United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
JAVONTE ELLIS, Individually; and STATE OF MISSISSIPPI ex rel. Javonte Ellis PLAINTIFFS
LOWNDES COUNTY; WILL SPANN; MIKE ARLEDGE; RON COOK; and OHIO CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil rights action is before the Court on (1) Mike Arledge
and Will Spann's motion for judgment on the pleadings,
Doc. #39; (2) Arledge, Spann, and Lowndes County's motion
for judgment on the pleadings, Doc. #41; and (3) Arledge,
Spann, and Lowndes County's motion to dismiss, Doc. #52.
September 29, 2016, Javonte Ellis filed a complaint in this
Court naming as defendants Lowndes County, Will Spann (in his
official and individual capacities), Mike Arledge (in his
official and individual capacities), Ron Cook (in his
official and individual capacities), and Ohio Casualty
Insurance Company. Doc. #1. The complaint asserted state and
federal claims based on an alleged false arrest of Ellis
which occurred on March 27, 2015.
timely answered the complaint on March 26, 2017. Doc. #16.
Two months later, on May 26, 2017, Cook filed a motion to
dismiss or, alternatively, for judgment on the pleadings.
3, 2017, Ellis, with leave of the Court, filed an amended
complaint against the same defendants. Doc. #31. One week
later, on July 10, 2017, Cook filed an answer to the amended
complaint, Doc. #32; a second motion to dismiss, or in the
alternative, for judgment on the pleadings, Doc. #33; and a
motion for sanctions, Doc. #35. Ellis responded in opposition
to both motions. Doc. #43; Doc. #45. Cook did not reply to
13, 2017, Lowndes County, Arledge, Ohio Casualty, and Spann
filed a joint answer to the amended complaint. Doc. #37. The
same day, Arledge and Spann filed a joint motion for judgment
on the pleadings (“First Motion”). Doc. #39. Also
that day, the County and Spann and Arledge in their official
capacities filed a motion for partial judgment on the
pleadings. (“Second Motion”). Doc. #41. After
seeking and receiving an extension to respond to the motions
for judgment on the pleadings, Ellis filed a response
addressing both motions on August 24, 2017. Doc. #49. The
County, Arledge, and Spann filed a joint reply on August 31,
2017. Doc. #51.
September 1, 2017, the County, Arledge, and Spann filed a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) (“Third
Motion”). Doc. #52. After seeking and receiving an
extension to respond to the motion to dismiss, Ellis filed a
response on September 22, 2017. Doc. #56. The County,
Arledge, and Spann replied on September 29, 2017. Doc. #58.
October 17, 2017, this Court denied Cook's motions to
dismiss and Cook's motion for sanctions. Doc. #60.
moving defendants seek dismissal under both Rule 12(c) and
Rule 12(b)(6). As a general matter, 12(b)(6) relief is
unavailable where a moving party has filed a responsive
pleading. Young v. City of Houston, 599 F. App'x
553, 554 (5th Cir. 2015). However, “[t]he standard for
dismissal under Rule 12(c) is the same as that for failure to
state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Edionwe v.
Bailey, 860 F.3d 287, 291 (5th Cir. 2017). A district
court therefore may treat a post- answer 12(b)(6) motion as a
Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings. Jones v.
Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999).
Accordingly, to the extent the defendants filed a motion to
dismiss, such motion will be treated as a motion for judgment
on the pleadings.
survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, as with a
motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bailey, 860
F.3d at 291. A complaint meets this standard when it
“pleads factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. In making this
determination, a court must “view all facts and
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” McLin v. Ard, 866 F.3d 682, 688 (5th
Cir. 2017). “When the motion ...
raises the defense of qualified immunity, the plaintiff must
plead specific facts that both allow the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
harm alleged and that defeat a qualified immunity defense
with equal specificity.” Id. (quotation marks
the period relevant to this litigation, Javonte Ellis was an
honors student at New Hope High School in Lowndes County,
Mississippi. Doc. #31 at ¶ 9. Ron Cook was a justice
court judge for Lowndes County. Id. at ¶ 10.
Will Spann was a detective with the Lowndes County
Sheriff's Department serving under Sheriff Mike Arledge.
Id. at ¶¶ 10, 57.
about March 27, 2015, Spann presented to Cook a charging
affidavit against Ellis for the crime of sexual battery
pursuant to § 97-3-65 of the Mississippi Code.
Id. at ¶ 10. The affidavit alleges:
Javonte Ellis, being 17 years of age at the time and whose
date of birth was 4/[redacted]/1997, did willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously, have sexual intercourse with a
child, [MH], who was 14 years of age at the time and whose
date of birth was 3/[redacted]/2000 and was thirty-six or
more months younger than Javonte Ellis and not the spouse of
Javonte Ellis at the time.
Doc. #39-2. Based on the affidavit, Cook issued a
warrant for Ellis' arrest. Doc. #31 at ¶ 21.
