Manohar v. Baxter et al
ORDER granting 47 MOTION to Dismiss based on Mr. Manohar's failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 10/13/2020. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 3:16-cv-00076-KGB
BAXTER, et al.
Before the Court is defendant Scott Baxter’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
on which relief can be granted (Dkt. No. 47). Plaintiff Lakhraj Manohar filed a response and a
supplemental response to the motion to dismiss (Dkt. Nos. 53, 72). For the following reasons, the
Court grants Mr. Baxter’s motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 47).
Mr. Manohar filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Lieutenant Baxter
of the Jonesboro Police Department and two other defendants, Mr. Vandergriff and Mr. Ollo (Dkt.
No. 1). The Court dismissed Mr. Manohar’s claims against defendants Mr. Vandergriff and Mr.
Ollo without prejudice (Dkt. No. 44). Mr. Baxter is the sole remaining defendant in this case.
Mr. Manohar claims that on February 29, 2016, he went to St. Bernards Hospital to visit a
sick friend (Id., at 3). Mr. Manohar alleges that he was in the hospital cafeteria when Mr. Ollo and
Mr. Vandergriff told him that he could not be there unless he was visiting someone at the hospital.
Mr. Manohar asserts that “they assumed I was loitering.” (Id.). Mr. Manohar states that Mr. Ollo
and Mr. Vandergriff then escorted him to the reception area of the hospital where Mr. Baxter came
and “maliciously started harassing me in a manner and told me I’m loitering and demanded my
ID.” (Id., at 4). He asserts that Mr. Baxter called a squad car, and he was taken to Craighead
County Jail (Id.). Mr. Manohar claims Mr. Baxter “acted bias [sic] and possibly stereotype [sic]
and racist and does not respect people’s concerns and belief and therefore violated my First
Amendment right [sic] and subjecting me to cruel and unusual punishment by abusing his powers
or position of authority acting malicious and capricious having visitors of St. Bernard on edge
when it comes to visiting family or friends.” (Id.). Mr. Manohar was later charged and convicted
of loitering and obstruction of governmental operations in Craighead County District Court (Dkt.
To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “While a complaint attacked
by a [Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle [ment] to relief’ requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). “[T]he complaint must contain facts
which state a claim as a matter of law and must not be conclusory.” Briehl v. General Motors
Corp., 172 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 1999) (citing Frey v. City of Herculaneum, 44 F.3d 667, 671
(8th Cir. 1995)). “When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the district court must accept the allegations
contained in the complaint as true and all reasonable inferences from the complaint must be drawn
in favor of the nonmoving party.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001).
Motion To Dismiss
Official Capacity Claims
Mr. Baxter moves to dismiss Mr. Manohar’s complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 47). He argues that Mr. Manohar did not specify that he was suing him
in his individual capacity, so the Court should construe Mr. Manohar’s complaint as suing him
only in his official capacity (Dkt. No. 48, at 3-4). Mr. Baxter also argues that Mr. Manohar’s suit
against him in his official capacity should be dismissed because the suit is, in effect, a suit against
the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Mr. Manohar has not alleged sufficient facts to suggest that
the City of Jonesboro is liable (Id., at 4-5).
Mr. Manohar filed an untimely response to the motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 53).1 See Local
Rules of the Eastern and Western District of Arkansas, Local Rule 7.2(b) (requiring any party
opposing a motion to serve and file with the Clerk a concise statement in opposition to the motion
within 14 days from the date of service of copies of the motion). In his response to the motion to
dismiss, Mr. Manohar states that he intended to sue Mr. Baxter in his individual capacity (Id., at
1). Mr. Manohar also states that he is not seeking monetary damages, but instead Mr. Manohar
requests “that he [Mr. Baxter] resigns from the City of Jonesboro for unconstitutional custom or
practice of stereotyping as Defendant acted bias and did not respect people’s concern and belief,
falsified charges of loitering and obstruction of governmental operations . . . “ (Id., at 1).
To the extent that Mr. Manohar is suing Mr. Baxter in his official capacity, Mr. Manohar
seeks to impose liability on the municipality of Jonesboro. See, e.g., Williams v. Little Rock Mun.
Mr. Baxter moved to strike Mr. Manohar’s response as untimely (Dkt. No. 54). The
Court dismissed as moot the motion when it granted Mr. Baxter’s motion to dismiss for lack of
prosecution (Dkt. No. 64). When the Court vacated its Order granting the motion to dismiss, it
denied Mr. Baxter’s motion to strike Mr. Manohar’s response to the motion to dismiss (Dkt. No.
Water Works, 21 F.3d 218 (8th Cir. 1994). To impose liability upon a municipality under § 1983,
a civil rights plaintiff must demonstrate that the conduct complained of is attributable to an
unconstitutional official policy or custom. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326 (1981);
Monell v. Department of Social Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Johnson
v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1999). For municipal liability to attach, it
is not enough for a § 1983 plaintiff to show that the municipality’s agents or employees have
violated or will violate the Constitution, for a municipality will not be held liable solely on a theory
of respondeat superior. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. Instead, the plaintiff must demonstrate that,
through its deliberate conduct, the municipality was the “moving force” behind the injury alleged.
