United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
MARLUNTAY BROWNLEE individually, and as next friend of minors L.B., Z.B., and A.C., and TYDRICUS PRIDE PLAINTIFFS
THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, and MILTON WILLIAMS, JR. DEFENDANTS
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM OPINION
SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiffs in this case are Marluntay Brownlee, three minor
children: L.B., Z.B., and A.C., and Brownlee's nephew
Tydricus Pride. In their Complaint , the Plaintiffs allege
a variety of claims based in state and federal law against
the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and Mississippi
Highway Patrol Trooper Milton Williams. Now before the
Court are two Motions to Dismiss filed by The Department of
Public Safety , and by Williams .
and Procedural Background
to the Plaintiffs, around noon on September 16, 2017 Brownlee
was driving on Mississippi Highway 3 in Quitman County with
three minor children and her disabled nephew as passengers.
Trooper Williams pulled the Plaintiffs' car over.
Brownlee admits that she was speeding. Williams performed
breathalyzer and field sobriety tests on Brownlee and then
arrested her. According to Brownlee, she requested that
Williams allow her to contact someone to pick up her
passengers, and Williams refused to allow her to do so.
Williams called a tow truck to transport the Plaintiffs'
vehicle. Pride attempted to give Williams a phone with
Pride's grandmother on the line, presumably to give her
directions, and Williams refused to speak with her. Brownlee
was taken to jail. The tow truck driver transported the
abandoned passengers to a nearby McDonalds after which they
were eventually able to contact a relative to come and pick
eventually plead guilty to speeding, a window tint violation,
failure to have insurance, and a seatbelt violation.
Brownlee's charge for driving under the influence was
their Complaint , the Plaintiffs assert ten claims against
the Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the
Mississippi Tort Claims Act. It is wholly unclear from the
Complaint which of the five individual Plaintiffs are,
individually or collectively, asserting which claims against
which Defendants. It is also unclear from the Plaintiffs'
Complaint, which facts the Plaintiffs contend support each of
Motion , the Department argues primarily that it is
entitled to sovereign immunity from the Plaintiffs'
claims. In his Motion , Williams argues primarily that he
is entitled to the protection of qualified immunity from the
noted above, the Department seeks dismissal of the official
capacity claims on the grounds that it is protected by
sovereign immunity, and that it is not a “person”
within the meaning of Section 1983, invoking Rules 12(b)(1)
and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The
first of these defenses implicates Rule 12(b)(1). See
Judd v. Mississippi, No. 4:16-CV-119-DMB, 2017 WL
4478006, at *1-2 (N.D. Miss. Oct. 6, 2017) (citing
Warnock v. Pecos Cty., 88 F.3d 341, 343 (5th Cir.
1996) (“Because sovereign immunity deprives the
[federal] court of jurisdiction, . . . claims barred by
sovereign immunity can be dismissed only under Rule 12(b)(1)
and not with prejudice.”). The second
“persons” defense, concerns a plaintiff's
ability to state a claim, thus mandating a Rule 12(b)(6)
inquiry. See id. (citing Lapides v. Bd. of
Regents of Univ. Sys. of Georgia, 535 U.S. 613, 617, 122
S.Ct. 1640, 152 L.Ed.2d 806 (2002) (internal citations,
quotation marks, and alterations omitted)).
filed under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure allow a party to challenge the subject matter
jurisdiction of the district court to hear a case.”
Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th
Cir. 2001). A court may dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction 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.” Crane v. Johnson, 783 F.3d 244, 251
(5th Cir. 2015).
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).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Turner v. Lt. Driver, 848 F.3d 678,
685 (5th Cir. 2017).
Against the Department of Public Safety
outset, the Court notes that “[g]enerally, an
official-capacity suit is just another way of pleading an
action against an entity of which an officer is an agent and
are treated as suits against the State. Latiolais v.
Cravins, 484 Fed.Appx. 983, 989 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing
Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25, 112 S.Ct. 358, 116
L.Ed.2d 301 (1991)). With this in mind, the Court will treat
the Plaintiffs' claims asserted against Williams in his
official capacity as claims asserted against the Department
of Public Safety. See id.
well-settled law that the Mississippi Department of Public
Safety, is an arm of the state. See Williams v.
Zachary, No. 118-CV-128-GHD, 2019 WL 419289, at *2-3
(N.D. Miss. Feb. 1, 2019); Williams v. Mississippi
Dep't of Pub. Safety, No. 1:17-CV-179-GHD, 2018 WL
1128133, at *3 (N.D. Miss. Mar. 1, 2018); Delany v. Miss.
Dep't of Pub. Safety, No. ...