United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
ROBERT FRANKLIN AND SHANNON O'QUINN FRANKLIN, EACH INDIVIDUALLY AND EACH ON BEHALF OF LARRY D. MAYS, A MINOR CHILD PLAINTIFFS
NORTH CENTRAL NARCOTICS TASK FORCE; CLAIBORNE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI; MARIO GRADY, DEFENDANTS IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; CORY WEATHERSPOON, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; SCOTT STEWART, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; WILLIAM NEVELS, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; MICHAEL WELLS, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; AND DOE DEFENDANTS 1-10
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause is before the Court on defendants Mario Grady, Michael
Wells, and Cory Weatherspoon, in their individual capacities,
(“Individual Defendants” or
“Defendants”)'s Motion for Qualified Immunity
as to Robert and Shannon Franklin's Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment Claims (docket entry 45). Having carefully considered
the motion, responses, and applicable law, and being
otherwise fully informed in the premises, the Court finds as
Facts and Procedural History
about March 20, 2014, members of the Central Narcotics Task
Force and Claiborne County Sheriff's Department, entered
the home of Robert and Shannon Franklin in search of criminal
activity. Plaintiffs' Reply, p.3. While inside the
residence, the officers allegedly snatched the Franklins'
minor son from his bed, threw the child to the ground and
placed a gun to his head. Id. Seeking relief from
injuries allegedly sustained during the incident, Robert and
Shannon Franklin, individually and on behalf of their son
Larry D. Mays, filed suit against the named defendants.
addition to certain state law claims, the plaintiffs'
Complaint alleged constitutional claims against officers
Mario Grady, Cory Weatherspoon, William Nevels, and Michael
Wells in their individual capacities pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. The Individual Defendants, in their Original and
Amended Answers, raised qualified immunity as a defense. On
July 7, 2016, the Court entered an Order instructing the
plaintiffs to address the defendants' qualified immunity
defense in a Reply pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 7(a). In compliance with that Order, the plaintiffs
filed their Rule 7(a) Reply on July 20, 2016.
Mario Grady, Cory Weatherspoon, William Nevels, and Michael
Wells now file their Motion for Qualified Immunity as to
Robert and Shannon Franklin's Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment Claims. Defendants' motion is narrow in scope,
seeking immunity only with respect to the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment claims asserted by Robert and Shannon
Franklin. The defendants do not seek immunity as to the
constitutional claims asserted on behalf of the minor child,
Larry D. Mays.
Individual Defendants claim they are entitled to qualified
immunity inasmuch as Robert and Shannon Franklin have not
shown that their constitutional rights were violated.
Defendants advance two arguments in support of their motion:
(1) that plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the heightened
pleading standard required to overcome qualified immunity,
and (2) that even if Plaintiffs' factual allegations are
sufficient to overcome the qualified immunity defense, the
Franklins have failed to assert any constitutional violation
as a matter of law. In response, the Franklins maintain that
they have supported their constitutional claims with
sufficient precision and factual specificity to raise a
genuine issue as to the illegality of the defendants'
Standard of Review
for qualified immunity generally fall into one of two
categories: Rule 12(b)(6) motions challenging the sufficiency
of the plaintiff's allegations to establish the
deprivation of a clearly established constitutional right, or
Rule 56 motions arguing that the defendant's conduct was
objectively reasonable in light of all circumstances. See
Pardue v. Jackson Co., Miss., 2015 WL 1867145 (S.D.Miss.
Apr. 23, 2015); Salcido v. Univ. of S. Miss., 2013
WL 2367877, *1 n.1 (S.D.Miss. May 29, 2013); Watkins v.
Hawley, 2013 WL 3357703 (S.D.Miss. July 3, 2013)
(“Typically, the former can be addressed without
discovery, while the latter cannot.”). Defendants fail
to identify which procedural framework should be used to
evaluate their motion. But given the nature of the
parties' arguments and the procedural posture of the
case, it appears that consideration pursuant to Rule 12 is
appropriate. See Tate v. Sharp, 2013 WL 664865 (N.D.
Miss. Feb. 22, 2013) (a motion for qualified immunity filed
early in the litigation, but after defendants filed their
answer, would ordinarily be treated as a Rule 12(c) motion
for judgment on the pleadings).
considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule
12(c), the court is generally limited to ‘the contents
of the pleadings including attachments thereto.'”
Bosarge, 796 F.3d at 439. The
“pleadings” include the complaint, answers to the
complaint, and “if the court orders one, a reply to an
answer.” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(a)).
Generally, when a rule 12(c) motion presents matters outside
the pleadings, the court may either exclude the evidence or
treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see also Gen. Retail Servs., Inc. v.
Wireless Toyz Franchise, LLC, 225 Fed. App'x 775,
783 (5th Cir. 2007) (“It is well known that when
‘matters outside the pleading' are presented with a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a district court has
complete discretion to either accept or exclude the
evidence.”). Although defendant William Nevel's
Joinder to the motion presents evidence outside the pleadings
by way of exhibit, the Court shall exclude this evidence and
consider the motion under Rule 12(c).
12(c) motions are governed by the same standards as motions
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Bosarge v. Miss. Bureau
of Narcotics, 796 F.3d 435, 439 (5th Cir. 2015). The
Court accepts all “well-pleaded facts as true, viewing
them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”
Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid
Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004). To survive
the motion, the plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to
state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.
Bell Atl. Corp. v. 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “But where the well-pleaded facts
do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but
has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is
entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679.
Qualified Immunity Analysis
doctrine of qualified immunity protects public officials
performing discretionary functions “insofar as their
conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald,457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982). Once a defendant claims qualified immunity, the
burden shifts to the plaintiff to rebut the defense.
Jenkins v. Town of Vardaman, Miss., 899 F.Supp.2d
526, 531 (N.D. Miss. 2012) (“it ...