Heard v. Mississippi County Sheriff's Department et al
ORDER granting 20 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Ms. Heard's claims against Defendant Sanders in his individual capacity are dismissed without prejudice. She may proceed, however, on her claims against Defendant Sanders in his official capacity. Signed by Magistrate Judge Beth Deere on 6/25/2013. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
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 (“Circuit Court”). 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
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 for judgment on the pleadings filed by Separate Defendant
James Sanders, Sheriff of Mississippi County. (#20) In his motion, Defendant Sanders
asserts that Ms. Heard’s claims against him in his individual capacity should be
dismissed. The motion (#20) is GRANTED.
To adequately state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that a “person” acting under color of statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, deprived her of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the United States
Constitution or federal law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. While a complaint does not have to
include detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s duty to provide the grounds of her right
to relief requires more than labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 544-55 (2007). The plaintiff’s factual allegations, when assumed to be true,
must show that the plaintiff’s claim to relief is more than speculative. Id.
Furthermore, a defendant is liable under § 1983 only if he or she was directly and
personally responsible for depriving the plaintiff of her rights. To establish personal
liability of a supervisory defendant, a plaintiff must allege, “specific facts of personal
involvement in, or direct responsibility for, a deprivation of his constitutional rights.”
Clemmons v. Armontrout, 477 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
In Ms. Heard’s complaint, she alleges that Defendant Sanders “implemented the
unconstitutional policy of incarcerating [her] after she had been duly released from
custody.” (#1 at p.6) In addition, she states that “it is the direct acts of the Defendant
James Sanders and his authority position as Sheriff which resulted in [her]
unconstitutional incarceration.” She also claims that she was strip-searched by Defendant
Sanders and improperly detained by employees of the Mississippi County Sheriff’s
Department through the “implementation” of departmental policies.
Based on Ms. Heard’s allegations, she is attempting to hold Defendant Sanders
personally liable based on his position as Sheriff of Mississippi County and for
implementing various Detention Center policies. This is not enough to state a
constitutional claim against Defendant Sanders in his individual capacity.
Defendant Sanders’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in his individual
capacity (#20) is GRANTED, and Ms. Heard’s claims against Defendant Sanders in his
individual capacity are DISMISSED, without prejudice. She may proceed, however, on
her claims against Defendant Sanders in his official capacity.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 25th day of June, 2013.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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