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Hopkins v. Lowndes County Sheriff Department

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

August 1, 2014

CICELY HOPKINS and KRISTEN SMITH, Plaintiffs,
v.
LOWNDES COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT; LOWNDES COUNTY CHANCERY CLERK; LOWNDES COUNTY; DEPUTY ROBBIE ROBERTSON; and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [16] premised on immunity and the Heck v. Humphrey doctrine, as well as a Motion to Dismiss [19] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs failed to respond to these motions. After reviewing the motions, authorities, exhibits, and pleadings, the Court finds as follows:

Factual and Procedural Background

Cicely Hopkins was pulled over for speeding by Corporal Robbie Robertson in July of 2012 for going 74 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone. Kristen Smith was a passenger in Hopkins' vehicle at the time. Robertson arrested Hopkins for driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest. He also cited her for speeding and driving without insurance. Kristen Smith allegedly recorded on her smart phone the interaction between Hopkins and Robertson and Hopkins' subsequent arrest. After Hopkins' arrest, Robertson advised Smith that he would have to confiscate the cell phone as evidence to the incident. When Smith refused, Robertson grabbed the phone and arrested Smith for disorderly conduct for interfering with the duties of a police officer. The cell phones were returned to Hopkins and Smith after they were released from jail.

Hopkins was found guilty of speeding, driving with a suspended license, and resisting arrest in the Lowndes County Justice Court. Smith pled and was found guilty of disorderly conduct in that same court.

Hopkins and Smith brought this lawsuit against the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department, Lowndes County Chancery Clerk, Lowndes County, and Deputy Robbie Robertson alleging, under Section 1983, that their constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment were violated, and that Defendants committed state law negligence and assault and battery against them.

Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs' claims is proper.

Applicable Standards

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party must then "go beyond the pleadings" and "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, "but only when... both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp. , 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir.1994) (en banc). However, conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash. , 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); SEC v. Recile , 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1997); Little , 37 F.3d at 1075.

The Defendants also bring a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The ultimate issue in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the plaintiffs' complaint states a valid claim when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter , 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2002). While well-pleaded facts of a complaint are to be accepted as true, legal conclusions are not "entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The Court is not to strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiffs, nor is it to accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions, or legal conclusions. R2 Invs. LDC v. Phillips , 401 F.3d 638, 642 (5th Cir. 2005). The Court does not evaluate the plaintiffs' likelihood of success. Instead, it tests the sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint to determine whether they are adequate to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Mann v. Adams Realty Co. , 556 F.2d 288, 293 (5th Cir. 1977).

Discussion and Analysis

The Lowndes County Sheriff's Department, the Lowndes County Chancery Clerk, Lowndes County, Mississippi, and Deputy Robbie Robertson, in his official and individual capacities, seek to invoke the protections of qualified immunity and the Heck v. Humphrey doctrine. The Plaintiffs have failed to respond to the motion. Because Plaintiffs are Heck-barred from bringing their false arrest and excessive force claims, ...


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