Clarke Cty., Ga., four police officers
tried to arrest a man after he led the officers on a high-speed car chase. 378 F.3d at
The man refused to obey the officers’ orders and physically resisted
officers’ efforts to restrain him. Id. at 1276-77. One of the officers instructed
another officer to pepper spray the man. Id. at 1277-78. The officers then tied the
man’s ankles together, cuffed his hands behind his back, and strapped his hands
and feet together “so that the distance between [the man’s] wrists and ankles was
fewer than 12 inches, causing his body to be bowed.” Id. Moments later, an
ambulance arrived and found that the man had no pulse. Id. In the excessive force
action concerning the man’s death, the Eleventh Circuit held that “[a]lthough the
line is not always clear as to when an arrest ends and pretrial detainment begins,”
the facts of the Garrett case fell on the arrest end of the spectrum. Id. at 1279
n. 11. The Court held that “Fourteenth Amendment analysis does not begin until
‘after the incidents of arrest are completed, after the plaintiff has been released
from the arresting officer’s custody, and after the plaintiff has been in detention
awaiting trial for a significant period of time.’” Id. (quoting Gutierrez v. City of
San Antonio, 139 F.3d 441, 452 (5th Cir. 1998)).
The Garrett and Fennell opinions demonstrate that the role of the arresting
officer weighs heavily in the constitutional analysis of an arrestee’s claim. In this
case, the officers who arrested Mr. Queen had surrendered Mr. Queen to the
custody of Officer Collier at the Morgan County Jail before the confrontation at
issue occurred. Although Mr. Queen had not been fully processed at the jail when
Officer Collier restrained him and took him to the ground, Mr. Queen had been in
detention for a significant period of time. The force in the instant case occurred
almost two hours after Mr. Queen arrived at the jail. (In contrast, the force at issue
in Fennell occurred just moments after the plaintiff arrived at the jail.) The arrest
was over; detention had begun. Considering the foregoing, the Court finds that
Mr. Queen was a pretrial detainee at the time of the confrontation with Officer
Collier and that the Fourteenth Amendment governs Mr. Queen’s excessive force
Because the Fourteenth Amendment governs Mr. Queen’s excessive force
claim, the Court GRANTS Officer Collier’s motion to dismiss (Doc. 13) and
DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Mr. Queen’s Fourth Amendment claim.
The Court asks the Clerk to please TERM Doc. 13.
DONE and ORDERED this July 29, 2016.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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