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Davis v. City of Normandy

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

August 23, 2019

ANGELA DAVIS, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF NORMANDY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          BONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the City of Normandy's Rule 12(b)(7) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Join an Indispensable Party. (ECF No. 13) The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. After careful consideration, the Court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Angela Davis, Quinton M. Thomas, Roelif Earl Carter, and Meredith Walker filed this putative class action on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated against Defendant, the City of Normandy ("the City"). Their Class Action Complaint asserts five counts pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging the municipality's policies and practices violated their rights under the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Specifically, Count I alleges the City imprisoned Plaintiffs and/or threatened to imprison them for their inability to pay fines; Count II alleges the City failed to provide adequate counsel; Count III alleges the City detained Plaintiffs for indefinite periods of time until they made arbitrarily and inconsistently established cash payments; Count IV alleges the City issued invalid arrest warrants related to unpaid fines; and Count V alleges the City imprisoned Plaintiffs and/or threatened to imprison them in an effort to collect debts.

         The City moves to dismiss the Class Action Compliant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7) for failure to join an indispensable party under Rule 19. In this motion, the City argues Plaintiffs' claims arise out of the judicial and quasi-judicial actions of the municipal court division in Normandy and, consequently, the municipal court division is an indispensable party. The municipal court division, however, is part of Missouri's unified court system and would be considered an arm of state government, which is entitled to sovereign immunity. The City concludes that Rule 19(b) compels the Court to dismiss the case because the Normandy municipal court division is a required party but such joinder would bar jurisdiction.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(7), a party may move to dismiss a claim for failure to join a party under Rule 19. Rule 19 establishes that joinder of a party is required if:

(A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or
(B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may:
(i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest; or
(ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1). If joinder of the required party is feasible, Rule 19(a)(2) provides courts with the authority to do so by court order. If joinder of a required party is not feasible, however, courts "must determine whether, in equity and good conscience, the action should proceed among the existing parties or should be dismissed." Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(b). Factors to consider include:

(1) the extent to which a judgment rendered in the person's absence might prejudice that person or ...

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