Flynt v. Jasper County, Mississippi et al
ORDER granting 11 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings insofar as a Schultea reply is required but otherwise denying at this time. The Plaintiff has until 6/25/2021 to file a Schultea reply consistent with this Opinion. Signed by District Judge Taylor B. McNeel on 6/7/2021. (KAB)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:20-cv-180-TBM-MTP
JASPER COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI,
JASPER COUNTY SHERIFF’S
DEPARTMENT, SHERIFF RANDY
JOHNSON, and DEPUTY R.H. STOCKMAN
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The Plaintiff, Kenneth Flynt, filed suit in this Court on September 24, 2020 alleging claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Sheriff Randy Johnson and Deputy R.H. Stockman’s
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings  based on qualified immunity. The Defendants argue
that the Plaintiff has failed to plead his claims under Section 1983 with sufficient particularity to
overcome the Defendants’ qualified immunity. The Defendants interchangeably request dismissal
of the Section 1983 claims, a Court-ordered Shultea reply,1 or limited immunity-related discovery.
The Plaintiff has not responded to the Defendants’ Motion, and the Court finds that a Shultea
reply is required for the reasons set forth below.
This matter arises out of a July 8, 2019 traffic stop in Jasper County, Mississippi.
According to the Complaint, the Plaintiff was stopped by Deputy Stockman for “careless driving”
and “defaced tag.” After pulling him over, Deputy Stockman ordered the Plaintiff out of his
vehicle. Deputy Stockman requested permission to search the vehicle, which the Plaintiff denied.
See Shultea v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427 (5th Cir. 1995).
Deputy Stockman subsequently advised the Plaintiff that he was under arrest and placed the
Plaintiff in a patrol car. The Plaintiff’s vehicle was searched, and Deputy Stockman seized two
allegedly lawfully possessed firearms. No contraband was found. The Plaintiff advised Deputy
Stockman that the handcuffs were too tight multiple times, to which Deputy Stockman allegedly
responded, “[t]hey ain’t made for comfort.”
The Plaintiff was allegedly transported to jail and was processed. He was issued two tickets
— one for “careless driving” and one for “defaced tag.” The Plaintiff asserts that neither is an
arrestable offense, as they are punishable by fine only. After paying twenty-five dollars to bond out,
the Plaintiff was required to pay two-hundred dollars to retrieve his vehicle, which had been towed.
The Plaintiff asserts claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his
Second, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Plaintiff also
alleges a host of other state law claims. But only the federal claims are presently at issue because
they provide this Court jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and are the target of the Defendants’
qualified immunity defense.
In addition to arguing that the Plaintiff failed to plead his claims with sufficient
particularity, the Defendants assert that the Plaintiff has not pled facts that show he suffered a
constitutional violation at their hands, nor that their actions were objectively unreasonable under
clearly established law.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
“A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is subject to the same standard
as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir.
2008). To avoid dismissal, “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, 129 S.
Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.
Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (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.
In deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court accepts all well pleaded facts as true and views
them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Linicomn v. Hill, 902 F.3d 529, 533 (5th Cir. 2018).
But “the complaint must allege more than labels and conclusions.” Jabaco, Inc. v. Harrah’s
Operating Co., Inc., 587 F.3d 314, 318 (5th Cir. 2009). “[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not do, and factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Jabaco, Inc., 587 F.3d at 318. “While legal conclusions can provide the
complaint’s framework, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678.
III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
The individual Defendants claim that they are entitled to qualified immunity on all claims
against them. “The question of qualified immunity must be addressed as a threshold issue because
this issue determines a defendant’s immunity from suit, that is, his or her ability to avoid a trial
altogether, rather than merely his or her immunity from damages.” Mangieri v. Clifton, 29 F.3d
1012, 1015 (5th Cir. 1994). Courts use a two-prong analysis to determine whether a defendant is
entitled to qualified immunity. The Court must decide, in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff,
(1) whether he has alleged a violation of a constitutional right and (2) whether the right was clearly
established. Trammell v. Fruge, 868 F.3d 332, 339 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 201, 121 S. Ct. 2151, 150 L. Ed. 2d 272 (2001)).
Notably, a plaintiff “cannot be allowed to rest on general characterizations, but must speak
to the factual particulars of the alleged actions, at least when those facts are known to the plaintiff
and are not particularly within the knowledge of the defendants.” Schultea v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427,
1432 (5th Cir. 1995) (en banc) (citing Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 231, 111 S. Ct. 1789, 114 L. Ed.
2d 277 (1991)). The Plaintiff must provide “allegations of fact focusing specifically on the conduct
of the individual who caused the plaintiff’s injury.” Reyes v. Sazan, 168 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir.
