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Okorie v. Crawford

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

May 2, 2018

IKECHUKWU HYGINUS OKORIE, M.D. PLAINTIFF
v.
VIRGINIA M. CRAWFORD, M.D., ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         On February 27, 2018, this Court dismissed all claims except for Plaintiff Dr. Ikechukwu Okorie's Fourth Amendment claim against Investigators Jonathon Dalton and Leslie Ross, in their individual capacities. Defendants asserted the affirmative defense of qualified immunity and requested a Rule 7(a) reply. On March 7, 2018, the Court ordered Dr. Okorie to file such a reply, [1] and directed Defendants to file the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings on the basis of qualified immunity.

         Dr. Okorie's complaint and Rule 7(a) reply provide the following facts surrounding his detention. On October 29, 2014, Dalton and Ross, along with other investigators and officers, raided Dr. Okorie's Inland Family Practice Center (“Inland”). Upon entering Inland, Dalton brandished his gun and pushed the doctor into his office. Dalton served Dr. Okorie with an Administrative Inspection and Search Warrant, issued two days earlier by the Circuit Court of Forrest County, Mississippi. The warrant authorized investigators to obtain Dr. Okorie's patient records related to the purchase, use, administration, and prescribing of controlled substances. In the supporting affidavit, Dalton provided that, based on a data analysis of prescriptions issued by Dr. Okorie from February 1, 2014, to September 15, 2014, Dr. Okorie overprescribed controlled substances to several patients.

         After reviewing the warrant, Dr. Okorie attempted to leave his office to discuss it with his staff. Dalton, however, stopped Dr. Okorie, “put his hand on Dr. Okorie's shoulder, pushed him down, and said ‘if you don't sit down I will put you down!'” Dalton, with his gun drawn, then escorted Dr. Okorie into the hallway. The doctor instructed his staff to fax the warrant to his lawyers and to print patient records.

         While other investigators reviewed the records and interviewed staff, Dalton detained Dr. Okorie in his office. After two hours passed, Dr. Okorie asked to use the restroom. Another investigator replied no. After Dr. Okorie pleaded with Dalton that “he couldn't sit down any more or he was going to urinate himself, ” Dalton escorted Dr. Okorie to the restroom “with his gun drawn.” As Dr. Okorie was using the restroom, “Ms. Ross and the other investigators were all present while the door was open . . . as everyone watched.” Dr. Okorie was escorted back to his office and detained for another one to two hours until the investigators completed the search.

         II. Law

         A. Judgment on the Pleadings

         The legal standard is well-established:

The standard for deciding a Rule 12(c) motion is the same as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. The court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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).

Guidry v. Am. Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         B. Qualified Immunity

         Qualified immunity “protects government officials from liability from civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In other words, “qualified immunity generally protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Good v. Curtis, 601 F.3d 393, 400 (5th Cir. 2010). “When a defendant invokes qualified ...


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