Brown et al v. City of Ferguson, Missouri, et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. (See Full Order.) Plaintiffs' prayer for injunctive relief is dismissed for lack of Article III Standing, as their first claimed injury fails to allege an injury in fact required for injunctive relief. Additionally, for t he same reasons, Plaintiffs cannot meet the Lyons Court's standard to seek injunctive relief through their second claimed injury. Finally, allegations of imminent harm from discriminatory police practices are insufficient to gain federal relief in the form of an injunction. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs shall file an amended complaint which outlines and specifically delineates their claims of violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as a separate numbered count within twenty days of the date of this order. The amended complaint shall not include any additional factual allegations. Signed by District Judge E. Richard Webber on 12/9/2015. (CBL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MICHAEL BROWN, SR., et al.,
CITY OF FERGUSON, MISSOURI, et al.,
No. 4:15CV00831 ERW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants City of Ferguson, Former Police Chief
Thomas Jackson, and Former Police Officer Darren Wilson’s Joint Motion to Partially Dismiss
Plaintiffs’ Complaint [ECF No. 5]. As Defendants’ Joint Motion to Partially Dismiss Plaintiffs’
Complaint has already been partially resolved by the Court [ECF No. 19], this Memorandum and
Order will discuss only Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief previously held in abeyance.
Plaintiffs Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden (“Plaintiffs”) initiated this lawsuit
by filing a Petition in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, State of Missouri on April 23, 2015.
On May 26, 2015, Defendant City of Ferguson (“Defendant City”), Defendant Thomas Jackson
(“Defendant Jackson:”), and Defendant Darren Wilson (“Defendant Wilson”) removed the
Petition to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. Also on May 26, 2015,
Defendants filed a Motion to Partially Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Petition [ECF No. 5], claiming seven
separate grounds for dismissal.
On July 16, 2015, the Court issued a Memorandum and Order [ECF No. 19] granting, in
part, and dismissing, in part, Defendants’ Motion to Partially Dismiss related to Plaintiffs’
original complaint. Counts I1 and III 2 were voluntarily dismissed by Plaintiffs. Count II 3 against
Defendant Jackson in his official capacity and Counts IV 4 and VI 5 against Defendant Wilson in
his official capacity were dismissed. Plaintiffs’ Equal Protection claim was allowed to proceed
along with Count II against Defendant Jackson in his individual capacity, Counts IV and VI
against Defendant Wilson in his individual capacity, and Count VII against Defendant City. 6
Defendants’ sixth argument in their Motion to Dismiss on Plaintiffs’ requested declaratory and
injunctive relief [ECF No. 6, pg. 21-23], was held in abeyance pending further briefing by the
parties on whether Plaintiffs have constitutional standing to seek declaratory and injunctive
relief. In its request for further briefing, the Court asked the parties to specifically address the
issue of federalism, in regards to a federal court issuing an injunction against a state agency.
Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint with the Court on July 30, 2015 [ECF No. 20].
On August 4, 2015, Defendants filed their Response to Court Order for further briefing [ECF No.
In Count I, Plaintiffs asserted a “Civil Rights Violation” against Defendant Wilson for allegedly violating and
depriving Michael Brown, Jr. of his “civil rights to be free from unlawful detention and the use of excessive and
deadly force, as well as the deprivation of liberty without due process of law and equal protection of the law.” ECF
No. 1-3. This is not a viable claim under Missouri law.
In Count III, Plaintiffs asserted a “Civil Rights Violation” against Defendant Jackson for “tolerat[ing], permit[ing],
fail[ing] to correct, promot[ing], or ratif[ying] a custom, pattern, and practice on the part of city of Ferguson police
officers who engage in unjustified, unreasonable, and illegal use of excessive force, including deadly force.” Like
Count I, Missouri law does not recognize this cause of action.
In Count II, Plaintiffs asserted Defendant City and Defendant Jackson failed to properly hire, train, supervise,
retain, and conduct a fair and impartial investigation. The Court held this claim is duplicative, because to make a
claim against an employee in his official capacity is in reality a claim against the Defendant City, and that claim
remains under Count I of Plaiuntiffs’ First Amended Complaint.
