United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MATTHEW S. SMITH, Plaintiff,
DEAN FINCH, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendant Darren Garrison, Circuit Clerk of Wayne County,
Missouri (“Defendant Garrison”) and Laura Yount,
employee of the Office of the Circuit Clerk of Wayne County,
Missouri (“Defendant Yount”) (collectively,
“Defendants”). (Doc. 62). The motion has been fully
briefed, and the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636. (Doc. 73).
Factual and Procedural Background
September 2015, an officer from the Missouri Highway Patrol
provided, under oath, a probable cause statement seeking the
arrest of a Matthew Smith who was born in 1985 and had an
address in Perryville, Missouri (“1985 Smith”).
(2d Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) The statement provided that the
Matthew Smith sought was 30 years of age, and it contained
the 1985 Smith's Social Security Number. (Id.)
Pursuant to the probable cause statement, an information was
filed in the Circuit Court of Wayne County. (Id. at
Garrison is the Circuit Clerk of Wayne County, Missouri.
(Id. at ¶ 5). Defendant Yount is an employee of
the Office of the Circuit Clerk of Wayne County, Missouri.
(Id. at ¶ 6). On September 8, 2015, Defendant
Garrison, Defendant Yount, or another one of Defendant
Garrison's employees completed a warrant or warrant
application for the arrest of a Matthew Smith. (Id.
at ¶ 11-12.) Defendant Garrison's duty and his
employees' duty was simply to type the information from
the probable cause statement and information into the arrest
warrant. (Id. at ¶ 17). However, when
completing the warrant application, instead of using the
information in the probable cause statement and the
information identifying the 1985 Smith, Defendant Yount or
Defendant Garrison inserted the birth date and age of
Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 11, 13-14.)
Plaintiff's birthdate is in 1961, his address at that
time was in St. Charles, Missouri, and his age was 54.
(Id. at ¶ 15.) An arrest warrant was issued,
and the 1985 Smith was arrested and posted bond.
(Id. at ¶ 19.)
October 23, 2015, another arrest warrant for the 1985 Smith
was authorized in the same proceeding. (Id. at
¶ 20.) Instead of issuing an arrest warrant for the 1985
Smith as listed in the probable cause statement and
information, Defendant Yount, Defendant Garrison, or someone
from Defendant Garrison's office issued a second warrant
application seeking the arrest and jailing of Plaintiff.
(Id. at ¶ 21.) Defendant Garrison signed the
warrant containing the erroneous information without
reviewing its accuracy. (Id. at ¶ 27.)
Defendant Garrison did not provide any training to his
employees regarding the proper method of entering data from
an information or probable cause statement into a warrant
application. (Id. at ¶ 30.) The warrant
application was presented to the Circuit Court of Wayne
County without notice that the data in it had been changed
and was different from the data in the information and
probable cause statement. (Id. at ¶ 28). The
warrant was issued based upon the erroneous data.
(Id. at ¶ 29).
employee of the Office of the Sherriff for Wayne County
entered the warrant for the arrest of Plaintiff into MULES
and other police-used communications that seek the arrest and
detention of individuals. (Id. at ¶ 33).
Defendant Dean Finch is the Sheriff of Wayne County.
(Id. at ¶ 2). There is no custom or practice in
Defendant Finch's office to review or provide for the
accuracy of information in arrest warrants when the
information is entered into MULES. (Id. at ¶
October of 2015, Plaintiff was travelling internationally.
(Id. at ¶ 35.) On October 30, 2015, Plaintiff
returned from Hong Kong, arriving at O'Hare International
Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Id. at ¶ 36.)
Because of the arrest warrant, the United States Customs
Service detained Plaintiff as he was going through customs
and turned him over to the Chicago Police Department
(“Chicago PD”). (Id. at ¶¶
37-38.) Chicago PD representatives and the attorney then
representing Plaintiff contacted the Wayne County
Sherriff's Department that afternoon to request
confirmation that the warrant seeking Plaintiff's arrest
was valid. (Id. at ¶ 39.) Defendant
Stacey Sikes was on duty at the Wayne County Sherriff's
Department. (Id.) She did not undertake any review
of the warrant but advised the Chicago PD that Plaintiff
should be held without bail. (Id.) The Chicago PD
placed Plaintiff in the Cook County Jail until a court
hearing could be held. (Id. at ¶ 40.) The next
afternoon, on October 31, 2015, Plaintiff's attorney,
officials from the Cook County Prosecutor's Office,
and/or representatives of the Chicago PD contacted the Wayne
County Sherriff's Department a second time to request
confirmation that the arrest warrant for Plaintiff was
valid. (Id. at ¶ 42.) This time, the
representative undertook a review of the warrant and informed
the Chicago PD that it was erroneous. (Id.)
Plaintiff was subsequently released. (Id. at ¶
was never charged with possession of illegal drugs, was never
on bail, and had no charges pending against him in Wayne
County or any other jurisdiction. (Id. at ¶
46.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' acts were
outrageous and done with malice, or in the alternative were
willful and wanton and done with a conscious disregard for
Plaintiff's rights. (Id. at ¶ 48).
Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts seven claims: (I)
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Finch
and Sikes; (II) violation of the Missouri Sunshine Law, Mo.
Rev. Stat. § 610.010 et seq., against Defendant
Finch; (III) negligence against Defendants Finch and Sikes;
(IV) false imprisonment against Defendants Finch and Sikes;
(V) violation of § 1983 against Defendants Garrison and
Yount; (VI) negligence against Defendants Garrison and Yount;
(VII) false imprisonment against Defendants Garrison and
Yount; and (VIII) ultra vires acts against Defendants
Garrison and Yount.
Garrison and Yount now move to dismiss Counts V, VI, VII, and
VIII under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim.
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must
accept as true all of the factual allegations in the
complaint, but it need not accept legal conclusions.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim satisfies
the plausibility standard “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556).
instant motion, Defendants argue that Counts V, VI, VII, and
VIII should be dismissed for several reasons. First,
Defendants argue that any official capacity claims against
Defendant Yount are not cognizable under § 1983 and are
barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Second, Defendants argue
that Count V (Plaintiff's § 1983 claim) is barred by
absolute quasi-judicial immunity. Third, Defendant Garrison
argues that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against
Defendant Garrison in Count V because an official cannot be
held vicariously liable for the tortious conduct of his
subordinates under § 1983, because Plaintiff has not
alleged sufficient facts to support a failure to train or
supervise claim against Defendant Garrison, and because
Plaintiff's allegations against Defendant Garrison amount
to, at most, negligence. Fourth, Defendants argue Count V is
barred by qualified immunity. Fifth, Defendants argue that
Count VI (negligence) and Count VII (false imprisonment) are
barred by Missouri's judicial immunity doctrine. Sixth,
Defendants argue that Count VI (negligence) is barred by the
public duty doctrine. Seventh, Defendants argue that Count
VII (false imprisonment) and Count VIII (ultra vires acts)
should be dismissed because Plaintiff has alleged no more
To the Extent that Plaintiff Is Asserting Claims Against
Defendant Yount in Her Official Capacity, Those Claims Are
caption of his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states
that he is bringing the action against “Laura Yount,
individually and in her official capacity . . .” In
their memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss,
Defendants argue that any official capacity claims against
Defendant Yount are not cognizable and are barred by the
Eleventh Amendment, and they provide case law to support that
assertion. See Doc. 63, at 5-6. In his response to
the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff provides no opposition to
Defendants' argument; instead, he states that he
“does not seek relief from Defendants Garrison and
Yount in their official capacities.” See Doc.
70, at 8, n.1. Plaintiff also states that to the extent that
he needs to clarify the capacity in which he is suing
Defendant Yount, he requests leave to amend his complaint to
provide such clarification.
light of Plaintiff's acknowledgment that he does not seek
relief from Defendant Yount in her official capacity, the
Court finds that any official capacity claims against
Defendant Yount in the Second Amended Complaint should be
dismissed. The Court finds no need for Plaintiff to file yet
another amended complaint to clarify this point.
Count V Is Not Barred by Absolute Quasi-Judicial
Count V, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' actions with
regard to his arrest warrant violated his constitutional
rights under § 1983. As discussed above, Plaintiff
brings this claim against Defendants in their individual
capacities. Defendants argue that this claim should be
dismissed because it is barred by absolute quasi-judicial
quasi-judicial immunity derives from absolute judicial
immunity.” Martin v. Hendren, 127 F.3d 720,
721 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Roland v. Phillips, 19
F.3d 552, 555 (11th Cir. 1994)). Under the doctrine of
absolute judicial immunity, it is well established that
“[a] judge is entitled to absolute immunity for all
judicial actions that are not ‘taken in a complete
absence of all jurisdiction.'” Penn v. United
States, 335 F.3d 786, 789 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991)). See
also, e.g., Maness v. District Court of Logan
County, 495 F.3d 943, 944 (8th Cir. 2007). Judicial
immunity protects the finality of judgments, discourages
inappropriate collateral attacks, and “protect[s]
judicial independence by insulating judges from vexatious
actions prosecuted by disgruntled litigants.”
Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 225 (1988) (citing
Bradley v. Fisher, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1872)).
the doctrine of absolute quasi-judicial immunity, courts have
extended the protections of judicial immunity to individuals
other than judges under some limited circumstances. These
circumstances fall into two general categories. First,
absolute quasi-judicial immunity may apply to individuals who
conduct adjudicative proceedings similar to those conducted
by judges, such as members of state boards and commissions.
See, e.g., Gilliam v. Hodges, 614 Fed.Appx. 346 (8th
Cir. 2015) (collecting cases and finding that the members of
the Arkansas State Claims Commission were entitled to
absolute quasi-judicial immunity because their hearings
“contain sufficient adversarial procedures to qualify
as quasi-judicial proceedings”). Second, absolute
quasi-judicial immunity may apply to court employees or other
government employees when they perform acts closely related
to the judicial function, such as carrying out a judge's
order. See, e.g., Rogers v. Bruntrager, 841 F.2d
853, 856 (8th Cir. 1988) (“Clerks of court have
absolute immunity from actions for damages ...