Johnson v. Arkansas, State of et al
ORDER dismissing Plaintiff Johnson's claims against Randolph County, Arkansas and the City of Pocahontas without prejudice. Granting 35 Motion to Dismiss. Because the State of Arkansas is entitled to sovereign immunity, Johnson's claims against the State are dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Judge J. Leon Holmes on 7/31/2013. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JACKIE D. JOHNSON
No. 3:13CV00063 JLH
STATE OF ARKANSAS;
RANDOLPH COUNTY, ARKANSAS;
and CITY OF POCAHONTAS, ARKANSAS
OPINION AND ORDER
Jackie D. Johnson has filed a pro se complaint against the State of Arkansas, Randolph
County, and the City of Pocahontas, complaining of a roadblock conducted by law enforcement
officers in the City of Pocahontas on the night of November 4, 2012, in which Johnson’s vehicle was
searched, allegedly without probable cause or warrant, and required to stop where it was in danger
of being struck by ongoing traffic. He also has filed an amended complaint in which he additionally
alleges that he was issued a citation for lack of proof of insurance by an unnamed officer who never
asked whether he had proof. He further alleges that the requirement that he pay a fine or appear in
court on a particular date was extortion because the defendants knew that it would be cheaper to pay
the ticket than to appear.
Johnson’s initial complaint against Randolph County was previously dismissed. Document
#19. It is not clear whether Johnson’s amended complaint intends to state a claim against Randolph
County; if so, it fails to correct the deficiencies in the initial complaint.
The State of Arkansas has moved to dismiss on the ground that Johnson’s claims against it
are barred by sovereign immunity. Johnson has not responded. The State’s motion is therefore
GRANTED. Document #35.
The City of Pocahontas has moved to dismiss Johnson’s claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(b)(6), arguing that Johnson’s complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8(a)(2) does not require a complaint to
contain detailed factual allegations, it does require a plaintiff to state the grounds of his entitlement
to relief, which requires more than labels and conclusions. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court
must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and review the complaint to determine
whether its allegations show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Schaaf v. Residential Funding
Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences from the complaint must be
drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. Crumpley-Patterson v. Trinity Lutheran Hosp., 388 F.3d
588, 590 (8th Cir. 2004). The Court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions, even those
stated as though they are factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937,
1949-50, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). A pro se complaint must be liberally construed, however
inartfully worded, and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1081 (2007). “It is well
established that an amended complaint supercedes an original complaint and renders the original
complaint without legal effect.” In re Wireless Telephone Federal Cost Recovery Fees Litigation,
396 F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005). The Court will, therefore, analyze Johnson’s amended complaint
to ascertain whether it states a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Johnson’s amended complaint attempts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.1
A city or county may not be held vicariously liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the unconstitutional
acts of employees. Mettler v. Whitledge, 165 F.3d 1197, 1204 (8th Cir. 1999). For a city or county
to be liable, a policy or custom of the city or county must have been the moving force behind the
constitutional violation. Scheeler v. City of St. Cloud, Minn., 402 F.3d 826, 832 (8th Cir. 2005);
Mettler, 165 F.3d at 1204. “[A] ‘policy’ is an official policy, a deliberate choice of a guiding
principle or procedure made by the municipal official who has final authority regarding such
matters.” Mettler, 165 F.3d at 1204. A single decision may reflect an official county policy
“provided that a deliberate choice to follow a course of action was made from among various
alternatives by the official or officials responsible for establishing final policy with respect to the
subject matter in question.” Buzek v. Cnty. of Saunders, 972 F.2d 992, 996 (8th Cir. 1992). A
custom exists when there has been a pattern of “persistent and widespread” unconstitutional practices
that have become so “permanent and well settled” as to have the effect and force of law. Jane Doe
A v. Special Sch. Dist., 901 F.2d 642, 646 (8th Cir. 1990) (quoting Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs.,
436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S. Ct. 2018, 2036, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978)).
With respect to the stop, Johnson’s amended complaint specifies no policy or custom of
Randolph County or the City of Pocahontas that was the moving force behind the actions about
which he complains. Rather, he alleges only the conclusion that the officers acted pursuant to the
policy and direction of the three defendants – the State, the County, and the City – which is
In the amended complaint, Johnson also cites 42 U.S.C. § 2236, but that appears to be a
scrivener’s error. Apparently, he intended to cite 18 U.S.C. § 2236, which is a criminal statute that
applies to officers, agents, and employees of the United States, not to officers employed by states,
counties, or cities. Johnson’s original complaint sought relief under the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §1961, but he omitted that claim from the amended complaint.
insufficient. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S. Ct. at 1964-65 (plaintiff’s obligation to provide
grounds of entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions); Chambers v. St. Louis
County, 27 Fed. Appx. 846, 848 (8th Cir. 2007) (speculative allegations about an apparent policy
to condone police brutality were merely conclusory). Aside from the stop, Johnson alleges that the
requirement that he pay the fine or appear in court pursuant to the citation is extortion, but that is not
only a legal conclusion, it is also false.
Johnson fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted against Randolph County
or the City of Pocahontas under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Jackie D. Johnson fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against Randolph
County, Arkansas, and the City of Pocahontas. Johnson’s claims against Randolph County,
Arkansas, and the City of Pocahontas are dismissed without prejudice. Because the State of
Arkansas is entitled to sovereign immunity, Johnson’s claims against the State are dismissed with
IT IS SO ORDERED this 31st day of July, 2013.
J. LEON HOLMES
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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