In Count IV, Plaintiffs asserted a claim against Defendant Wilson for an “Unconstitutional Stop and/or Detention
and Use of Excessive Force in Violation of Amendments IV and XIV of the United States Constitution and 42
U.S.C. § 1983.” Like Count II, the Court held this claim is duplicative, because to make a claim against an
employee in his official capacity is in reality a claim against the Defendant City, and that claim remains under Count
I of Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint.
In Count VI, Plaintiffs Michael Brown, Sr., and Lesley McSpadden asserted Defendant Wilson deprived them of
their substantive due process rights under Amendment XIV of the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Like Counts II and IV, the Court held this claim is duplicative, because to make a claim against an employee in his
official capacity is in reality a claim against the Defendant City, and that claim remains under Count V of Plaintiffs’
First Amended Complaint.
In Count VII, Plaintiffs Michael Brown, Sr., and Lesley McSpadden asserted a claim for Defendant City’s
“Unconstitutional Custom/Policy/Pattern Practice of Substantive Due Process in Violation of Amendment XIV of
the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” This claim is now Count V of Plaintiffs’ First Amended
23] on Plaintiffs’ claim for injunctive relief and Plaintiffs did the same on August 5, 2015 [ECF
No. 25]. In response, the Court issued a second Memorandum and Order [ECF No. 28], again
requesting further briefing by the parties as to the question of application of federalism and
standing concerns in the demand for injunctive relief, believing they were inadequately
addressed. On August 31, 2015, Plaintiffs submitted their second Response to Court Order [ECF
No. 30]. Defendants responded to this supplemental briefing on September 10, 2015 [ECF No.
For purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the Court is required to accept as true facts
alleged in Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint. Great Rivers Habitat Alliance v. Fed. Emergency
Mgmt. Agency, 615 F.3d 958, 988 (8th Cir. 2010). On August 9, 2015, Plaintiffs’ son, Michael
Brown, Jr., an unarmed, eighteen year-old, African-American male, was fatally wounded when
City of Ferguson (“Defendant City”) Police Officer Darren Wilson (“Defendant Wilson”) shot
and killed him. Defendant Wilson was working for the City of Ferguson Police Department that
afternoon, when he used his vehicle as a weapon of force, stopping inches from Michael Brown,
Jr.’s body, hitting him with his car door, and engaging Michael Brown, Jr. in the aforementioned
altercation. Plaintiffs also allege Defendant Wilson’s actions are emblematic of Defendant
City’s pattern, practice, or custom of racial bias directed towards its African-American citizens,
as found in a United States Department of Justice report. Plaintiffs allege this same report also
acknowledges practices of the Ferguson Police Department disproportionately harming AfricanAmericans, such that 90% of all use of force documented by the Ferguson Police Department is
levied against African-Americans who comprise 67% of the Defendant City’s population.
Without stating a separate claim for injunctive relief, Plaintiffs merely state in their prayer for
relief the following paragraphs:
(f) An Order preliminarily and permanently enjoining the Defendant
City’s utilization of patrol techniques that demeans, disregard, or underserve
its African-American population; and
(g) An Order appointing a compliance monitor over the City of
Ferguson’s use of force practices and procedures for a period of five (5) years
or until such time as the Court determines that the City of Ferguson has fully
and effectually trained all of its police officers on the constitutional
requirements of the use of deadly force.
[ECF No. 20].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under FRCP 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for “failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The notice pleading standard of
FRCP 8(a)(2) requires a plaintiff to give “a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” To meet this standard and survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “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) (internal quotations and
citation omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility 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. A court accepts “as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint,”
and affords the non-moving party “all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those
allegations” when considering a motion to dismiss. Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 540-41 (8th
Cir. 2014) (internal quotations and citation omitted). However, the Court is “not bound to accept
as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Carton v. Gen. Motor Acceptance
Corp., 611 F.3d 451, 454 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678 (internal citation omitted). Additionally, “some factual allegations may be so
indeterminate that they require further factual enhancement in order to state a claim.” Braden v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009).
