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McClanahan v. Lamphier

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

April 15, 2019

DARRELL MCCLANAHAN, et al., Plaintiffs,



         Pending are Defendant's motions for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. #36) and summary judgment (Doc. # 40). For the following reasons, both motions are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 17, 2016, Plaintiff Darrell McClanahan (“Darrell”) was arrested by Defendant Mark Lamphier (“Defendant”) and charged with Theft/Stealing and Resisting Arrest.[1] Plaintiffs allege their constitutional rights were violated when Defendant entered their home and “assaulted” Plaintiff April McClanahan (“April”) by “refusing to honor her request to not answer questions and to be represented by an attorney, ” “assaulted” Darrell by “making verbally offensive accusations, ” “unlawfully placing [Darrell] in handcuffs, ” and, arresting Darrell but “not charging him with anything at the time nor having a warrant.” Plaintiffs seek monetary damages and equitable relief for alleged violations of their federally protected rights. Defendant now moves for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. #36) and summary judgment (Doc. #40) on all claims.


         “Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Faibisch v. Univ. of Minn., 304 F.3d 797, 803 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). In considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court “accept[s] as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant[s] all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party.” Id. (citations omitted). The Court reviews a motion for judgment on the pleadings under the same standard that governs motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Ashley Cty. v. Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009); Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The claim for relief must be “‘plausible on its face, '” meaning it must “plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007)). Mere “‘labels and conclusions, '” “‘formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action, '” and “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement'” are insufficient. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

         A. Section 1983 Claims

         1. Official Capacity Claim

         The Eighth Circuit requires more than an ambiguous pleading to state an individual capacity claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Baker v. Chisom, 501 F.3d 920, 924 (8th Cir. 2007). This requires a clear statement or a specific pleading indicating plaintiffs are suing defendants in their individual capacities. Andrus ex rel. v. Arkansas, 197 F.3d 953, 955 (8th Cir. 1999) (“specific to personal liability”); Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1989) (“we have repeatedly stated that § 1983 litigants wishing to sue government agents in both capacities should simply use the following language: ‘plaintiff sues each and all defendants in both their individual and official capacities'”). Because there is no allegation that Defendant is being sued in his individual capacity, only official capacity claims are presented here. Artis v. Francis Howell N. Band Booster Ass'n, Inc., 161 F.3d 1178, 1182 (8th Cir. 1998).

         “Suits against public employees in their official capacity are the legal equivalent of suits against the governmental entity itself.” Bankhead v. Knickrehm, 360 F.3d 839, 844 (8th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted); see also Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 (1985) (citations omitted); Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 1001 (8th Cir. 2010). Therefore, Plaintiffs' claims against Defendant are construed as though they were asserted directly against the City of Lexington (“the City”). Section 1983 liability may attach to a local government if a constitutional violation resulted from an official policy or custom. Corwin v. City of Independence, 829 F.3d 695, 699 (8th Cir. 2016) (quotations and citations omitted); see also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Serv. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694-95 (1978).

         When claiming a constitutional violation resulted from a policy, “a plaintiff must include allegations…by which one could begin to draw an inference that the conduct complained of resulted from an unconstitutional policy.” Ferguson v. Short, No. 2:14-CV-04062-NKL, 2014 WL 3925512, at *8 (W.D. Mo. Aug. 12, 2014) (quoting Crumpley-Patterson v. Trinity Lutheran Hosp., 388 F.3d 588, 591 (8th Cir. 2004)). When claiming a constitutional violation resulted from an unofficial custom, a plaintiff must demonstrate the following:

(1) the existence of a continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct by the governmental entity's employees; (2) deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of such conduct by the governmental entity's policymaking officials after notice to the officials of that misconduct; and (3) that plaintiff was injured by acts pursuant to the governmental entity's custom, i.e., that the custom was a moving force behind the constitutional violation.

Corwin, 829 F.3d at 699-700 (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Szabla v. City of Brooklyn Park, 486 F.3d 385, 389-90 (8th Cir. 2007) (en banc).

         Plaintiffs allege Defendant is liable for “criminally violating their own code of conduct by not following the proper standards of Missouri Law and civil procedure.” Doc. #1-11, at 1. Plaintiffs contend Defendant “went out of his way to escalate a civil disagreement between the Plaintiffs and Kenneth Rinne making sure the Petitioner, Darrell McClanahan, was charged with criminal offenses.” Doc. #1-11, at 2. Plaintiffs also assert Defendant's actions in the civil disagreement were unethical “by not making the decision if it had been necessary to have an unbiased party investigate.” Id. Plaintiffs' allegations, even when liberally construed, do not indicate or allow the Court to draw the inference that the purported constitutional deprivations resulted from an unconstitutional policy of the City. Additionally, Plaintiffs do not allege similar misconduct by anyone associated with the City, or the City was on notice of alleged prior similar misconduct and was deliberately indifferent after being placed on notice. Thus, Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted with regard to Count One.

         2. First Amendment ...

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