Further, in general, the existence of a municipal policy, custom, or practice cannot be inferred
solely from the proof of a single unconstitutional incident. See Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S.
808, 823-24 (1985) (“[p]roof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to
impose liability”); see also City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 123) (1988) (explaining
that an unconstitutional policy could be inferred from a single decision taken by the highest
officials responsible for setting policy).
Mr. Manohar alleges in his response to the motion to dismiss that Mr. Baxter had a “custom
or practice of stereotyping as defendant acted bias and did not respect people’s concern and belief.”
(Dkt. No. 53, at 1). Even construing Mr. Manohar’s claim and all reasonable inferences in his
favor, Mr. Manohar has not alleged facts showing that he suffered an injury caused by an
unconstitutional policy or custom on the part of the City of Jonesboro. See Monell, 436 U.S. at
690-91 (determining that a plaintiff seeking to impose § 1983 liability on local government body
must show official policy or widespread custom or practice of unconstitutional conduct that caused
deprivation of constitutional rights). Mr. Manohar’s allegations fail to point to a municipal custom
or practice, and the Court cannot construe such a custom or practice based on the facts alleged in
the complaint. Accordingly, Mr. Manohar’s claims against Mr. Baxter in his official capacity are
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)
Individual Capacity Claims
Mr. Manohar claims that Mr. Baxter violated the First Amendment because he “did not
respect people’s concerns and belief.” (Dkt. No. 1, at 4). Mr. Manohar also asserts that Mr. Baxter
“acted bias [sic]” and “possibly stereotype [sic] and racist.” (Id.). Mr. Baxter contends that these
claims lack any factual support and that the allegations alone do not state a claim under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 48, at 6). In his supplemental response to the motion
to dismiss, Mr. Manohar claims that he “figured I was being stereotyped and targeted due to my
name and skin color.” (Dkt. No. 72, at 1). The Court has read Mr. Manohar’s complaint liberally
and construed all inferences in his favor, but it cannot find based on the facts alleged that Mr.
Manohar has stated a First Amendment claim against Mr. Baxter. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555556.
Mr. Manohar also alleges that Mr. Baxter subjected him to “cruel and unusual punishment
by abusing his powers or position of authority acting malicious and capricious having visitors of
St. Bernard on edge when it comes to visiting family and friends.” (Dkt. Nos. 1, at 4; 48, at 6-7).
Mr. Baxter contends that, to the extent Mr. Manohar is attempting to state an Eighth Amendment
claim, the Eighth Amendment is inapplicable because Mr. Manohar had not been adjudicated
guilty of an offense in order to trigger Eighth Amendment protections (Dkt. No. 48, at 6-7).
Even if being a pre-trial detainee placed Mr. Manohar outside the protections of the Eighth
Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment which applies only to convicted
prisoners, the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees pre-trial detainees at least as many protections
as does the Eighth Amendment and extends to them as well protection from deprivations that are
intended to punish. Hott v. Hennepin Cty., Minnesota, 260 F.3d 901, 905 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing
Bell v. Stigers, 937 F.2d 1340, 1342 n. 4 (8th Cir. 1991); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979)).
Consequently, Mr. Manohar may pursue a claim for conduct amounting to cruel and unusual
punishment under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Walton v. Dawson, 752
F.3d 1109, 1117 (8th Cir. 2014). To succeed on a claim under the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment, a pretrial detainee must show, “the defendant official was deliberately
indifferent to his rights.” Id. (citing Butler v. Fletcher, 465 F.3d 340, 345 (8th Cir. 2006)).
Mr. Manohar’s allegation that Mr. Baxter used his position of authority to cause him to be
“on edge” at most alleges verbal abuse. Mr. Manohar’s allegations that Mr. Baxter verbally
harassed him during his arrest, even if true, do not state an actionable claim under § 1983. See
Doe v. Gooden, 214 F.3d 952, 955 (8th Cir.2000) (yelling, screaming, name-calling, and other
verbal abuse does not demonstrate a constitutional violation); McDowell v. Jones, 990 F.2d 433,
434 (8th Cir. 1993) (verbal threats and name calling usually are not actionable under § 1983)
(citing Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1339 (8th Cir. 1985)).
Mr. Baxter argues that, to the extent Mr. Manohar alleges that he was wrongfully arrested,
that claim is barred by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477 (1994) (Dkt. No. 48, at 7). In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the United States
Supreme Court instructed:
[W]hen a  prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider
whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity
of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless
the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been
invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff’s action, even if
successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal
judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the
absence of some other bar to the suit.
Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. This approach prevents “a collateral attack on the conviction through the
vehicle of a civil suit.” Id. at 485 (internal citations omitted).
Mr. Manohar’s false arrest claim against Mr. Baxter is barred by Heck because a finding
that Mr. Manohar was falsely arrested would necessarily negate his convictions for loitering and
obstruction of governmental operations and because nothing in Mr. Manohar’s pleadings indicates
that his conviction has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared
invalid, or called into question by a writ of habeas corpus.
For these reasons, the Court grants defendant Scott Baxter’s motion to dismiss based on
Mr. Manohar’s failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
So ordered this 13th day of October, 2020.
Kristine G. Baker
United States District Judge
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