1999). The Fifth Circuit instructs trial courts of an alternative to outright dismissal of claims that
lack sufficient particularity to overcome a qualified immunity defense:
When a public official pleads the affirmative defense of qualified immunity in his
answer, the district court may, on the official’s motion or on its own, require the
plaintiff to reply to that defense in detail. By definition, the reply must be tailored
to the assertion of qualified immunity and fairly engage its allegations. A defendant
has an incentive to plead his defense with some particularity because it has the
practical effect of requiring particularity in the reply.
Schultea, 47 F.3d at 1433. “Vindicating the immunity doctrine will ordinarily require such a reply,
and a district court’s discretion not to do so is narrow indeed when greater detail might assist.” Id.
Here, the Plaintiff has not responded to the Defendants’ Motion and the Court finds that
the Plaintiff should be afforded the opportunity to plead the alleged constitutional violations with
more particularity. In his Complaint, the Plaintiff merely asserts that the Defendants “violated
Plaintiff’s 2nd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 13th, and 14th Amendment Rights under color of law and by the misuse of
power entrusted to them as law officers.” , pg. 5. Accordingly, the Court finds that a Schultea
reply is merited as to the Plaintiff’s Second, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth
In his Schultea reply, the Plaintiff must provide “allegations of fact focusing specifically on
the conduct of the individual who caused the plaintiff’s injury.” Reyes, 168 F.3d at 161. The reply
must be tailored to the defense of qualified immunity, and the Plaintiff must support his claims
“with sufficient precision and factual specificity to raise a genuine issue as to the illegality of the
defendant’s conduct at the time of the alleged acts.” Id.; see also Schultea, 47 F.3d at 1430-32. The
reply should provide specific facts about the constitutional rights allegedly violated and the
conduct of each individual Defendant to support each cause of action asserted against him. The
Plaintiff must not plead factual allegations collectively against the Defendants, unless warranted
by the facts. The Plaintiff must also provide details as to his own actions during the traffic stop at
issue to allow the Court to determine whether the Defendants’ conduct was objectively
For example, the Plaintiff must set forth particular facts as to how Deputy Stockman
violated his Second Amendment right. Upon examination of his Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges
that Deputy Stockman seized two of Plaintiff’s allegedly lawfully possessed firearms. The Plaintiff
has not expanded upon such allegations, and the Court needs more to determine whether the
Plaintiff has alleged a clearly established constitutional violation against Deputy Stockman. If this
claim is asserted against both Deputy Stockman and Sheriff Johnson, then the Plaintiff must plead
specific facts demonstrating how Sheriff Johnson violated the Plaintiff’s Second Amendment right.
Similarly, the Plaintiff must set forth specific facts demonstrating how each individual
Defendant violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful searches, seizures, and
the use of excessive force. While the Plaintiff does set forth a set of facts, he does not indicate how
the facts alleged against Deputy Stockman amount to a constitutional violation, and he alleges no
facts showing that Sheriff Johnson was involved in any search, seizure, or use of force. In his reply,
the Plaintiff must provide the facts surrounding each Defendants’ involvement and the basis for
As for the Plaintiff’s Fifth Amendment claim, the Court notes that the Fifth Amendment
“applies only to violations of constitutional rights by the United States or a federal actor.” Hill v.
Walker, 718 Fed. Appx. 243, 247 (5th Cir. 2018) (citing Jones v. City of Jackson, 203 F.3d 875, 880
(5th Cir. 2000)). The Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claims are only against state actors, so in his reply
the Plaintiff must explain how his due process claims can proceed.
In his reply, the Plaintiff must also provide facts to support a claim that the Defendants
violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from excessive bail, fines, and cruel and unusual
punishment. Upon review of his Complaint, the Plaintiff asserts that he was processed in prison,
charged twenty-five dollars to bond out, and charged a two-hundred-dollar towing fee to retrieve
his vehicle. Without more, such allegations may be insufficient to show that the Defendants
violated a clearly established constitutional right.
The Plaintiff’s Complaint also fails to set forth any facts to support a Thirteenth
Amendment violation. In his reply, the Plaintiff must allege specific facts showing how each
individual Defendant violated his Thirteenth Amendment right to be free from slavery and
Finally, the Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment claim appears to rest on allegations related
to the failure to train and supervise police officers. In his reply, the Plaintiff must provide more
than mere conclusory allegations that the Defendants violated the Plaintiff’s right to due process.
The Plaintiff must allege particular facts surrounding each Defendants’ involvement and the basis
for his assertions.
The Court has determined that the Plaintiff’s allegations as plead in his Complaint may be
insufficient to overcome the individual Defendants’ cloak of qualified immunity. Under the
circumstances, the Court finds that a Schultea reply addressing the Court’s concerns outlined
above is appropriate.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Sheriff Randy Johnson and
Deputy R.H. Stockman’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings  is GRANTED insofar as it
seeks to compel the Plaintiff to respond to the Defendants’ qualified immunity defense, but is
otherwise DENIED at this time.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Plaintiff is directed to file a Schultea reply consistent
with this Opinion on or before June 25, 2021.
This, the 7th day of June, 2021.
TAYLOR B. McNEEL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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