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Allen v. City of St. Louis

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

May 26, 2015

GEORGE ALLEN, JR. and LONZETTA TAYLOR, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RODNEY W. SIPPEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff George Allen, Jr. was convicted of murder and sentenced to a lengthy term of incarceration. Almost thirty years later his convictions were overturned and he was released from prison. Allen filed this lawsuit alleging his conviction was the result of police misconduct in the investigation and prosecution of his criminal case. The City of St. Louis, the St. Louis City Board of Police Commissioners, and present and former officers and employees of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are named as defendants in this lawsuit. Defendants have filed several motions to dismiss. Plaintiffs have filed a motion to appoint defendants ad litem for three individual Defendants who are deceased. I will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motions to dismiss. I will also deny Plaintiffs' motion to appoint defendants ad litem.

Background

Plaintiff George Allen, Jr. was convicted of capital murder, rape, sodomy, and first degree burglary on July 23, 1983 in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City. Allen was sentenced to ninety-five years of imprisonment. Allen pursued habeas relief based on subsequent DNA testing and newly discovered evidence in the case. Allen was granted habeas relief. He was released from custody and his conviction was vacated on November 14, 2012 by the Cole County Circuit Court.

Allen and his mother, Plaintiff Lonzetta Taylor, filed the current lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, Missouri (the City), the individual Board members of the St. Louis City Board of Police Commissioners (the Board), Chief Sam Dotson of the St. Louis Metropolitan Department, and other individual St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) employees. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' rights under the United States Constitution and committed state law torts regarding the criminal investigation, subsequent conviction, and ongoing incarceration of Allen.

Plaintiffs' claims against the City, the Board, and Dotson are based on the actions of the individual SLMPD employee defendants. Plaintiffs claim that the City and the Board were responsible for supervising and training the employees of, and overseeing the operations and establishing the policy of the SLMPD.

Defendant City has moved to dismiss the claims against it on several grounds including that it had no control over the SLMPD during the relevant timeframe in this matter and that it has sovereign immunity from Plaintiffs' state law tort claims.

The remaining Defendants filed a separate motion to dismiss. Defendants Samuel Dotson, Joseph Crow, Terry James, Mark Burford, William Wilson, and Thomas Rowane move to dismiss the claims against them in their official capacities. Defendants Richard Gray, Bette Battle-Turner, Thomas Irwin, Erwin Switzer, and Francis Slay (the Board) move to dismiss the claims in Counts I, II, V, VII, and VIII for a failure to state a claim and Counts X through XVI base on sovereign immunity.

Three of the individual SLMPD Defendants are deceased. Plaintiffs have moved to have defendants ad litem appointed in their place. Defendants oppose this motion.

Legal Standard

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, I must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and view them in light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. at 555.

Discussion

Claims against Defendant City of St. Louis

Plaintiffs allege that the City and the Board are liable for Plaintiffs' claims. The City had no authority or control over the operations of the SLMPD during the relevant time period that gives rise to Plaintiffs' claim, between 1982 and 2012. During that period of time the St. Louis City Board of Police Commissioners controlled the SLMPD. Section 84.010 R.S.Mo. barred the City of St. Louis from interfering "with the powers or the exercise of the powers" of the Board. Plaintiffs assert, without any supporting facts, that the City had authority and control over the SLMPD between 1982 and 2012 and allowed police ...


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