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Graham v. City of Cleveland

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

March 27, 2019

KENYARDA GRAHAM PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF CLEVELAND, MISSISSIPPI, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This civil rights action is before the Court on the motion to dismiss filed by the City of Cleveland, Mississippi; Charles Bingham; Bryan Bracey; and Ronnie Livingston. Doc. #8.

         I

         Procedural History

         On January 17, 2018, Kenyarda Graham filed a complaint in this Court against (1) the City of Cleveland, Mississippi; (2) Charles Bingham, in his individual capacity and official capacity as Chief of the Cleveland Police Department (“CPD”); (3) Bolivar County, Mississippi; (4) Kelvin Williams, in his individual capacity and official capacity as Sheriff of Bolivar County; (5) Bryan Bracey, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a CPD officer; (6) Demarcus Johnson, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a CPD officer; (7) Sandra Lomax, in her individual capacity and official capacity as a CPD officer; (8) Ronnie Livingston, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a CPD officer; (9) Latoya Barnes, in her individual capacity and official capacity as an employee of the Bolivar County Regional Corrections Facility (“BCRCF”); (10) Timothy Shaw, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a BCRCF employee; (11) Ollie Hall, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a BCRCF employee; (12) Malcolm Wesley, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a BCRCF employee; (13) Ladester Green, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a BCRCF employee; and (14) Mose Countryman, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a BCRCF employee. Doc. #1. The complaint alleges claims for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         On April 6, 2018, the City, Bingham, Bracey, and Livingston filed a “Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, for Summary Judgment.” Doc. #8. Lomax, who was not served with the complaint until March 30, 2018, joined the motion on April 19, 2018. Docs. #12, #21. After seeking and receiving an extension to respond, Graham filed a response to the motion on April 30, 2018. Docs. #20, #23. The moving defendants replied on May 7, 2018. Doc. #25.

         II

         Motion to Dismiss Standard [1]

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 “requires a pleading to contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. The purpose of this requirement is to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Wooten v. McDonald Transit Assocs., Inc., 788 F.3d 490, 498 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). “Although Rule 8 and-in specific circumstances-Rule 9 provide the statutory component of the federal pleading standard, Rule 12(b)(6) provides the one and only method for testing whether that standard has been met.” Int'l Energy Ventures Mgmt., L.L.C. v. United Energy Grp., Ltd., 818 F.3d 193, 203 (5th Cir. 2016).

         “To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must provide the plaintiff's grounds for entitlement for relief-including factual allegations that, when assumed to be true, raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Ruiz v. Brennan, 851 F.3d 464, 468 (5th Cir. 2017). Under this standard, a court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true ….” New Orleans City v. Ambac Assurance Corp., 815 F.3d 196, 199 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III

         Factual Allegations

         Early in the morning of July 4, 2016, the CPD was informed that Kenyarda Graham “was in the street, in his underwear being loud and disorderly ….” Doc. #1 at ¶ 13. Sergeant Ronnie Livingston and Officers Bryan Bracey, Sandra Lomax, and Demarcus Johnson arrived on the scene and placed Graham under arrest for disturbing the peace and malicious mischief. Id. The officers involved in the arrest knew that Graham suffered from a mental illness for which he had been hospitalized and for which he takes medication. Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13.

         At the time of Graham's arrest, the CPD maintained a policy governing responses to “situations involving mentally ill persons ….” Doc. #23-5.[2] This policy provided:

When a mentally ill person's behavior requires confinement in order to prevent him from harming himself, another person, or committing a crime, the officer will:
1. Obtain a warrant of commitment;
2. Take the individual into custody and immediately transport him to the nearest ...

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