United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Leake County's motion for summary judgment.
The matter is fully briefed and ready for
Factual and Procedural History
2010, Donna Sturkin began to participate in the Drug Court
for the Eighth Judicial District of Mississippi. Her parole
officer was Vicky Patrick, who was appointed by Leake County
Circuit Judge Vernon Cotten. Leake County paid Patrick's
claims that Patrick grossly abused her authority. Patrick
allegedly went to Sturkin's places of employment and
demanded that Sturkin look the other way while Patrick stole
goods or otherwise defrauded Sturkin's employers. When
Sturkin worked at a hotel, for example, Patrick demanded and
received free hotel rooms for herself, friends, and family.
most serious abuse of power happened when Sturkin refused to
comply with Patrick's demands. Patrick subsequently told
the Judge presiding over the Drug Court that Sturkin had
tested positive for alcohol consumption. Patrick was lying to
the Judge-to maintain control over Sturkin and perpetuate her
fraudulent scheme-but the Judge ordered Sturkin to be
now claims that Patrick violated a number of rights secured
by the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution. She further claims that Leake County is
liable for permitting a custom of constitutional violations
to persist in the Drug Court. Sturkin seeks damages and a
declaratory judgment that Leake County must pay any judgment
rendered against Patrick.
a case management conference could be held, Leake County
filed the present motion. It contends that it has no
liability for any custom of constitutional violations because
the Drug Court's final policymaker-a Judge-is a State
official, not a County official.
judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party seeking to avoid summary judgment
must identify admissible evidence in the record showing a
fact dispute. Id. at 56(c)(1); Tran Enterprises,
LLC v. DHL Exp. (USA), Inc., 627 F.3d 1004, 1010 (5th
Cir. 2010). The Court views the evidence and draws reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Maddox v. Townsend and Sons, Inc., 639 F.3d 214, 216
(5th Cir. 2011).
governing bodies . . . can be sued directly under § 1983
for monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where . . .
the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements
or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or
decision officially adopted and promulgated by that
body's officers.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).
“For a municipality to be liable, the plaintiff must
show that there was either an official policy or an
unofficial custom, adopted by the municipality, that was the
moving force behind the claimed constitutional
violation.” Duvall v. Dallas Cty., Tex., 631
F.3d 203, 209 (5th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted).
Official policy . . . usually exists in the form of written
policy statements, ordinances, or regulations, but it may
also arise in the form of a widespread practice that is so
common and well-settled as to constitute a custom that fairly
represents municipal policy. A policy or custom is official
only when it results from the decision or acquiescence of
the municipal officer ...