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Archie v. Greer

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

December 21, 2017




         Defendants Jeremy Greer and the City of Pelahatchie seek judgment on the pleadings in this wrongful-arrest case. Because it is possible that Plaintiff can succeed on her claim that Defendants violated her constitutional rights without undermining the validity of her conviction, and Defendants have not established that the Mississippi Tort Claims Act's police-function exception bars Plaintiff's state-law claims, Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [18] is denied without prejudice.

         I. Facts and Procedural

          History In the early-morning hours of February 26, 2017, Plaintiff Barbara Ann Archie was returning to her home in Pelahatchie, Mississippi, following an out-of-town trip. She pulled into her driveway and stepped out of her car as Defendant Jeremy Greer, a City of Pelahatchie police officer, pulled his vehicle into the driveway behind her and ordered her to get back into her car. Greer approached Archie's vehicle and told her he had stopped her for failure to signal a left turn off U.S. Highway 80 roughly a half mile from Archie's home.

         According to Archie, Greer issued her a citation and told her she could get out of her vehicle. Archie took the ticket, put it in her purse, got out of her car, and began walking to her home's front door. “Greer followed her and, for reasons that are unclear, threatened to take Plaintiff to jail for having an ‘attitude[.]' When she questioned why Greer would take her to jail for not using her turn signal, Greer placed Plaintiff under arrest.” Am. Compl. [15] ¶ 13. “Greer put Plaintiff in handcuffs and put her in his vehicle, slamming the door on her leg. Greer then drove her to the Pelahatchie Police Department[, ] shoved Plaintiff down on a bench[, and] took Plaintiff to the Rankin County Detention Center in Brandon, Mississippi.” Id. ¶ 15. Archie remained in jail until midday on February 26, 2017. The sole charge leveled against her arising from the events of February 26, 2017, was for failing to use a turn signal. In August 2017, Archie entered a no-contest plea to that charge and was assessed a $191.00 fine.

         Archie filed this lawsuit against Greer and the City of Pelahatchie on May 15, 2017. In the Amended Complaint, she asserts § 1983 claims against Greer and the City, state-law tort claims under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act against the City, and an intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claim against Greer. Defendants answered [17] and moved for judgment on the pleadings [18]. The issues raised in Defendants' motion have been briefed by all parties, and the Court is prepared to rule.

         II. Standard

         “The standard for deciding a Rule 12(c) motion [for judgment on the pleadings] is the same as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Guidry v. Am. Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007). 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. Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999) (per curiam)). But “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To overcome a Rule 12(c) motion, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (citations and footnote omitted).

         Ordinarily, a Court should confine itself to the face of the pleadings in ruling on a motion under Rule 12(c). See C.H., II ex rel. L.H. v. Rankin Cty. Sch. Dist., 415 F. App'x 541, 545 (5th Cir. 2011). But the Court may also consider and take judicial notice of matters of public record, such as documents filed in state court. See Joseph v. Bach & Wasserman, L.L.C., 487 F. App'x 173, 178 (5th Cir. 2012). If other “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Here, Defendants have submitted state-court records, of which the Court properly takes judicial notice. And Archie has submitted an affidavit in which she attempts to flesh out her factual allegations. Under Rule 12(d), the Court declines to consider Archie's affidavit.

         III. Analysis

         Defendants say that Archie's § 1983 and state-law claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and that her state-law claims are also barred by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act's (“MTCA”) police-function exemption. The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Heck v. Humphrey

          In Heck, “the Supreme Court held that ‘in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed'” or otherwise set aside. Walter v. Horseshoe Entm't, 483 F. App'x 884, 886-87 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87). So “[i]f success for the plaintiff in his section 1983 suit would challenge the constitutionality of his conviction and the plaintiff cannot show that the conviction has been reversed, expunged, invalidated, or called into question by the issuance of a habeas writ, ” dismissal under Heck is appropriate. Mackey v. Dickson, 47 F.3d 744, 746 (5th Cir. 1995). But if the plaintiff's success on his § 1983 claim “will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed.” Id. (quoting Heck, 512 U.S. at 487). And the mere presence of a valid conviction does not “necessarily preclude[] a § 1983 plaintiff from challenging the legality of his arrest.” Brown v. Sudduth, 255 F. App'x 803, 806 (5th Cir. 2007). In other words, “a valid conviction may follow an illegal arrest, [so that] a successful § 1983 unlawful arrest action does not necessarily imply the invalidity of an underlying conviction.” Id.; see Ray v. Pennington, No. 3:08-CV-175-JCS, 2008 WL 4829878, at *1 (S.D.Miss. Nov. 4, 2008) (“A claim arising out of an unlawful detention is not barred by Heck merely because that detention was part of a criminal process that culminated in a valid conviction.”).

         Defendants contend that Heck bars all Archie's claims, arguing that her conviction for failure to signal establishes probable cause for her arrest, and a favorable decision on her claims here would imply the invalidity of her conviction. In particular, Defendants note that Archie's § 1983 claims are based on her allegations that Greer arrested her “without probable cause” and his conduct “constituted an unreasonable seizure of [her] person.” Am. Compl. [15] ¶¶ 23, 25. As to her state-law claims, Defendants say they “are premised on the same basis advanced in support of the Heck ...

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