Alcocer v. Bulloch County Sheriff's Office et al

Filing 60

ORDER dismissing Plaintiff's request for declaratory relief; granting Defendant's 30 Motion to Dismiss with respect to Plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief against Sheriff Anderson. Signed by Judge J. Randal Hall on 01/18/2017. (thb)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA STATESBORO DIVISION JUDITH ALCOCER, * * Plaintiff, v. * BULLOCH COUNTY SHERIFF'S CV 615-94 * OFFICE et al. , * Defendants. * ORDER Presently before the Court is Defendants' Plaintiff's Second (Doc. Plaintiff, 30.) violated multiple Amended Complaint Judith Alcocer, federal laws and for Motion to Dismiss Damages, alleges that constitutional in Part. Defendants provisions. Defendants move to dismiss only a limited portion of Plaintiff's complaint: against GRANTS the claims for injunctive and Sheriff Anderson in his official Defendants' declaratory capacity. relief The Court motion. BACKGROUND On January 30, 2014, Deputy Sheriff Randall Norman observed Plaintiff Georgia. Plaintiff driving After was east on U.S. running driving the through Highway license the 80 in plate Georgia Bulloch County, of vehicle Crime the Information Center ("GCIC"), he discovered that the owner of the vehicle had a suspended owner, he license. stopped Suspecting Plaintiff and that asked she for was her the identification. After confirming that she was the vehicle's owner, issued license. Plaintiff He then a citation arrested for Plaintiff driving for the vehicle's Deputy Norman with a suspended misdemeanor offense and transported her to the county jail for processing. Plaintiff remained in the county jail seven hours. despite claims awaiting ("ICE") provided the for the next twenty- She alleges that Defendants refused to release her fact that that she Defendants notification posted ignored from bond. her In bond Immigration and with a copy of her Plaintiff because Customs on whether Plaintiff was here illegally, Defendants fact, they were Enforcement even though she birth certificate. Defendant does not deny these accounts. Following Court. this incident, current Plaintiff filed suit motion, Plaintiff in alleges this Relevant to the that Sheriff Anderson (1) failed to formulate and implement a policy or custom that protects against violations of the civil rights of citizens, (2) established a custom, policy, or practice making illegal traffic stops if someone looks Latino, established a custom and protocol of automatically arrested Latinos in anticipation of an ICE hold. this Court to: Latinos, (1) of and (3) detaining Plaintiff asks "[E]njoin Defendant's from assuming that all like the Plaintiff are illegal aliens"; (2) "[E]njoin the Defendants from utilizing the policy, practice or custom of routinely appear running Latina, like for doing so."; to Latinas, part of license (3) "[E]njoin the Defendants country."; (4) to without Plaintiff, she was "[E]njoin legal the stopping, seizing Latinos for Sheriff from Latinas grounds Federal I.C.E. Plaintiff (5) are lacks who reason was Fifth, 26 so and because Defendant Fourth detaining, the as Amendments searching and 6) and anticipation Defendants request by "[E]njoin the in to if Sheriff 132-138.) Ifl this Latinos referred to I.C.E. Latinos standing in referring "[E]njoin the detaining (Doc. legal illegal doing 'driving while brown'"; hold." other from for intimidating, illegally drivers because of an assumption on the Defendants Fourteenth, no of Defendants from refusing bond all the GCIC, with an American-borne woman, from violating that that an illegal alien."; illegally through Plaintiff, like the Plaintiff, the I.C.E. the plates of a argue injunctive or declaratory relief. STANDARD OF REVIEW "To survive a motion to sufficient factual matter, to relief that 678 (2009) 556 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). plaintiff rather than to contain 'state a claim is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. 