United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
S.O., INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR SON, B.O. PLAINTIFFS
HINDS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
P. JORDAN III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tommy Brumfield, Ben Lundy, Shannon Rankin, and Michelle Ray
(the “District Defendants”), and Byram Police
Department and Ricardo Montez Kincaid (the “Byram
Defendants”) have filed motions to dismiss based on
qualified immunity [57, 59]. For the reasons that follow, the
Court denies the District Defendants' motion  as to
Brumfield and Ray in their individual capacities regarding
the Fourth Amendment claim but otherwise grants the
Defendants' motions [57, 59].
S.O., individually and on behalf of her child B.O., is suing
Defendants due to alleged conduct that occurred during a
school disciplinary action. At the time of the incident, B.O.
was a 12-year-old seventh-grade student at Byram Middle
School. S.O. says that, on April 4, 2017, Defendant Shannon
Rankin, a social-studies teacher, accused B.O. of violating
school policy by selling bite-sized candy bars during class.
She therefore directed B.O. to go to Assistant Principal
Tommy Brumfield's office. See Am. Compl.  at
4-8. On his way to the office, B.O. encountered Defendant
Michelle Ray, another assistant principal. B.O. admitted to
Ray that he had hidden some candy in a trashcan while on his
way to Brumfield's office. Following this encounter, B.O.
says Ray forced him to don rubber gloves and dig the candy
out of the trashcan.
Brumfield's office, Brumfield searched B.O. for evidence
of the alleged violation. According to B.O., Brumfield put
his hands in B.O.'s pockets and touched his penis during
the search. Brumfield and Ray, who was present, adamantly
deny this allegation and say instead that Brumfield merely
instructed B.O. to pull his pockets out to check their
contents. In any event, nothing was found. The Brumfield and
Ray also searched B.O.'s school bag and found various
items, including a purse, expo-board cleaner, feminine
looking OtterBox cases, and six calculators, three of which
were school property. Although B.O. claimed that his math
teacher authorized him to carry the calculators and that the
purse belonged to his aunt, Brumfield wrote B.O. up for theft
of school property. B.O. alleges that all of this occurred in
the presence of Defendant Ricardo Montez Kincaid, a sergeant
with the Byram Police Department.
on these events, S.O. filed this suit asserting claims under
§ 1983 for violating the Fourth, Thirteenth, and
Fourteenth Amendments as well as various state-law causes of
action. Defendants have since filed motions to dismiss based
primarily on qualified immunity [57, 59]. Having both
subject-matter and personal jurisdiction, the Court is ready
to rule on these motions.
Motions to Dismiss
sets of Defendants seek dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Under that rule, the Court must
determine-based on the face of the complaint-whether
Plaintiffs have stated a claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(d). But here, all parties submitted record evidence that
is beyond Rule 12(b)(6)'s scope of review. When that
happens, “Rule 12(d) gives a district court
‘complete discretion to determine whether or not to
accept any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in
conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.”'
Isquith ex rel. Isquith v. Middle S. Utils., Inc.,
847 F.2d 186, 194 n.3 (5th Cir. 1988) (citation omitted). But
if “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and
not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one
for summary judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see also
In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205
(5th Cir. 2011). In this case, the Court will exercise its
discretion and consider the motions and supporting materials
under Rule 56.
judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56(a) when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. The rule “mandates the
entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery
and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
party moving for summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323.
The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the
pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Id. at 324 (citation omitted). In reviewing the
evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor
of the nonmovant, “but only when . . . both parties
have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.”
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory facts exist,
the court may “not make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). Conclusory
allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and
legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate
substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for
trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276
F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075;
SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993).
assert qualified immunity. “The privilege is an
immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability;
and like an absolute immunity, it is effectively lost if a
case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.”
Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200-01 (2001). As the
Fifth Circuit recently summarized:
[T]he doctrine of qualified immunity protects government
officials from civil damages liability when their actions
could reasonably have been believed to be legal. This
immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those
who knowingly violate the law. Accordingly, we do not deny
immunity unless existing precedent must have placed the
statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.
Anderson v. Valdez, 845 F.3d 580, 599-600 (5th Cir.
2016) (footnotes and citations omitted, punctuation altered).
Furthermore, “[w]hen a defendant raises qualified
immunity, the burden is on the plaintiff to
‘demonstrate the inapplicability of the
defense.'” Coleman v. Marion Cty., No.
2:14-CV-185-DPJ-FKB, 2015 WL 5098524, at *6 (S.D.Miss. Aug.
31, 2015) (quoting McClendon v. City of Columbia,
305 F.3d 314, 323 (5th Cir. 2002)).
use a two-step analysis to determine whether qualified
immunity applies. The traditional first step asks whether
“the plaintiff has adduced facts sufficient to
establish a constitutional or statutory violation.”
Collier v. Montgomery, 569 F.3d 214, 217 (5th Cir.
2009) (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201). Second, if
a violation has been alleged, the Court must determine
“whether [the officer's] actions were objectively
unreasonable in light of clearly established law at the time
of the conduct in question.” Id. (alteration
in original) (quoting Freeman v. Gore, 483 F.3d 404,
411 (5th Cir. 2007)). In appropriate cases, courts can skip
the first step and ask whether the alleged violation violates
clearly established law. Pearson v. Callahan, 555
U.S. 223, 242 (2009).
a law is clearly established “must be undertaken in
light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad
general proposition.” Brosseau v. Haugen, 543
U.S. 194, 198-99 (2004) (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at
[t]he contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a
reasonable official would understand that what he is doing
violates that right. The relevant, dispositive inquiry in
determining whether a right is clearly established is whether
it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct
was unlawful in the situation he confronted.
Id. (citations omitted). “This does not
require that ‘the very action in question has
previously been held unlawful,' merely that a reasonable
officer would understand that his or her conduct was
unlawful.” Weisler v. Jefferson Parish
Sheriff's Office, No. 17-30951, 2018 WL 3031437, at
*2 (5th Cir. June 18, 2018) (quoting Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987)).
motions focus on Plaintiffs' federal claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. That statute “provides a claim
against anyone who, under color of state law, deprives
another of his or her constitutional rights.” Doe
v. Taylor Indep. Sch. Dist., 15 F.3d 443, 452 (5th Cir.
1994) (en banc) (quotation marks omitted). Here, Plaintiffs
say Defendants violated their rights under the Fourth,