Rouse v. Austin Police Department et al
ORDER GRANTING 22 Motion to Dismiss. DENYING 24 Motion for a Refund of Partial Filing fee. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all claims brought by Plaintiff Stephen E. Rouse in the above-styled cause are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Rouse shall have FIFTEEN (15) DAYS from the date of the hearing in which to file any amended complaint. Terminated parties: Orlando Ramos, Andrew Heimsath and Cody Miller. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (os)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
STEPHEN E. ROUSE,
OFFICER CODY MILLER, OFFICER
ANDREW HEIMSATH, and OFFICER
[II 1 P11
BE IT REMEMBERED on the 6th of November 2015, the Court held a hearing in the
above-styled cause on Plaintiff Stephen E. Rouse's Amended Complaint [#19], Defendant-
Officers Kody "Cody" Miller and Andrew Heimsath's 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) Motion to
Dismiss [#22], Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [#5], and
Plaintiffs Motion for a Refund of Partial Filing Fee [#24]. The parties appeared either in person
or through counsel. Having reviewed the documents, the governing law, the arguments of the
parties at the hearing, and the file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and
orders confirming its oral pronouncements.
Plaintiff Stephen E. Rouse brings this pro se action against Officers Miller, Heimsath,
and Ramos, asserting a
1983 excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment. First, Rouse
alleges Officers Miller and Heimsath assaulted him after he called 311 on July 24, 2014 to
complain about the noise coming from a neighbor's condominium. At the hearing, Rouse stated
in the record the officers told him to get on the ground and when he refused, they sprayed him
with pepper spray and pushed him to the ground, injuring his arthritic knees. In response,
Officers Miller and Heimsath argued Rouse had become combative with the dispatcher after he
called 911 and threatened the police when they arrived. Second, Rouse asserts he was falsely
arrested for resisting arrest and falsely imprisoned for two days after he was told he would be
released within six hours of his arrest. Third, Rouse insists the conditions of the jail were "cruel
and inhumane"; specifically, Officer Ramos caused him to be sleep-deprived, served him stale
and moldy food, and left him without proper medical attention. See Pl.'s Resp. [#5] at 3. His
damages include insomnia, back pain, arthritis, and unpaid medical bills.
On September 30, 2015, the Court dismissed Rouse's claims against the Housing
Authority of the City of Austin, Austin Police Department, and Travis County Sheriffs Office.
See Order of Sept. 30, 2015 [#18]. In response, Rouse amended his complaint to sue Officers
Miller, Heimsath, and Ramos. See Am. Comp!. [#19] at 3. Officers Miller and Heimsath now
move to dismiss Rouse's claims on the basis of insufficient process, insufficient service of
process, and failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
Legal StandardRules 12(b)(4) and 12(b)(5)
Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establishes the requirements for summons
and service of process. See
R. Civ. P. 4. If the plaintiff fails to comply with Rule 4, the
defendant may seek dismissal of the plaintiffs claims under Rules 12(b)(4) and 12(b)(5). "An
objection under Rule 1 2(b)(4) concerns the form of the process rather than the manner or method
of its service, while a Rule 1 2(b)(5) motion challenges the mode of delivery or the lack of
delivery of the summons and complaint." Gartin
Par Pharm. Companies, Inc., 289
688, 692 (5th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted).
Dismissal of a case under Rules 12(b)(4) and 12(b)(5) is only warranted where "there is
no reasonably conceivable means of acquiring jurisdiction over the person of a defendant." Neely
Khurana, No. 3:07-CV-1344-D, 2008 WL 938904, at *2 (N.D. Tex. April 7, 2008). In all
other cases, the district court has the discretion to provide the plaintiff with another opportunity
to effect proper service of process. Id. "In exercising this discretion, a court should especially
consider a plaintiff's pro se status and good faith attempt to effect service." Cockerham
No. 3:1l-CV-277-B, 2011 WL 1515159, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 18, 2011).
Legal StandardRule 12(b)(6)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to contain "a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). A
motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure l2(b)(6) asks a court to dismiss a complaint for
"failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The plaintiff
must plead sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is facially plausible. Ashcroft
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Ati. Corp.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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." Iqbal, 566 U.S. at
678. Although a plaintiff's factual allegations need not establish that the defendant is probably
liable, they must establish more than a "sheer possibility" that a defendant has acted unlawfully.
Id. Determining plausibility is a "context-specific task," and must be performed in light
court's "judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.
In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally accepts as true all
factual allegations contained within the complaint. Leatherman
Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics
Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993). However, a court is not bound to
accept legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Papasan
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286
(1986). Although all reasonable inferences will be resolved in favor of the plaintiff, the plaintiff
must plead "specific facts, not mere conclusory allegations." Tuchman
DSC Commc 'ns Corp.,
14 F.3d 1061, 1067
Cir. 1994). In deciding a motion to dismiss, courts may consider the
complaint, as well as other sources such as documents incorporated into the complaint by
reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice. Tellabs, Inc.
Makor Issues &
Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).