662, the a complaint must accepted as true, 556 U.S. two-part test. dismiss, See id. has mere (quoting legal Atl. Applying this at 679. stated Bell First, specific conclusions. Corp. v. Iqbal, Twombly, standard requires a the Court asks whether facts Id. supporting Second, a it claim asks whether those relief. Id. The plead at might give rise to a right to 680. "factual content inference misconduct as complaint," couched as it a that that alleged." accept "true must the all not factual allegations" the doors of the Court U.S. the court not at is as 678. true Id. allow draw for While a the the the Court contained legal in a conclusion Generalized conclusions the The plaintiff See id. the "show" to liable allegations "accept discovery." that 556 of will the defendant allegation." "bare facts allows Iqbal, and specific plausibly first prong of the inquiry requires that the plaintiff reasonable must facts plaintiff defendant's to "unlock must misconduct. assert Id. at 679. Once separates from mere legal conclusions, and "determine entitlement to whether a . . . [is] whether specific factual allegations it must accept those facts as true they relief." complaint the plausibly Iqbal, states 556 U.S. a give at plausible rise 679. claim to an "Determining for relief a context specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. Well-pleaded facts cannot be merely consistent with the alleged misconduct; they must allow misconduct was plausible. the Court Id. at 678. to Thus, infer that such facts which show only the possibility of misconduct are not enough. Id. The complaint must allege facts that push the claim "across the line from conceivable to plausible." Finally, while a plaintiff 'specific fact' precision' cover complaint 'contain does each element of a claim, respecting to Id. at 683. either all the recovery under some Inc. Stephens, v. every viable Inc., it 500 is or 683 (11th Cir. "allege allege a 'with still necessary that a necessary allegations to Fin. 1276, 2007)(quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. 678, or theory.'" F.3d to inferential elements legal have element direct material not sustain Sec. 1282-83 for Choice, a Assur., (11th Inc., Cir. 253 F.3d 2001)). DISCUSSION Before delving motion to dismiss, about the status (Doc. 13.) motion to the of dismiss that that the Court of argues of needs clarify in to Defendants' her Plaintiff's response Second prior face, some motion previous "Plaintiff's found plausible on its first 12(b)(6) substance Defendants' Plaintiff states mostly Court into to current confusion to dismiss. the Amended pleadings current Complaint which denying Defendant's the (sic) Motion to Dismiss Sheriff Lynn Anderson, in his official capacity." no such finding. (Doc. 33 at 2.) The Court, however, made The Court declared Defendants' first motion to dismiss moot, because Plaintiff amended the complaint to which it objected. The Court did not deny Defendants' motion on the merits or find Plaintiff's prior pleading "plausible on its face." Having cleared up that misconception, decide whether relief or Plaintiff (1) has the Court must now standing to request injunctive (2) has standing to request declaratory relief. A. Request for Injunctive Relief Before a ensure the 1199, reviews plaintiff 1204 plaintiff court (11th must has Cir. standing. 2006). demonstrate redressability." decide the dispute. Defendants fails Plaintiff's claim case, injury Basham, establish in it must first 471 standing, fact, F.3d "the causation, and If a plaintiff fails to meet any the Court is without jurisdiction to Id. at 1206. claim to of a Eland v. To Id. at 1205. one of these requirements, relief the merits that satisfy of Plaintiff's the request injury-in-fact for injunctive element injury is too speculative. because A plaintiff suffers an injury in fact when he suffers a harm that is "(a) concrete and conjectural particularized and or (b) hypothetical." Usually, a plaintiff alleging a past harm. declaratory relief, Eland, satisfies When however, actual the 471 Healthcare 2014) . fact Sys. , Inc., F.3d seeks 768 F.3d at not 1207. element by injunctive seeks to regulate future conduct by alleging a future injury. Req'l imminent, injury-in-fact a plaintiff he or or ongoing or McCullum v. Orlando 1135, 1145 (11th Cir. Thus, determining whether a plaintiff has an injury in requires a special analysis. A court must determine whether the plaintiff has proven that "the threatened harm is 6 real and 1145. immediate, the In the manner "each and conjectural Eleventh "imminent." Eland, Because not Circuit, or hypothetical." the future Id. must injury at be 471 F.3d at 1207. element degree of of standing evidence must be required supported at the ^with successive stages of the litigation,'" the reviewing court must conduct its analysis Church in v. light City of of Thus, the Huntsville, 1994) (quoting Lujan v. (1992)). where litigation 30 F.3d sits 1332, Defenders of Wildlife, procedurally. 1336 (11th 504 U.S. Cir. 555, 561 the burden of proof for standing at the motion- to-dismiss stage differs from that at the summary-judgment stage which differs from that at the trial stage. 