Baker v. Lee County Arkansas et al
ORDER granting 26 Mike Middleton's motion to dismiss on Baker's official capacity claims, denying it on Baker's individual capacity claims, and granting it on Baker's state law claims. Signed by Chief Judge Brian S. Miller on 10/3/2017. (kdr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CASE NO: 2:17-CV-00008 BSM
LEE COUNTY, ARKANSAS, et al.
Defendant Mike Middleton’s motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 26] is granted on plaintiff
Cherrell Baker’s official capacity claims, denied on Baker’s individual capacity claims, and
granted on Baker’s state law claims.
A claim against Middleton in his official capacity is the same as a claim against the
State of Arkansas. See Brockinton v. City of Sherwood, Ark., 503 F.3d 667, 674 (8th Cir.
2007) (a suit against a governmental employee in his official capacity is a suit against the
Further, the state of Arkansas is immune from suit by the Eleventh
Amendment unless it consents to the suit. Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 781–82 (1978).
An exception to this immunity exists when a plaintiff seeks an injunction against a state
official. Monroe v. Arkansas State Univ., 495 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir. 2007). Although
Baker requests injunctive relief in her prayer for relief, she cannot receive an injunction
because she has failed to show that there is an ongoing violation of law. The state of
Arkansas is therefore immune from suit, and Middleton’s motion to dismiss is granted on
Baker’s official capacity claims.
Middleton’s motion to dismiss Baker’s individual capacity claims is denied. Baker
alleges that Middleton arrested her without a warrant and without probable cause. See
Compl. ¶¶ 16, 23, 31, Doc. No. 2. She claims she asked Middleton if she was under arrest,
and he said “Yes,” and told her to follow him to the police station. Id. ¶16. She says
Middleton threatened that she would face federal charges if she did not give a statement. Id.
¶¶ 17, 21. Middleton denies Baker’s claims and states that Baker was never arrested. Doc.
No. 27-1, at 5. In determining whether an individual is under arrest, a court must look at
“the totality of the circumstances” and determine whether the “suspect’s freedom of action
is curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest.’” Park v. Shiflett, 250 F.3d 843, 850
(4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 440 (1984)). When the facts
are viewed in the light most favorable to Baker, it is clear that Baker has sufficiently alleged
that Middleton arrested her without probable cause.
The next question is whether Middleton is immune from this claim. See Doc. No. 27,
at 8. “Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense, to be upheld in a motion to dismiss only
when the immunity can be established on the face of the complaint.” Bradford v. Huckabee,
330 F.3d 1038, 1041 (8th Cir. 2003)).
To determine whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity, a court considers
1) whether the facts, construed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, establish a violation
of a constitutional right and 2) whether that right was clearly established at the time of the
violation, such that a reasonable officer would have known that his actions were unlawful.
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009). If either question is answered in the
negative, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. Keil v. Triveline, 661 F.3d 981,
985 (8th Cir. 2011). Baker has sufficiently alleged a Fourth Amendment violation, and the
right to bee free from arrest without probable cause was clearly established on May 13, 2014,
when the incident at issue occurred. See Stoner v. Watlingten, 735 F.3d 799, 804 (8th Cir.
2013). For these reasons, Middleton’s claim of immunity cannot be established on the face
of the complaint, and the motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity is denied. See
Bradford, 330 F.3d 1041.
Baker’s common law claim for false arrest is barred by the statute of limitations.
Arkansas has a one-year statute of limitations for false arrest and false imprisonment claims.
Ark. Code. Ann. § 16-56-104(2); Ketchum v. City of W. Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th
Cir. 1992); Headrick v. Wal Mart Stores, Inc., 738 S.W.2d 418, 420 (Ark. 1987) (explaining
false arrest and false imprisonment are the same tort). The incident Baker complains about
occurred on May 13, 2014, Compl. ¶ 13, and she did not file the predecessor lawsuit to this
case until December 4, 2015. Baker’s state law claim is therefore dismissed with prejudice.
See Sanders v. Dep’t of Army, 981 F.2d 990, 991 (8th Cir. 1992) (“a complaint is subject to
dismissal for failure to state a claim ‘when the affirmative [limitations] defense clearly
appears on the face of the complaint’”).
For these reasons, Middleton’s motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 26] is granted on Baker’s
official capacity claims, denied on Baker’s individual capacity claims, and granted on
Baker’s state law claims.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 3rd day of October 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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