A well-pleaded complaint may not be dismissed, even if it appears proving the claim is
unlikely and the chance of recovery is remote. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
(2007). However, where the allegations on the face of the complaint show “there is some
insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate.” Young v. St. John’s
Mercy Health Sys., No. 10-824, 2011 WL 9155, at *4 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 3, 2011) (internal citation
omitted). Further, if a claim fails to allege one of the elements necessary for recovery on a legal
theory, that claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Crest Constr. II, Inc. v. Doe, 660 F.3d 346, 355 (8th Cir. 2011). Bare assertions constituting
merely conclusory allegations failing to establish elements necessary for recovery will not
suffice. See id. (“Plaintiffs, relying on facts not in the complaint, make bare assertions that
[defendants] were not just lenders, but owners that controlled the RICO enterprise . . . these
assertions are more of the same conclusory allegation . . . ”). Courts must assess the plausibility
of a given claim with reference to the plaintiff’s allegations as a whole, not in terms of the
plausibility of each individual allegation. Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Grp., 592 F.3d
893, 896 n.4 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted). This inquiry is “a context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679.
Generally, the Court may not consider material not contained in the pleadings in
determining whether a motion to dismiss should be granted. Any “written or oral evidence in
support of or in opposition to the pleading that provides some substantiation for and does not
merely reiterate what is said in the pleadings” constitutes matters outside the pleadings. Hamm
v. Rhone-Poulenc Roer Pharm., Inc., 187 F.3d 941 (8th Cir. 1999). “When matters outside the
pleadings are presented on a motion to dismiss, a court may either treat the motion as one to
dismiss and exclude the matters outside the pleadings, or treat the motion as one for summary
judgment and provide the parties with notice and an opportunity to provide further materials.”
Horseshoe Entm’t v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 990 F. Supp. 737, 740 (E.D. Mo. 1997) (citing
Gibb v. Scott, 958 F.2d 814, 816 (8th Cir. 1992)); see also Trimble v. Asarco, Inc., 232 F.3d 946
(8th Cir. 2000) (stating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion should be converted to a summary judgment
motion if the matters are not excluded).
Defendants argue Plaintiffs do not have standing, and the Court should dismiss Plaintiffs’
request for declaratory and injunctive relief due to lack of any actual controversy. The
requirement for actual controversy refers to justiciable cases and controversies under Article III
of the U.S. Constitution. Consequently, parties must have standing to sue. Steel Co. v. Citizens
for a Better Env’t, 523 U.S. 83, 102 (1998). There are three requirements to establish
constitutional standing. Id. First, there must be injury in fact, which is a harm suffered that is
concrete, actual or imminent, and not hypothetical. Id. at 103. Plaintiff must have a personal
stake in the outcome to establish a concrete injury. City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95,
101 (1983). Second, there must be causation between the plaintiff’s injury and the defendant’s
conduct. Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 103. Finally, there must be redressability, which is a likelihood
the requested relief will redress the alleged injury. Id.
Plaintiffs’ remaining claims in their Amended Complaint [ECF No. 20] are (1) Count I
against Defendant City for failure to properly hire, train, supervise, retain, and conduct a fair and
impartial investigation; (2) Count II against Defendant Wilson for an unconstitutional stop and/or
detention and use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of
the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C § 1983; (3) Count III against Defendant City for
Defendant City’s custom, policy, pattern, or practice of unreasonable stops and detentions and
use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United
States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) Count IV on behalf of Plaintiffs Michael Brown,
Sr., and Lesley McSpadden against Defendant Wilson for a substantive due process violation of
the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for depriving
Plaintiffs of their right to a familial relationship with Michael Brown, Jr.; (5) Count V on behalf
of Plaintiffs Michael Brown, Jr., and Lesley McSpadden against Defendant City alleging
Defendant City’s custom, policy, pattern, or practice caused a substantive due process violation
of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by
depriving Plaintiffs of their right to a familial relationship with Michael Brown, Jr.; and (6) a
Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim. 7 These counts represent Plaintiffs’ claims for
relief in suffering three injuries: (1) the fatal injury suffered by their son, (2) the violation of their
alleged constitutional right to a familial relationship with their son, and (3) the imminent harm
presented by the use of policing practices that demean, disregard, or underserve Defendant City’s
African-American population. This order addresses Plaintiffs’ standing for requesting injunctive
relief; whether Plaintiffs’ sufficiently pled their asserted claims was addressed in the prior
Memorandum and Order issued by the Court [ECF No. 28].
