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Hamilton v. McLemore

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

October 3, 2019

PAMELA HAMILTON AND GUS TIMOTHY GEORGIAN PLAINTIFFS
v.
BRANDON MCLEMORE, MICHAEL HOFFER, AND JEREMY DUNAWAY, individually and in their official capacities as Hattiesburg, Mississippi police officers DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUMOPINIONANDORDER

          KEITH STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause has come before the Court on Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to M.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) [30]. Plaintiffs have responded [34, 35], and Defendants filed a rebuttal [36]. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the Amended Complaint in this matter, and the relevant legal authority, the Court finds the motion is not well taken and will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs, Pamela Hamilton and Gus Timothy Georgian, filed this action on April 2, 2019 against three police officers with the Hattiesburg Police Department, alleging constitutional rights violations arising from the alleged wrongful arrests of the two Plaintiffs for the murder of Plaintiff Georgian's sister. Plaintiffs sued the Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in both their individual and official capacities. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them in their official capacities [4], which the Court granted [14]. This Court applied the law that in order for the Defendants to be held liable in their official capacities, which is essentially a suit against the governmental entity, “the entity's policy or custom must have played a part in the violation of federal law.” Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991). [14]. Having found the allegations regarding any policy or practice lacking in the original Complaint, this Court granted dismissal. [14]. Plaintiffs then sought leave to file an Amended Complaint [15], which the Court granted [27].

         On July 12, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint [28]. Plaintiffs have revised their allegations against the individual officers in their official capacity and added the City of Hattiesburg as a defendant. [15]. The individual Defendants in their official capacities and the City of Hattiesburg now move to dismiss the claims against them.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that it plausible on its face.” In re: Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). To be plausible, the complaint's factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. The Court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id.

         B. Analysis

         1. Municipal Liability Claim

         Plaintiffs bring claims against the named Defendants in their official capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [1] at ¶ 1. A suit against the officers in their official capacity is essentially a suit against the City of Hattiesburg. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dept. of Soc. Svcs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55 (1978)). Because the real party in interest is the governmental entity, “the entity's policy or custom must have played a part in the violation of federal law.” Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991) (citing Graham, 473 U.S. at 166).

         Liability under section 1983 attaches where a deprivation of a right protected by the Constitution or by federal law is caused by an official policy. An official policy can be found in two forms:

1. A policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision that is officially adopted and promulgated by the municipality's lawmaking officers or by an official to whom the lawmakers have delegated policy-making authority; or
2. A persistent, widespread practice of city officials or employees, which, although not authorized by officially adopted and promulgated policy, is so common and well settled as to constitute a ...

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