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Judd v. State

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

May 10, 2017

JAMES ARTHUR JUDD; and THE ESTATE OF KEVIN BOWENS PLAINTIFFS
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This civil rights action is before the Court on the motion to dismiss filed by the State of Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Doc. #11.

         I

         Procedural History

         On June 10, 2016, James Arthur Judd, as a wrongful death beneficiary and administrator of the estate of Kevin Bowens, filed a complaint in this Court against numerous persons and entities, including the State of Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). Doc. #1. The complaint alleged that the defendants acted with negligence and violated the constitutional rights of Bowens, a former inmate at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, by failing to protect Bowens from an attack by a fellow inmate which resulted in Bowens' death. Id.

         On February 7, 2017, the State and MDOC filed a joint answer asserting various affirmative defenses, including sovereign immunity. Doc. #10. The same day, the State and MDOC filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. #11.

         On March 23, 2017, Judd, with leave of the Court, filed an amended complaint. Doc. #17. The amended complaint includes the same general allegations but adds an array of individual defendants. Id.

         II

         Relevant Standards

         The moving defendants seek dismissal on the grounds that they are protected by sovereign immunity and that they are not “persons” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. #12 at 3. The first of these defenses clearly implicates Rule 12(b)(1), the rule cited in the motion. See Warnock v. Pecos Cty., 88 F.3d 341, 343 (5th Cir. 1996) (“Because sovereign immunity deprives the [federal] court of jurisdiction, … claims barred by sovereign immunity can be dismissed only under Rule 12(b)(1) and not with prejudice.”). However, the second defense - that the defendants are not “persons” within the meaning of § 1983 - concerns a plaintiff's ability to state a claim, thus mandating a Rule 12(b)(6) inquiry. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. Sys. of Ga., 535 U.S. 613, 617 (2002) (§ 1983 claim against non-person supplied supplemental jurisdiction);[1] Fontana v. Paeste v. Gov't of Guam, 798 F.3d 1228, 1234 (9th Cir. 2015) (“Three circuits have held that whether a party is a person under § 1983 is not a jurisdictional question, but rather a statutory one. We agree and so hold.”) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         “Motions filed under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a party to challenge the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court to hear a case.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). A court may dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on: “(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Crane v. Johnson, 783 F.3d 244, 251 (5th Cir. 2015).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         “To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must provide the plaintiff's grounds for entitlement for relief- including factual allegations that, when assumed to be true, raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Ruiz v. Brennan, 851 F.3d 464, 468 (5th Cir. 2017). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, ...


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