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Anderson v. Flemming

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

February 2, 2018




         Pro se plaintiff Earl Lewis Anderson, Jr., proceeding in forma pauperis, filed this civil-rights suit based on events related to his February 2, 2014 arrest in Holmes County, Mississippi. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Anderson has said enough to move forward with his excessive-force claims against Defendants Maurice Flemming, Eddie Edison, and Faben Riley. All other claims are dismissed.

         I. Background

         Anderson filed his original Complaint on January 25, 2016, offering a fairly concise statement of his claims. He generally said that Defendant Patricia Watts Dean had attempted to extort money from him by claiming that Anderson was the father of her daughter, and that Dean conspired with the other Defendants to force Anderson to pay. All of that allegedly culminated on February 2, 2014, when Officer Flemming arrested Anderson and then, with the help of other Defendants, used excessive force against him. See Compl. [1] at 2-3.

         While that seemed clear enough, Anderson's claims got murkier when he filed his Amended Complaint [36], wherein he added new defendants and new allegations that went beyond the February 2 arrest; most notably, Anderson says that on August 8, 2014, officers fired 40 rounds into Anderson's car and trailer before arresting him. Am. Compl. [36] at 3. He then asserts various grievances related to the resulting criminal prosecution. Id.

         The Court referred Anderson's case to United States Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball on August 31, 2017, a Spears hearing followed, and Judge Ball then entered a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) [74].[1] In the R&R, Judge Ball recommended that the Court deny Anderson's Motion for Summary Judgment and to Consolidate [48], his Motion for Transfer into Federal Custody [60], and his Motion to Amend [71]; that Defendant Joshua Macko's Motion to Dismiss [52] be granted; that the Court dismiss “all remaining claims except for Anderson's claims of excessive force against Defendants Maurice Flemming, Eddie Edison, Faben Riley, and Marcus [Barnett] arising out of the incident of February 2, 2014”; and that those claims be stayed pending resolution of the related criminal proceedings. R&R [74] at 2. Anderson filed two documents following the entry of the R&R, which the Court construes together as constituting his objections thereto. See Aff. [76]; Objection [78]. For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted as modified.

         II. Analysis of Objections

         Anderson's discursive objections are difficult to follow, and in many ways he fails to offer substantive arguments regarding Judge Ball's recommendations. Nevertheless, the Court has thoroughly reviewed his submissions and will address the bigger issues.

         A. Recommendation to Dismiss Claims

         Judge Ball recommended that the Court dismiss all claims except for the excessive-force claims against Flemming, Edison, Riley, and Barnett relating to the February 2, 2014 incident. Anderson has not offered any reason to reject that recommendation as to most Defendants. For example, there is nothing in the record plausibly suggesting liability for Defendants Jerry Davis, Charles Lawrence, Albert Santa Cruz, Ken Brown, Chris Simmons, Robert Adkins, Lillie Simmons, or Attorney General Jim Hood related to the events of February 2, 2014. Those Defendants are dismissed.

         Anderson does, however, press his conspiracy claim throughout his objections. See Aff. [76] at 5-6. On this claim, Judge Ball concluded that Anderson offered nothing more than conclusory allegations that Defendants conspired against him. R&R [74] at 6. That observation is generally true. “The essence of a conspiracy is an understanding or agreement between the conspirators.” Holdiness v. Stroud, 808 F.2d 417, 425 (5th Cir. 1987). And an agreement cannot be established with “[m]ere conclusory allegations”; instead, Anderson “must plead the operative facts upon which [his] claim is based.” Id., quoted in Body by Cook, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., 869 F.3d 381, 390 (5th Cir. 2017). Anderson has not met that burden even after multiple submissions and live testimony.

         But that is not the only reason why this claim fails. Most notably, civil-rights conspiracies fall under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), and to state such a claim, the conspiracy “must have a ‘racially based animus.'” Jabary v. City of Allen, 547 F. App'x 600, 610 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Lockett v. New Orleans City, 607 F.3d 992, 1002 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Hilliard v. Ferguson, 30 F.3d 649, 652-53 (5th Cir. 1994)). Here, Anderson says Defendants conspired against him because he refused Defendant Dean's attempts to extort money from him. See, e.g., Compl [1] at 2. He has not alleged racial animus, and the civil-rights conspiracy claim must therefore fail.[2]

         For these reasons, Judge Ball's recommendation regarding the claims will be adopted, but with one modification. Judge Ball correctly concluded that the excessive-force claims against Joshua Macko and Lonnie Griffin are time-barred, a point Anderson did not dispute. R&R [74] at 7-8. That said, the analysis applies equally to Defendant Marcus Barnett. During the hearing, Anderson testified that he sued Barnett because Barnett attacked him on February 2, 2014, based on Flemming's orders. Tr. [75] at 25. Yet Anderson did not add his claims against Barnett until June 22, 2017, more than three years after the claims accrued. Anderson's claims against Barnett are time-barred and therefore dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915(e)(2)(B) (stating that ...

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