Plaintiffs argue they have properly alleged an injury-in-fact for Article III standing
purposes for their requested injunctive relief, relying on the Supreme Court’s disjunctive
The Count numbers are stated as they appear in Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint [ECF No. 20]. Plaintiffs’ equal
protection claim is not asserted in a specific count. The Court shall order Plaintiffs to specifically indicate their
claim for alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment under a separate numbered
language requiring the plaintiff “show that he ‘has sustained or is immediately in danger of
sustaining some direct injury’” City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 102 (1983). Plaintiffs
are correct in their assertion the Lyons Court applied disjunctive language in its evaluation of
whether Plaintiffs generally have pled an injury-in-fact sufficient for Article III standing.
However, “standing is not dispensed in gross.” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 n.6 (1996).
Instead, plaintiffs must “demonstrate standing separately for each form of relief sought.”
Friends of Earth Inc., v. Laidlaw Envtl. Serv. (TOC) Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 185 (2000). As such,
the Court will discuss each of Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries in turn.
A. Fatal Injury Suffered by Michael Brown, Jr.
Plaintiffs have sufficiently pled an actual, concrete, and particularized injury in the fatal
injury suffered by their son to receive monetary damages. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504
U.S. 555 (1992). Plaintiffs have likewise pled extensive facts alleging this fatal injury is the
direct and immediate result of “Defendant City’s policy, custom, or practice of … engaging in
discriminatory conduct aimed at the African-American community resulting in disparate
treatment . . . .” [ECF No. 20]. For other types of relief, these alleged facts are sufficient to
satisfy the requirement of causation for Article III standing purposes. However, to gain
injunctive relief, Plaintiffs must allege more than a past injury. Injunctive relief is granted for
the purpose of altering future conduct affecting individuals or property in the future. When
looking to the future, a past injury, such as Michael Brown Jr.’s death, cannot satisfy injury in
fact. As found in Lyons, though the victim “may have been illegally [harmed] by the police . . .
affording [plaintiff] standing to claim damages against the individual officers and perhaps
against the City, [it] does nothing to establish a real and immediate threat” that would suffice to
establish Article III standing for the purpose of seeking injunctive relief for future actions. 461
U.S. at 105 (1983). 8 Plaintiffs’ injury has already occurred and is not a threat of future injury,
which is required to establish standing for injunctive relief.
In Park v. Forest Service of the United States, plaintiff, a member of a group which
periodically held gatherings in various national forests, filed suit against the United States Forest
Service alleging the Forest Service employed an unconstitutional checkpoint on a forest road that
was targeted against her group. 205 F.3d 1034, 1036 (8th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff sought injunctive
relief asking the district court to enjoin the Forest Service from using certain types of
checkpoints which target her group. Id. The Eighth Circuit observed, parties requesting
injunctive relief must show they face a threat of ongoing or future harm to establish standing. Id.
at 1037. Citing O’Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974), the Eighth Circuit stated past
exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy for injunctive
relief. Id. The Eighth Circuit held the plaintiff lacked standing because she failed to show there
was a significant probability the Forest Service would use an unconstitutional checkpoint in the
future. Id. at 1040. Similarly here, allegations of the death of Michael Brown, Jr. are
insufficient to gain standing for injunctive relief. Plaintiffs seek to impose upon the City the
power of the federal court to regulate and oversee activities and procedures of the City, its police
department, and officers by gaining injunctive relief. But it is clear, past conduct and past
injuries will not suffice to gain injunctive relief which extends into the future. The injury of
Michael Brown, Jr.’s death is unable to establish injury in fact for the purposes of establishing
standing for injunctive relief.