561. When "general standing factual is challenged allegations of on a injury Lujan, motion 504 to U.S. at dismiss, resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss we *presume[e] that facts that factual general allegations are necessary to support allegations, however, embrace those the claim.'" specific Id. must be viewed in light of the Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Iqbal. Therefore, the allegations supporting standing, while taken as true, specific and factual These allegations not merely must be conclusory statements. 1. Plaintiff has not alleged an "imminent" injury in fact Plaintiff has failed to prove that her future injury is "imminent," first and foremost, because the future injury alleged is too speculative. To plaintiff must be at a real risk of she seeks to avoid. Church, whether a prospective courts assume repeat the 1337-38. whether that she if will injury F.3d at is that a once led or injunction, a When determining "immediate" abide her plaintiff's again 1337. "real" to an suffering the future injury the plaintiff will misconduct Thus, 30 obtain by the original future voluntarily federal law and not injury. break at depends injury Id. on the law, the reoccurrence of her injury is much more speculative than if "for reasons beyond the plaintiff's avoid repeating the Court had O'Shea v. Id. Littleton, at 414 determined whether minority standing he or conduct that led to the the hands of the defendant." In control to pursue an she is unable to original injury at 1338. U.S. 488 (1974), citizens injunction the Supreme of Cairo, Illinois, against county officials for allegedly discriminatory conduct in their administration of the county judicial system. The plaintiffs alleged that the State's Attorney and the Police Commissioner had engaged in a "pattern and practice of intentional racial discrimination" and they provided complaint. magistrate Id. specific at 491. and judge set examples of They also unlawful such conduct their alleged that the county bonds for black citizens, imposed harsher sentences on black citizens, citizens to pay for jury trials. in Id. at 492. and forced black In determining that the plaintiffs injunction, injuries were too speculative to warrant an the Court noted: [T]he prospect of future injury rests on the likelihood that respondents will again be arrested for and charged with violations of the criminal law and will again be subjected to bond proceedings, trial, or sentencing before petitioners. Important to this assessment is the absence of allegations that any relevant criminal statute of the State of Illinois is unconstitutional on its face or as applied or that respondents have been or will be improperly charged with violating criminal law. If the statutes that might possibly be enforced against respondents are valid laws, and if charges under these statutes are not improvidently made or pressed, the question becomes whether any perceived threat to respondents is sufficiently real and immediate to show an existing controversy simply because they anticipate violating lawful criminal statutes and being tried for their offenses, in which event they may appear before petitioners and, if they do, will be affected by the allegedly illegal conduct charged. Apparently, the proposition is that if respondents proceed to violate an unchallenged law and if they are charged, held to answer, and tried in any proceedings before petitioners, they will be subjected to discriminatory practices that petitioners are alleged to have followed. But it seems to us that attempting to anticipate whether and when these respondents will be charged with crime and will be made to appear before either petitioner takes us into the area of speculation and conjecture. . . . We assume that respondents will conduct their activities within the law and so avoid prosecution exposure to the challenged and conviction as well course of conduct said to as be followed by petitioners. Id. at 496-97 Here, (emphasis added). Plaintiff's defects as that future encounter in alleged O'Shea: with it the injury suffers is speculative. too police of the from type the same First, a Plaintiff previously experienced will not occur unless she decides to once more engage in illegal conduct. Although Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Norman conducted an prohibited Deputy Norman through 400, the 402 GCIC (Ga. illegal he did not. from running Plaintiff's system. Ct. stop, See App. Humphreys v. 2010) (upholding Nothing license plate State, 696 traffic S.E. stop 