Thereafter, Ellis was publicly arrested, transported to the
Lowndes County Detention Center, and jailed. Id. at
¶¶ 31-32. Sometime later, Ellis was expelled from
school. Id. at ¶ 35.
to the allegation in the affidavit, Ellis was not thirty-six
months older than MH and thus was not in violation of §
97-3-65. Id. at ¶ 13; see Miss. Code
Ann. § 97-3-65(1)(a) (listing elements for statutory
rape involving victim between 14 and 16 years of age). The
charges against Ellis were dismissed on April 14, 2015. Doc.
#31 at ¶ 40.
amended complaint asserts: (1) § 1983 claims against
Spann in his individual capacity; (2) state common law claims
for false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, and
malicious prosecution against Spann in his individual
capacity; (3) a claim on Spann's public official bond
against Spann in his individual and official capacities; (4)
a claim on Spann's public official bond against Ohio
Casualty; (5) derivative liability claims under Miss. Code
Ann. § 19-25-19 against Arledge in his individual and
official capacities; (6) a claim on Arledge's public
official bond against Ohio Casualty; (7) § 1983 claims
against Cook in his individual capacity; (8) state common law
claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of
process, and malicious prosecution against Cook in his
individual capacity; (9) a claim on Cook's public
official bond against Cook in his individual and official
capacities; (10) a claim on Cook's public official bond
against Ohio Casualty; (11) state common law claims for false
arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and abuse
of process against the County; and (12) state common law
claims for negligence, gross negligence, and reckless
disregard against the County.
First Motion, Spann and Arledge, in their individual
capacities, argue (1) the § 1983 claims brought against
Spann are barred by qualified immunity and the independent
intermediary doctrine; (2) all state common law claims
against Spann in his individual capacity should be dismissed
under the personal liability immunity provision of the
Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”); (3) Arledge
cannot be held individually liable under either § 1983
or the MTCA; and (4) the public official bond claims against
them both in their individual capacities are barred by the
Second Motion filed by the County and Spann and Arledge in
their official capacities (collectively, “County
Defendants”), the County Defendants argue (1) the
federal claims against them are barred by the
independent-intermediary doctrine; (2) all state law claims
against them which accrued while Ellis was incarcerated are
barred by the inmate exception to the MTCA; and (3) the
official capacity claims against Spann and Arledge should be
dismissed as duplicative.
in the Third Motion, the moving defendants argue (1) the
County Defendants are entitled to the dismissal of Ellis'
claims for malicious prosecution and false arrest; and (2)
the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims brought
against Spann and Arledge in their individual capacities are
these motions implicate some of the same claims against the
same defendants, the Court considers the motions claim by
claim, rather than motion by motion.
Individual Capacity Claims Against Spann
Ellis' amended complaint alleges:
The Defendant Spann, In His Individual Capacity, is liable to
Mr. Ellis for the constitutional torts of false arrest, false
imprisonment, and prosecution without probable cause, by
initiating charges and causing the arrest and prosecution of
Mr. Ellis in the absence of probable cause.
The Defendant Spann, In His Individual Capacity, is liable to
Mr. Ellis for the common law torts of false arrest, false
imprisonment, malicious prosecution and abuse of process, by
initiating charges and causing the arrest of Mr. Ellis
without probable cause, for initiating a baseless prosecution
against Mr. Ellis without probable cause and with malice, and
for abuse of process by perverting the process of the court
for some ulterior purpose after its issuance so as to
accomplish a result not commanded by it or not lawfully
obtainable under it.
Doc. #31 at ¶¶ 51-52 (paragraph numbering omitted).
bases his federal claims on violations of his “Fourth
Amendment right to be free from wrongful arrest, false
imprisonment, and prosecution without probable cause, made
actionable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Doc. #31
at 1. Spann argues that these claims should be dismissed on
the ground of qualified immunity because he did not submit
false or misleading information in the affidavit and because
he is shielded by the impartial intermediary doctrine.
state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must assert
facts to support that a person acting under color of state
law denied the plaintiff a right under the Constitution or
federal law.” Stem v. Gomez, 813 F.3d 205, 210
(5th Cir. 2016). Additionally, “[w]hen a government
official is sued under Section 1983, the plaintiff must
allege that the official was either personally involved in
the deprivation or that his wrongful actions were causally
connected to it.” Id. (quotation marks
omitted). Furthermore, even when a § 1983 cause of
action exists, “[t]he doctrine of qualified immunity
protects government officials from civil damages liability
when their actions could reasonably have been believed to be
legal.” Ard, 866 F.3d at 688-89. Thus, the
Court must decide whether (1) Ellis suffered a deprivation of
a federally protected right; (2) Spann was personally
involved in the deprivation or his wrongful actions were
causally connected to it; and (3) if Spann was personally
involved or causally connected to a deprivation, whether
Spann is entitled to qualified immunity for any such
Deprivation of ...