An in-depth analysis and discussion of Lyons is infra in the Court’s discussion of Plaintiffs’ imminent harm from
discriminatory police actions.
Furthermore, even if this allegation conferred standing to Plaintiffs to seek injunctive
relief, it would nonetheless remain an improper remedy. In order to obtain a permanent
[a] plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) that it has suffered an irreparable
injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are
inadequate to compensate for that injury, (3) that, considering the balance of
hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is
warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a
Monsanto Co. v. Geerston Seed Farms, 561 U.S. 139, 156-57 (2010) (citing eBay, Inc. v.
MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006)). The burden of proving the need for an
injunction rests with the plaintiff. Id. at 158.
It is well-settled law, compensatory damages are available and adequate remedies at law
exist in 42 U.S.C. § 1983 causes of action alleging the improper use of lethal force. See, e.g.,
Westcott v. Crinklaw, 133 F.3d 658 (8th Cir. 1998) (holding award of nominal damages was in
clear error when the plaintiff proved actual damages for death resulting from use of excessive
force, remanding for a new trial); Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247 (1978) (denoting the purpose of
damage awards in § 1983 cases as being compensatory in nature). Therefore, although Plaintiffs
may seek a remedy at law for the loss of their son under pending claims, injunctive relief is not
the proper avenue to redress this injury due to the adequacy of other remedies at law, notably
compensatory monetary damages.
B. Loss of Familial Relationship
Plaintiffs’ second alleged injury is the loss of their constitutional rights to a familial
relationship with their deceased son. Plaintiffs have again sufficiently pled an actual, concrete,
and particularized injury on the issue of standing to seek compensatory damages. Lujan, 504
U.S. 555. As Defendants note in the further briefings submitted to the Court [ECF No. 23],
when the injury claimed is personal to the plaintiff, there is “little question that the government
action or inaction has caused injury . . . .” Id. at 561-62 (internal citations omitted). However,
this alleged injury does not meet the standing threshold for injunctive relief, for the same reasons
Michael Brown, Jr.’s fatal injury does not meet the threshold. 9
C. Imminent Harm from Discriminatory Police Practices
Plaintiffs’ third alleged injury is the future harm potentially faced by themselves and
other African-American citizens of Ferguson from discriminatory police customs and practices.
A thorough analysis of Supreme Court precedent and, in particular, City of Los Angeles v. Lyons,
461 U.S. 95 (1983) is needed to understand whether Plaintiffs have established standing for
In O’Shea v. Littleton, nineteen individuals, on behalf of themselves and a class of
citizens, brought suit against the State’s Attorney, his investigator, the Police Commissioner, a
Magistrate Judge, and an Associate Judge, alleging they engaged in conduct, and continued to
engage in conduct, that deprived plaintiffs of rights secured by the First, Sixth, Eighth,
Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. 414 U.S. 488, 490 (1974). Plaintiffs alleged criminal
laws and procedures were deliberately applied more harshly to black residents and inadequately
applied to white residents. Id. at 491-92. They claimed unlawful procedures were imposed in
setting bond in criminal cases. Id. They also alleged higher sentences and harsher conditions
were impermissibly imposed on plaintiffs, and plaintiffs were discriminatorily required to pay
for a trial by jury more often, when charged with violations of city ordinances, which carried
fines and possible jail penalties. Id. Plaintiffs did not seek monetary damages, but instead
sought to enjoin the practices. Id. at 492.
The Court acknowledges this right was properly alleged, but has not determined at this time this represents a valid
right for qualified immunity purposes. The Court reserves the right to make that determination at a later date.
