Robinson v. Genesee County Sheriff's Department et al
ORDER Granting in Part 57 Motion to Strike Portions of the Amended Complaint. Signed by District Judge Thomas L. Ludington. (KWin)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
AARON ANTWAUN ROBINSON,
Case No. 16-cv-13805
Honorable Thomas L. Ludington
GENESEE COUNTY SHERIFF’S
DEPARTMENT, et al,
ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF THE AMENDED
On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff Aaron Robinson filed a complaint which alleged that
Defendants Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, Sergeant Gerald Park, Deputy Ryan
Rainwater, Deputy F/N/U Hoover, and ten other John Does repeatedly beat and otherwise
mistreated Robinson while he was confined in the Genesee County Jail. ECF No. 1. Defendant
Rainwater was served on December 16, 2016. In response to the complaint, Rainwater filed a
motion for a more definite statement, ECF No. 6, seeking additional information regarding
“which Defendant allegedly committed what tort and when.” Id. at 4. On January 16, 2017, the
Genesee County Sheriff’s Department appeared for the purpose of filing a motion to dismiss,
arguing that a sheriff’s department is not an independent legal entity that is amenable to suit
under Michigan law. ECF No. 14. On January 30, 2017, Robinson filed a motion to substitute
Genesee County for the Sheriff’s Department as a Defendant, acknowledging that the Sheriff’s
Department should not have been named as a Defendant. On February 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed a
motion seeking leave to file an amended complaint and a motion seeking an extension of the
service deadline. ECF Nos. 25, 26.
On March 24, 2017, the Court issued an opinion and order addressing the pending
motions. ECF No. 36. Among other things, the Court dismissed the Genesee County Sheriff’s
Department, but directed Robinson to file an amended complaint which provided a more definite
statement and added Genesee County as a Defendant on or before April 7, 2017. Robinson did
not file an amended complaint that provided a more definite statement at the deadline. After
being directed to show cause why the suit should not be dismissed for failure to provide a more
definite statement, see ECF No. 40, Robinson filed a more definite statement in narrative form.
ECF No. 47. Robinson also requested, for the third time, that the deadline to serve Defendant
Hoover be extended. ECF No. 46. On June 2, 2017, the Court granted Robinson another
extension of time to file an amended complaint which complied with the previous order to
provide a more definite statement, but denied the motion for an extension of time to serve
Defendant Hoover. ECF No. 55.
On June 16, 2017, Robinson filed an amended complaint which incorporated, in pleading
form, the information in his previously filed more definite statement. ECF No. 56. On June 30,
2017, Defendants filed a motion to strike portions of the amended complaint, ECF No. 57, and
an answer to the amended complaint. ECF No. 58. For the following reasons, Defendants’
motion to strike will be granted in part.
At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in Robinson’s amended complaint are assumed
to be true. In the amended complaint, Robinson names F/N/U Rainwater, Sergeant Gerald Park,
and Genesee County as Defendants. Am. Compl., ECF No. 56. Robinson alleges that he was
arrested in August 2011 and charged with “larceny, firearms, home invasion and with the murder
of a highly respected retired Genesee County Sheriff Department Lieutenant who arrived home
while the burglary was in process.” Id. at 3–4. While awaiting trial, Robinson was incarcerated at
the Genesee County Jail. Id. at 3.
Robinson alleges that, during his incarceration, “he was assaulted, with varying degrees
of severity, by [Genesee County Jail] guards 3–4 times per week.” Id. at 4. “Each and every one
of Plaintiff’s assailants referenced their relationship with the slain lieutenant as the reason they
were assaulting[,] beating, threatening and torturing the Plaintiff.” Id. Robinson asserts that the
assaults “typically involved 3–4 guards” who “on most occasions wore black gloves during the
assaults.” Id. Robinson was allegedly assaulted in his cell, in the common area, and in solitary
confinement. Id. at 4–5. Sometimes, Robinson was handcuffed before the assaults occurred. Id.
According to Robinson, Defendant Rainwater “was present during Plaintiff’s entire
period of incarceration at GCJ and frequently bragged about being an MMA amateur fighter. He
was a ring-leader and participated in at least 50% of the beatings.” Id. at 13. Defendant Park, also
a “ring-leader,” participated in about half the beatings. Id. Robinson asserts that Park used his
position of authority to condone the assaults and provide “false testimony in the various
misconduct hearings.” Id. at 14. Robinson alleges that Park’s employment was terminated
because a civil suit exposed Park’s chronic mistreatment of inmates. Id.
During his incarceration, Robinson was repeatedly placed in solitary confinement
(spending a total of seven months in solitary). Id. at 5. Robinson alleges that, when falsely
accused of charges that would result in solitary confinement, the guards interfered with his
ability to defend himself at the hearing. Id. at 6. While in solitary confinement, Robinson
allegedly experienced repeated abuse, including being denied meals. Id. at 5. He also alleges
that, on at least one occasion, the water to his cell was turned off and then he was pepper
sprayed. Id. at 6. In general, Robinson did not receive medical treatment for his injuries. Id. at
Robinson provides several descriptions of specific assaults. For example, he alleges that
the first assault occurred four days after his arrest. Robinson was accused of throwing a tissue
out of his cell by second shift personnel. When third shift personnel came on duty, they removed
Robinson’s cellmate, handcuffed Robinson, and beat him. Id. at 7. The last assault occurred in
October 28, 2013, when Robinson was being transferred to Michigan Department of Corrections
custody. While processing Robinson, Rainwater allegedly punched him in the right eye. Id. at 12.
Robinson alleges that he kept a journal of the beatings. Id. at 8. However, the journal was
confiscated when he was placed in solitary confinement and he has not recovered it. Id. at 9.