2d after Officer checked a vehicle's tag through the GCIC and discovered its 489, owner had a suspended license); 491 (Ga. Ct. App. Hill v. State, 743 S.E. 2d 2013) (citing with approval Humphreys and noting that "visual surveillance of vehicles in plain view does not constitute an unreasonable search for Fourth Amendment purposes, even if surveillance is aided by an officer's use of a license plate tag reader, because a defendant does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a plainly visible license plate."); Cir. see also Eagle v. 1996) (noting expectation of privacy state such as the the owner that of the Morgan, persons do in criminal NCIC) . vehicle And, once had 88 a F.3d 620, not have databases the 627-28 a (8th reasonable created by the GCIC alerted him that suspended reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop. license, he had See Humphreys, 696 S.E. 2d at 402; Hill v. State, 743 S.E. at 491-92. Thus, it was Plaintiff's voluntary decision to break the law that led to her alleged injury. Had Plaintiff not driven her car illegally, she would never have even encountered Defendants. But, even if Plaintiff finds herself in a future encounter with police through no fault of her own, any claims of a future injury arising after her encounter are still speculative. 10 To obtain an herself, the injunction, Plaintiff must credibly Los Angeles allegedly v. Lyons, racially biased policies. 461 U.S. 95, 106 n.7 demonstrate Sheriff's release that Office, after she would but that posting not she bond, anticipation of an ICE hold. the she, assumption that City when taken as true, be stopped would be arrested, and of This means only detained again by denied illegally in Id. Any allegations of this type, however, upon See (1983). that she must make factual allegations that, the that faces a realistic threat from the future application of Sheriff's would allege Plaintiff will again rest entirely once more engage in illegal activity that exposes her to potentially discriminatory conduct. Plaintiff does not deny that she was driving with a suspended license, nor does she allege that the law prohibiting driving without a license violates the Constitution. She alleges only that Defendants never should have discovered she was driving without a license and that they violated her rights by actions taken after they arrested her. Any threat of future injury to Plaintiff, then, cannot be separated from her illegal conduct. Given the fact that Plaintiff's threat of future injury turns so squarely on the proposition that Plaintiff will once more engage Court presumes in illegal Plaintiff activity, will not and the fact engage in future that the illegal conduct, the Court finds Plaintiff claim of future injury to be mere conjecture. 11 2. Plaintiff has not sufficiently pled an injury in fact In addition to not actually the fact that plaintiff's imminent, Plaintiff also future fails allege that her future injury is imminent. to injury is sufficiently Plaintiff makes only conclusory allegations that the Sheriff sanctioned a "custom and practice" of racial allegations to make personal tales of of alleged allegations does she bias, such and a she claim provides no plausible. specific She factual provides no the alleged bias other than a single instance mistreatment, and she provides that others were also victims provide specific Sheriff pushed this policy, factual of no specific racial bias. allegations indicating Nor the such as alleged statements he made, alleged documents indicating such a policy, or alleged testimony of former proof of officers. such While allegations, Plaintiff need she must not provide provide concrete enough factual specificity to allow this Court to deem such a claim plausible. Mere conclusory allegations will not do. Although one or violated Plaintiff's case, more Defendants constitutional or might very well statutory rights have in this this one instance of misconduct does nothing to provide sufficient factual allegations that the Sheriff sanctioned a practice of discrimination so pervasive that it constitutes a credible and herself. imminent threat of future injury to the See Lyons, of individual Plaintiff 461 U.S. at 108 (noting that the existence episodes of unfortunate 12 police encounters does not, in and Without of itself, sufficient establish factually a specific likely future allegations injury) . to make it plausible that law-enforcement officials engage in a practice of racial bias, the Court allegations that eye toward, racial bias. of racial bias, imminent alleged threat illegal the cannot Sheriff accept condoned, And, Plaintiff's or even conclusory turned a blind without accepting the allegations the Court cannot declare that Plaintiff faces an of once stop, more suffering illegal arrest, the and indignity illegal of an detention because of her Latina complexion. 