The United States Supreme Court held “[t]he complaint failed to satisfy the threshold
requirement impose by Art. III of the Constitution that those who seek to invoke the power of
federal courts must allege an actual case or controversy.” Id. at 493 (citations omitted). The
Court stated “[p]ast exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or
controversy regarding injunctive relief, however, if unaccompanied by any continuing, present
adverse effects.” Id. at 495-96. Further, the Court found “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 petition takes us into the area of speculation and conjecture.” Id. at 497.
The Court concluded federalism and other legal requirements for injunctive relief proscribed
relief to plaintiffs. Id. at 499-504.
Next, the United States Supreme Court decided Rizzo v. Goode. 423 U.S. 362 (1976). In
Rizzo, individuals and various organizations proceeded as a class action in a suit against the
Mayor of Philadelphia, the Police Commissioner and others, alleging a pattern of illegal and
unconstitutional treatment of minority citizens by police. Id. The District Court granted
injunctive relief but the Supreme Court reversed. Id. at 366. The Supreme Court applied the
holding in O’Shea finding the observations in O’Shea “apply here with even more force, for the
individual respondents’ claim to ‘real and immediate’ injury rests not upon what the named
petitioners might do to them in the future such as set a bond on the basis of race but upon what
one of a small, unnamed minority of policemen might do to them in the future because of that
unknown policeman’s perception of departmental disciplinary procedures.” Id. at 372. Further,
the Court found this was more attenuated than the allegations of future injury which were found
to be insufficient in O’Shea. Id. The Court in Rizzo again held past exposure to illegal conduct
does not in and of itself show a present case or controversy so as to allow injunctive relief. Id.
In Lyons, plaintiff filed a complaint against the City of Los Angeles and four of its police
officers for their allegedly unauthorized use of a choke hold in restraining him. He sought
damages and injunctive relief barring the use of choke holds. He alleged that “the city’s police
officers, ‘pursuant to the authorization, instruction, and encouragement of defendant City of Los
Angeles, regularly and routinely apply these choke holds in innumerable situations where they
are not threatened by the use of any deadly force whatsoever,’ that numerous persons have been
injured as the result of the application of the chokeholds, that Lyons and others similarly situated
are threatened with irreparable injury in the form of bodily injury and loss of life, and that Lyons
‘justifiably fears that any contact he has with Los Angeles police officers may result in his being
choked and strangled to death without provocation, justification or other legal excuse.’” Id. at
98. The Court ruled this was not enough.
First, the Court held that Lyons, having been illegally choked, was not enough to
establish a “real and immediate threat” that he would again be stopped by police and again
illegally choked, nor is the additional allegation sufficient that this routinely occurs to other
citizens. Id. at 105. The Court held Lyons needed to allege either “(1) that all police officers in
Los Angeles always choke any citizen with whom they happen to have an encounter . . . or, (2)
that the City ordered or authorized police officers to act in such manner.” Id. at 106. Even
though Lyons alleged in his complaint the City authorized the use of choke holds in situations
where deadly force was not threatened, the Court stated he did not indicate why he might be
“realistically threatened by police officers who acted within the strictures of the City’s policy.”
The Court explained “any future threat to Lyons from the City’s policy or from the conduct of
police officers would be no more real than the possibility that he would again have an encounter
with police and that either he would illegally resist arrest . . . or the officers would disobey their
instructions and again render him unconscious without any provocation.” Id. Further, the Court
stated the chance Lyons would be stopped for a traffic violation and subjected to an illegal
chokehold again was not sufficient to make a case for equitable relief. Id. at 108.
The situation before this Court cannot be differentiated from that before the Supreme
Court in Lyons. Plaintiffs have alleged Defendant City authorized officers to act in a
discriminatory manner, but they have not established more than a mere possibility they will
again encounter police and face discrimination. Further, Plaintiffs do not allege how the policies
are facially discriminatory nor do they allege the harm that would result from officers operating
within the confines of the Defendant City’s policies. Instead, they allege injury to AfricanAmerican citizens of Defendant City, seeking an injunction forcing the City government to
comply with the law. Courts have “repeatedly held that an asserted right to have the
Government act in accordance with law is not sufficient, standing alone, to confer jurisdiction on
a federal court.” Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 754 (1984). Such generalized grievances are not
sufficient to confer standing upon Plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief.
