Heard v. Mississippi County Sheriff's Department et al
ORDER granting 7 Motion to Dismiss. All claims against the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department are dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge Beth Deere on 2/12/13. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
MISSISSIPPI COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPT., et al.
Plaintiff Louise Heard filed this lawsuit claiming that she was arrested at her home
on January 25, 2008, by John Doe members of the Blytheville Police Department. She
was allegedly charged with failing to appear as a witness in Mississippi County Circuit
Court, Juvenile Division. Ms. Heard claims that she was taken to the Mississippi County
Detention Center, strip-searched, placed in orange prisoner clothing, and held from
approximately 8:30 p.m. on January 25, 2010, until approximately 11:30 a.m. on January
26, 2010. At that time, she was transported from the Mississippi County Detention
Center in Luxora, Arkansas, to the Mississippi County Circuit Court in Osceola,
Ms. Heard explains that when she informed the Circuit Court Judge of the
circumstances surrounding her absence from the previous court date, the Circuit Court
Judge ordered that she be released from custody. Ms. Heard alleges that instead of
immediately releasing her, the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department held her until the
court session ended, then transported her back to the Mississippi County Detention Center
in handcuffs and ankle shackles, where she was again strip-searched by guards prior to
her release. In her complaint, Ms. Heard claims that the Mississippi County Sheriff’s
Department violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Pending is a motion to dismiss filed by Separate Defendant Mississippi County
Sheriff’s Department (#7). In its motion, the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department
argues that Ms. Heard’s claim against it should be dismissed because under controlling
law, a “sheriff’s department” is not a “person” amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The motion (#7) is GRANTED.
To state a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a
“person” acting under color of statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, deprived
him/her of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the U.S. Constitution or by federal
law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. While a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff’s duty to provide the grounds of his right to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 544-55 (2007). Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Id.
Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department
The complaint in this case does not state a claim against the Mississippi Sheriff’s
Department because a sheriff’s department is not a legal entity subject to suit under
§ 1983. See e.g., Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992) (“[s]heriff’s
departments and police departments are not usually considered legal entities subject to
suit” under § 1983); Martinez v. Winner, 771 F.2d 424, 444 (10th Cir. 1985) (the police
department is not a separate suable entity).
Because the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department is only a department or
subdivision of Mississippi County, it is not an entity capable of being sued in a § 1983
action. Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992).
The motion to dismiss (#7) is GRANTED. All claims against the Mississippi
County Sheriff’s Department are DISMISSED, with prejudice.
DATED this 12th day of February, 2013.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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