United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
THWANDA MAGEE, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND OF MINOR 1, MINOR 2, AND MINOR 3 PLAINTIFF
PIKE COUNTY; KENNY COTTON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; BENA WILLIAMS-JONES, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; OTHER UNKNOWN EMPLOYEES AND ELECTED OFFICIALS OF PIKE COUNTY, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND/OR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES DEFENDANTS
BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on plaintiff Thwanda Magee
(“Magee”)'s Complaint against defendants Pike
County, Sheriff Kenny Cotton in his Official Capacity, Deputy
Bena Williams-Jones in her Individual and Official Capacity,
and Other Unknown Employees and Elected Officials of Pike
County. [ECF No. 1]. Defendant Bena Williams-Jones
(“Williams-Jones”) has filed a Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings Based on Qualified Immunity [ECF
No. 13] and a Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 15].
Defendants Kenny Cotton (“Cotton”) and
Williams-Jones have filed a Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings as to Official Capacity Claims [ECF No. 17].
about April 18, 2018, Magee was returning home after work and
saw in her driveway Pike County law enforcement officers, who
claimed to be looking for a “black male” carrying
a gun. Pike County Deputy Williams-Jones and other deputies
began to question Magee about the location of the man they
were looking for. Magee told the law enforcement officer that
she had no knowledge about such a man. After this
interaction, Magee's mobile home and vehicles on her
property were searched without a search warrant and without
was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and for
giving false identification. She was transported to the Pike
County jail and held overnight. The Pike County Deputies
contacted the Department of Human Services and/or other state
agency regarding the removal of Magee's minor children
from her custody. The next day Magee appeared in Pike County
Justice Court where both charges were dismissed and withdrawn
by a Pike County Justice Court Judge. Magee was released from
custody, but her children remained separated from her for
asserts that the deputies violated her Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment Constitutional rights when they: (1)
“detained her without articulating a reasonable
suspicion that she committed a crime;” (2)
“searched her home and curtilage without consent or a
warrant;” (3) “arrested Ms. Magee without
probable cause to believe she committed a crime;
and/or” (4) “lawfully arrested her for an
unlawful reason.” [ECF No. 1] at p. 5.
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs a
motion for judgment on the pleadings. The standard for
addressing such a motion is the same as that for addressing a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See In re Great
Lakes Dredge & Co., 624 F.3d 201, 209-10 (5th Cir.
2010). To avoid dismissal, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Id. at 210(quoting Bell Atl. Corp v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual
allegations in a complaint must be enough to raise the right
to relief above the speculative level. See id. The
Court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
Williams-Jones moves, in the alternative, for summary
judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. A party is entitled to summary judgment if the
movant “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court is not
permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence at the summary judgment stage of litigation. See
Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir.
2009)(citing Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr.,
476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2010)). All facts and inferences
must be made in “the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party.” See Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy
Creek Energy Assoc., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir.
Magee filed suit against Sheriff Cotton and Deputy
Williams-Jones in their official capacities. However,
“a suit against a state official in his or her official
capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a
suit against the official's office.” Will v.
Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their
official capacities are ‘persons' under §
1983.” Id. Because an official acting in his
or her official capacity is not a “person” within
the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he or she cannot be
sued in his or her official capacity under § 1983.
See id. Therefore, Plaintiff Magee's claims
against Sheriff Cotton and Deputy Williams-Jones in their
official capacities must be dismissed. Magee only sues
defendant Cotton “in his official capacity, ” so
he shall be dismissed from this suit because there are no
remaining claims against him. Magee's claims against
Deputy Williams-Jones in her individual capacity will now be
Magee's Complaint can be succinctly summarized: (1) when
Magee arrived home from work, Pike County Law Enforcement
officers were in Magee's driveway, searching for an
African American man with a gun, (2) Magee informed the law
enforcement officers that she had no knowledge of the man
they were searching for, and (3) Deputy Williams-Jones
searched her mobile home and the vehicles on her property
without her consent or a search warrant.
Fourth Amendment provides:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Supreme Court has made it explicitly clear that “[i]t
is a ‘basic principle of Fourth Amendment law' that
searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are
presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. New
York, 445 U.S. 573, 586 (1980). Physical entry of the
home is the “chief evil” that the Fourth
Amendment is directed toward. See id. at 585.
However, the presumption that a warrantless search of a home
is unreasonable can be overcome in some circumstances.
See Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. 452, 459 (2011). Some
examples of exceptions to the warrant ...