Finally, although this Court construes the briefs of pro se litigants liberally, a pro se
litigant must still comply with the court rules of procedural and substantive law. Bird v. Estelle,
660 F.2d 592, 593 (5th Cir. 1981); see also, Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378
(5th Cir.2002) ("[Rjegardless of whether the plaintiff is proceeding pro se or is represented by
counsel, conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not
suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.").
Officers Miller and Heimsath argue the claims against them should be dismissed for two
reasons: (1) they have not been properly served, and (2) Rouse's complaint fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. The Court will address each argument in turn.
Insufficient Process and Service of Process
Officers Miller and Heimsath move to dismiss Rouse's complaint under Rules 12(b)(4)
and 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, because none of the officers were served
nor did they waive service of summons.1 Indeed, there is no evidence in the record indicating
either Officer Miller or Officer Heimsath were properly served as required by Rule 4(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See
R. Civ. P. 4(1). Nevertheless, by filing this motion,
Officers Miller and Heimsath have appeared in this court and clearly have notice of Rouse's
The Court notes Rouse did file a Waiver of Service of Summons on his own behalf. See Waiver [#20] at
claims. The undersigned will therefore consider the merits of the Officers Miller and Heimsath' s
motion, rather than summarily dismiss Rouse's claim for failure to properly serve.2
Failure to State a Claim
Officers Miller and Heimsath move to dismiss Rouse's Fourth Amendment claims for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Officers Miller and Heimsath first argue
Rouse has failed to establish a
1983 excessive force claim by showing (1) he sustained an
injury, (2) the injury resulted directly from the use of excessive force, and (3) the use of force
was objectively unreasonable. Second, Officers Miller and Heimsath maintain Rouse has failed
to overcome their qualified immunity defense by showing they violated a clearly established
In this case, Rouse has failed to plead any specific facts surrounding the alleged incident
involving excessive force.
(stating a plaintiff suing public officials under
F.3d 1427, 1433 (5th Cir.1995) (en banc)
1983 must file a short, plain statement
complaint that is factual rather than conclusive). At the hearing, Rouse's story was inconsistent.
He first testified a young woman in his condominium complex called the police, but later
admitted he was the one who called 311 to lodge a noise complaint. It is unclear whether Rouse
was outside when the police arrived, but at the hearing Officers Miller and Heimsath suggested
the officers initially approached Rouse because he was still on the phone with the dispatcher
when the police arrived and had become combative.
The scant facts asserted in Rouse's complaint and recited at the hearing are nothing more
than conclusory allegations which fail to establish the use of force by Officers Miller and
Heimsath was excessive and objectively unreasonable. Indeed, Rouse's own facts are consistent
However, although Officers Miller and Heimsath have moved to dismiss Rouse's amended complaint, the
record is silent as to Officer Ramos. Because there is no evidence that Officer Ramos was ever served and he has not
appeared in this lawsuit by filing a motion to dismiss, the Court dismisses without prejudice the claims against
Officer Ramos pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See FED. R. Civ. P. 4(m).
with Officers Miller and Heimsath' s argument that the police believed Rouse was combative and
frisked him to ensure he was unarmed. Accordingly, Rouse's conclusory allegations fail to state
1983 excessive force claim against Officers Miller and Heimsath.3
Although a pro se complaint is to be "liberally construed," Rouse's claims as currently
pleaded cannot survive the motion to dismiss. See Bird, 660 F.2d at 593. However, because
Rouse is proceeding pro Se, the Court will dismiss without prejudice and grant Rouse fifteen
days from the date of the hearing to file an amended complaint. If Rouse's claims are dismissed
again, the resulting dismissal will be final and with prejudice to refiling. Moreover, if Rouse
chooses to file an amended complaint, he is advised to review Rule 4(1) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure in serving Officers Miller and Heimsath with process and Rule
possible sanctions if the amended complaint is without basis of fact or law. Finally, the Court
denies Rouse's Motion for a Refund of Partial Filing Fee, because the Court lacks authority to
refund the fees set forth under 28 U.S.C.
1914(a). See, e.g., Williams
1126, 1128 (5th Cir. 1997) (concluding filing fees are part of the costs
Roberts, 116 F.3d
of litigation and are
assessed without regard for the subsequent disposition of the matter).
IT IS ORDERED that Defendant-Officers Kody "Cody" Miller and Andrew
Heimsath's 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss [#22] is GRANTED;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all claims brought by Plaintiff Stephen E.
Rouse in the above-styled cause are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Rouse shall
Because the Court dismisses Rouse's claim for failure to state a claim, the Court does not reach Officers
Miller and Heimsath's qualified immunity defense. However, the Court notes Officers Miller and Heimsath should
answer Rouse's next amended complaint with sufficient facts showing they are entitled to qualified immunity. See
Barker v. Norman, 651 F.2d 1107, 1120 (5th Cir. 1981) ("[T]he burden is on the defendant not just to plead, but to
establish his entitlement to claim official immunity in the first instance.").
have FIFTEEN (15) DAYS from the date of the hearing in which to file any amended
complaint, or the case will be closed;
IT IS FU'4ALLY ORDERED that Rouse's Motion for a Refund of Partial Filing
Fee [#24] is DENIED.
SIGNED this the
day of November 2015.
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