Robinson also alleges that he phoned a friend after each attack and informed her. He further
alleges that his sister visited him twice and on both occasions saw bruises on his body. Id.
Robinson informed both his trial counsel and the presiding judge of his mistreatment. Id.
at 10–11. Robinson contends that shift supervisors at the jail were aware of the beatings but did
not stop the beatings, report the incidents, or otherwise investigate. Id. at 12. Robinson alleges
that some of the beatings were recorded by surveillance cameras within the jail, but Robinson is
unsure if those recordings still exist. Id. at 14–15.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), the “court may strike from a pleading
an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” The
district court may strike a portion of a pleading on its own, or “on motion made by a party either
before responding to the pleading, or, if a response is not allowed, within 21 days after being
served with the pleading.” Id. at Rule 12(f)(2). A defense is insufficient “if as a matter of law, the
defense cannot succeed under any circumstances.” Hahn v. Best Recovery Servs., LLC, 2010 WL
4483375, *2 (E.D. Mich. Nov.1, 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A Rule
12(f) motion is also proper “if it aids in eliminating spurious issues before trial, thereby
streamlining the litigation.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “Generally,
however, a Rule 12(f) motion should not be granted if the insufficiency of the defense is not
clearly apparent, or if it raises factual issues that should be determined on a hearing on the
merits.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Motions seeking to strike an
affirmative defense are disfavored and should be used sparingly. As observed by the Sixth
Circuit, a motion to strike “is a drastic remedy to be resorted to only when required for purposes
of justice. The motion to strike should be granted only when the pleading to be stricken has no
possible relation to the controversy.” Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. United States, 201
F.2d 819, 822 (6th Cir. 1953) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
For the reasons stated below, Defendants’ motions to strike will be granted in part. In his
response to Defendants’ motion, Robinson stipulates to dismissal of his conspiracy claim (Count
Three of the amended complaint). Accordingly, that claim will be dismissed without prejudice.
The remaining allegations which Defendants challenge are all relevant to the controversy framed
in the amended complaint and will not be stricken.
In the motion to strike, Defendants identify ten paragraphs in the amended complaint
which they believe should be stricken. Those paragraphs will be briefly summarized. In
paragraph 11, Robinson alleges that he was acquitted of the murder of the Genesee County
Lieutenant with which he was charged. Am. Compl. at 4. In paragraph 12, Robinson explains
that his co-Defendant pled guilty to murdering the Lieutenant. Id. In paragraphs 36, 37, and 61,
Robinson briefly mentions Deputy Shaw, who is not named as a Defendant. Id. at 7–8, 13. In
paragraphs 47 and 48, Robinson summarizes statements that he allegedly made during his
criminal prosecution regarding the mistreatment he was experiencing. Id. at 10–11. In paragraph
59, Robinson identifies one of his assaulters as F/N/U Hoover, who was originally named as a
Defendant but not named in the amended complaint. Id. at 13. In paragraph 60, Robinson alleges
that Defendant Park was terminated from his employment “as a result of mistreatment of
inmates, which was exposed in a civil suit.” Id. at 14. Finally, paragraph 70 alleges that
Robinson’s Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. Id. at 15–16.
Although some of the identified allegations are only tangentially relevant to Robinson’s
legal theory for relief, they nevertheless bear some relevance. The fact that Robinson was being
prosecuted for the murder of a Genesee County Lieutenant provides a plausible motive for
Defendants to mistreat him. Likewise, Robinson specifically identifies a number of assaulters
who are not named as Defendants. Those allegations provide context for Robinson’s assertion
that his beatings were condoned and sanctioned by Genesee County Jail officials in positions of
authority. Likewise, the allegation that Defendant Park was discharged after chronic
mistreatment of inmates was discovered is exceedingly relevant. If true, that allegation suggests
that there was a pattern and practice of mistreatment in the jail which Parks had already been
found (at least partially) responsible for. And, to the extent Defendants allege that certain
evidence identified by Robinson is inadmissible, that argument should be made when Robinson’s
allegations are challenged on the merits, not in a motion to strike.
Defendants’ assertion that paragraph 70 should be stricken merits further discussion.
Defendants argue that the Defendants are all state actors and thus that the Fifth Amendment,
which is cited in that paragraph, is inapplicable. It is true that the Fifth Amendment expressly
applies only to actions of the federal government. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly held
that the Fourteenth Amendment (also cited in paragraph 70) “incorporates particular rights
contained in the first eight Amendments.” McDonald v. City of Chicago, Ill., 561 U.S. 742, 763
(2010). Almost all provisions of the Bill of Rights have been incorporated, and the ones which
have not bear no relevance to Robinson’s claims. See id. at 764–65 n.12 & n.13. Thus, most
jurisprudential protections in the Fifth Amendment have been applied, via the Fourteenth
Amendment, to state actors. Robinson’s inclusion of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments
in paragraph 70 is best understood as a reference to the Fourteenth Amendment’s incorporation
of the Fifth Amendment. Considering the “drastic” nature of the remedy and the manifest
relevance of most identified allegations, Defendants have not shown that striking the identified
paragraphs of the amended complaint is warranted.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED that Defendants’ motion to strike, ECF No. 57, is
GRANTED in part.
It is further ORDERED that Count III of the amended complaint is DISMISSED
Dated: August 14, 2017
s/Thomas L. Ludington
THOMAS L. LUDINGTON
United States District Judge
PROOF OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that a copy of the foregoing order was served
upon each attorney or party of record herein by electronic means or first
class U.S. mail on August 14, 2017.
KELLY WINSLOW, Case Manager
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