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Brown v. Hood

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

July 25, 2018




         Plaintiff Leonard Brown brings this suit under state law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an alleged sexual assault and related offenses he suffered while incarcerated. Defendant Officer Adrian Keys, in his official and individual capacities, seeks dismissal of Brown's claims based on Eleventh Amendment immunity, state-law immunity, and qualified immunity. Mot. [49]. For the reasons that follow, Keys's motion is granted, but Brown will be given leave to seek to amend.

         I. Background

         Brown, a post-conviction state inmate, says that “Officer Lucker” sexually assaulted him on July 24, 2015, while Brown was housed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institute (“SMCI”). After that, Defendants allegedly denied Brown's requests for medical care and then retaliated against Brown for complaining about the way he had been treated. Relative to Keys, Brown alleges that he and another officer ultimately escorted Brown to SMCI's medical department and told the nurse that the warden would decide whether Brown received medical care.

         Brown filed this lawsuit against a number of Defendants, including Keys, on January 23, 2017. In it, he asserts § 1983 claims for violation of his rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as state-law tort claims. Brown also seeks equitable relief, including a declaration that Defendants violated his rights and an injunction prohibiting future enforcement of the inmate exception to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-9(1)(m). Keys moved to dismiss the claims against him, and the issues he raised have been fully briefed.

         II. Standards

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) “challenge[s] the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court to hear a case.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). Lack of subject-matter jurisdiction may be found based on: “(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Id. “[T]he party asserting jurisdiction”-here, the plaintiff-“bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.” Id.

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         In considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), 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(b)(6) 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).

         III. Analysis

         Keys seeks dismissal on three grounds. He says that the Eleventh Amendment bars claims asserted against him in his official capacity; the inmate exception of the MTCA bars all state-law claims; and qualified immunity precludes the federal claims against him in his individual capacity. In response, Brown acknowledges that the Court's previous Order [51] addressing similar motions filed by different defendants establishes “the law of the case on the similar claims here” and effectively concedes, while preserving his arguments for purposes of appeal, dismissal of his official-capacity and state-law claims against Keys. Pl.'s Mem. [53] at 2 n.4, 6-7. Keys's motion is therefore granted as to those claims, and the Court will address only the individual-capacity § 1983 claims.

         Keys asserts qualified immunity as to Brown's § 1983 claims against him in his individual capacity.

[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. The basic steps of this court's qualified-immunity inquiry are well-known: a plaintiff seeking to defeat qualified immunity must show: (1) that the ...

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