Plaintiffs state, in their Brief on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 25], “the
argument before the Court at present is not the right vested directly in the children, but the rights
vested in Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden as parents who have a constitutional right
to their relationship with their children, and the potential for future loss of another child.”
Plaintiffs’ petition continues to make no mention of any children aside from the deceased
Michael Brown, Jr. As such, the Court cannot consider the familial rights vested in Michael
Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden for their surviving children. Hamm v. Rhone-Poulenc Roer
Pharm., Inc., 187 F.3d 941 (8th Cir. 1999). Furthermore, even if these allegations did appear in
the complaint, the Court would be forced to conclude that they too do not confer on Plaintiffs
Article III standing to seek declaratory or injunctive relief. See Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171,
172 (1977) (Plaintiff’s son was shot and killed by police while attempting to escape arrest and
Plaintiff alleged he has another son who could face the same situation and the Court held “[s]uch
speculation is insufficient to establish the existence of a present, live controversy.”). The
holding in Lyons is applicable here. As a result, the Court will grant Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss, dismissing Plaintiffs’ request for declaratory and injunctive relief in this matter for lack
In its previous Memorandum and Order [ECF No. 19], the Court raised its concern about
the significant federalism issue discussed in Lyons on the appropriate balance between state and
federal authority when federal courts are considering imposing injunctions on state agencies. The
Court provided both parties an opportunity to present arguments in briefs to the Court regarding
As the Supreme Court noted in Lyons, “recognition of the need for a proper balance
between state and federal authority counsels restraint in the issuance of injunctions against state
officers engaged in the administration of the states’ criminal laws” in situations where the
plaintiff cannot show that they are in danger of immediately suffering injury. 461 U.S. 95, 112
(1983). This concern about federal courts intruding on the internal affairs of state governments
was also raised in Rizzo v. Goode, stating “where, as here, the exercise of authority by state
officials is attacked, federal courts must be constantly mindful of the ‘special delicacy of the
adjustment to be preserved between federal equitable power and State administration of its own
law.’” 423 U.S. 362, 378 (1976) (citing Stefanelli v. Minard, 342 U.S. 117, 120 (1951)).
These cases advise caution on behalf of federal courts when seeking to impose injunctive
relief upon state governmental authorities, particularly in the case where there remain alternative
remedies at law. See, e.g., O’Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 503 (1974) (discussing the
deterrent effect of the law despite the unavailability of injunctive relief for plaintiffs seeking to
enjoin allegedly discriminatory state court practices); Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 113 (1983) (noting the
alternative remedies available to Lyons for the injury allegedly suffered at the hands of state
As Lyons concluded, “state courts need not impose the same standing or remedial
requirements that govern federal court proceedings. The individual states may permit their
courts to use injunctions to oversee the conduct of law enforcement authorities on a continuing
basis. But this is not the role of a federal court . . .” 461 U.S. 95, 113 (1983).
This Court will not inject itself into the affairs of the state government’s administration of
its own laws in the interest of maintaining the appropriate balance between state and federal
authority in this area.
Plaintiffs’ prayer for injunctive relief is dismissed for lack of Article III Standing, as their
first claimed injury fails to allege an injury in fact required for injunctive relief. Additionally, for
the same reasons, Plaintiffs cannot meet the Lyons Court’s standard to seek injunctive relief
through their second claimed injury. Finally, allegations of imminent harm from discriminatory
police practices are insufficient to gain federal relief in the form of an injunction.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ request for
injunctive relief is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs shall file an amended complaint which outlines
and specifically delineates their claims of violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment as a separate numbered count within twenty days of the date of this
order. The amended complaint shall not include any additional factual allegations.
Dated this 9th Day of December, 2015.
E. RICHARD WEBBER
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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