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Smith v. Slay

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 29, 2015

JEFFERY ANTHONY SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANCIS SLAY, JR., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.

Jeffery Smith brought claims under state law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after he was incarcerated for over 100 days based on a warrant directed to another person. Defendant affiliated with the St. Louis Municipal Police Department (SLMPD) and the defendant Circuit Clerk M. Jane Schweitzer separately move to dismiss the claims against them. The claims against Schweitzer are based upon the issuance of the warrant; this is a judicial act, for which Schweitzer is entitled to judicial immunity. All claims against her will be dismissed. Smith's state law claims are barred by the statute of limitations, and so Count III will be dismissed as to all defendants. Because Smith has sufficiently pleaded his § 1983 official-capacity claims against the SLMPD defendants, their motion to dismiss those claims will be denied. Finally, because a review of the case has revealed that Smith's claims against the St. Louis City Sheriff's Department are legally deficient, those claims will be dismissed sua sponte.

Background

On August 6, 2009, plaintiff Jeffery Smith was stopped by Chesterfield, Missouri police officers for soliciting in that city without a license. Smith provided the officers with his driver's license, after which the officers told him he was wanted in three other jurisdictions on unrelated charges. From August 6 to August 8, 2009, Smith was held in custody of the Florissant Police Department. On August 8, 2009, Smith was released to the custody of the Ferguson Police Department, where he remained until he posted bond approximately two days later.

On August 10, 2009, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police informed Smith that he was wanted for a Class C felony, for which a warrant had been sworn out against a "Eugene Hamilton." Although he protested that he was not Eugene Hamilton, Smith was served with that warrant, which had been issued by the St. Louis Circuit Clerk's office and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Smith was transported to the St. Louis City Justice Center, where he was fingerprinted and given an inmate identification bracelet identifying him as Eugene Hamilton.

Smith had previously been arrested and convicted for a criminal offense in the City of St. Louis, and so his photograph, fingerprints, date of birth, and social security number were already in the City's computer database. Eugene Hamilton, too, had already been arrested and convicted for a criminal offense in the City; his identifying characteristics were likewise in the database.

Smith was transported to the Division of Corrections Medium Security Institution, where he remained from August 16, 2009 through December 2, 2009. During this time, Smith repeatedly protested that he was not Eugene Hamilton.

On September 16, 2009, a judge ordered that Smith be fingerprinted so that his identity might be ascertained; that order was not followed. On October 29, 2009, Assistant Circuit Attorney Kristi Hodel sent a letter to Smith's public defender stating that after comparing photographs, she believed Smith was telling the truth. Smith remained incarcerated for thirty-three additional days, until he was ordered released on December 2, 2009.

Smith presents three counts against all defendants.[1] The first two counts, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, assert that his Constitutional rights were violated. Count I alleges Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure violations based upon Smith's arrest and repeated searches while incarcerated. Count II alleges Smith's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated when he was detained involuntarily for 108 days without opportunity to challenge the validity of his detention. Count III presents state-law claims for false arrest and imprisonment.

Discussion

In the motions before the Court, M. Jane Schweitzer seeks dismissal of the claims in Counts I, II, and III asserted against her. The Board Members, Dotson, Watson, Garanzini, Simpher, and Crews seek dismissal of the official capacity claims against them and Count III in its entirety.

Standard of Review

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must view the allegations in the Complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008). Additionally, the court must accept "the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005). The motion must be granted if the complaint does not contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 ...


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