3. Plaintiff's future injury is not redressible Plaintiff proposed also injunction future injury. fails to establish standing because her does not provide a remedy for her alleged To establish standing, "it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." generality of impossible for the the Lujan, Plaintiff's Court 504 561. injunctive to redress Here, requests any makes future the it injury. Plaintiff's injunctions are essentially requests that Defendants obey the law. A court, however, cannot issue an injunction "demanding that a party do nothing more specific than 'obey the law.'" be Eland, capable of 471 F.3d at 1209. enforcement Such an injunction would not and would violate the requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65. specificity Id. at 1210. If Defendants are already violating the law, for which they face 13 pre-existing ordering penalties, Defendants specificity, would requested must and that None of it to be have will injunction obey the remedy requested Plaintiff's and futile. claim that the the any additional injunction can alleged injunctions for it by Any without specificity actually issued law, meaningless enough Plaintiff's Therefore, an be injunctive enforced future satisfy Court injury. this relief test. will not redress her injury. B. Request for Declaratory Relief In addition to her request for injunctive relief, also requests declaratory relief. Plaintiff Plaintiff requests that this Court: 1. Declare the defendants' practice of assuming that all Latinas, like the Plaintiff, are illegal aliens, unconstitutional. 2. 3. Declare the practice of running the license plate of people who appear Latina through GCIC without having a legal reason to do so in (sic) unconstitutional. Declare that refusing to post bond to a Latina without the benefit of seeing a judge and because the Defendant's assume that a Latina country, is unconstitutional. 4. (Doc. assert is illegally in the Declare that referring all Latinos to I.C.E., legal grounds to do so, unconstitutional. without 26, Defendants Second that Amended Plaintiff's Complaint, cannot Tflf properly 164-167.) allege a claim for declaratory relief because the parties do not have a substantial continuing controversy. The Court agrees that Plaintiff cannot ask for declaratory relief. 14 Plaintiff does not have injunctive for cannot standing relief, prospective likelihood conduct Cty, 727 City of do declaratory so. prospective relief. a plaintiff be affected will future.'" 1322, Casselberry, by v. (11th 392 Cri. F.3d To the because relief show a Gen, of 2013) (quoting 1305 (11th she like standing sufficient allegedly Solicitor 1302, is, establish "*must McGee 1325 relief Declaratory he the F.3d to for relief, that in ask unlawful Richmond Koziara Cir. v. 2004)). "The plaintiff must allege facts from which the continuation of the dispute may be reasonably inferred." F.2d 1547, 1552 (11th Cir. may not be conjectural, real and immediate, 1985). create speculative threat of future injury." Plaintiff's requests for or continent; a definite, than Id. declaratory relief For the same relief, she also lacks standing to obtain declaratory relief: harm. to almost that not standing are reasons Plaintiff has lacked 756 it must be rather identical to her request for injunctive relief. Plaintiff Peeler, "[T]he continuing controversy hypothetical, and Emory v. obtain injunctive shown a real and immediate threat of Therefore, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff's future request for challenge her declaratory relief. CONCLUSION While Plaintiff certainly has standing to alleged past harms at this stage of the litigation, the Court finds that any future injury to 15 Plaintiff is not real or immediate enough to establish the injury-in-fact element necessary for standing to pursue the injunctive and declaratory relief Plaintiff requests. Defendants' motion request declaratory for Anderson. (Doc. ORDER January, to Therefore, dismiss and with injunctive the respect relief Court to GRANTS Plaintiff's against Sheriff 30.) ENTERED at Augusta, Georgia, this /<r^ day 2017. HALL ^STATES DISTRICT JUDGE *RN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 16 of

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