United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN R CLARK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint . The Court grants the
April 6, 2018, Plaintiff Jamal White filed a complaint in
this Court alleging Defendant Adam Feaman, a police officer
with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, used
excessive force against White in violation of the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution;
White alleges Feaman struck White in his jaw and cranium with
a flashlight. White also named the City as a defendant but
did not assert any counts against it. White sought to
voluntarily dismiss his Complaint against all defendants
without prejudice. The Court granted White's request, in
part, and dismissed the City and Feaman in his official
capacity, without prejudice, but did not dismiss the claim
against Feaman in his individual capacity.
February 26, 2019, White filed an amended complaint against
Feaman, in his official and individual capacities, the City,
and Dan Isom,  in his official and individual capacities.
In his Amended Complaint, White maintains his count of
excessive force against Feaman in his individual capacity,
and he adds counts against Feaman in his official capacity,
and Isom and the City for failure to train and supervise in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. White
brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and asserts that
the City has two policies and a custom that are the
“moving force” behind the alleged
unconstitutional conduct. He first alleges the two policies:
(1) the “Normal” policy pursuant to which the
City “normally” charges suspects on whom
excessive force is used with resisting arrest in municipal
court (rather than state court); and (2) the
“Rec” policy under which municipal prosecutors
will plea bargain and “recommend” dismissal of
municipal-court-resisting-arrest-charges only if a defendant
will sign a liability waiver releasing the City from any
civil lawsuits. Doc. 62, ¶¶ 22-24. White then
alleges St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
(“SLMPD”) has a “custom” of
“using unjustified force with impunity in any case that
an offender runs, pulls away, or protest [sic].” Doc.
62, ¶ 55. White labels the “custom” as
“you run, you pay” (“YRYP”). Doc. 99.
their Motion to Dismiss, the City, Feaman, and Isom, in their
official capacities only (collectively, “Municipal
Defendants”), seek to dismiss the claims against them
for failure to state a claim, and, for redundancy.
Specifically, Municipal Defendants assert White fails to
state a claim for municipal liability because Municipal
Defendants' policy prohibits using flashlights as impact
weapons, White fails to plausibly allege Feaman cracked
White's jaw because of Municipal Defendants' alleged
policies, that Municipal Defendants were deliberately
indifferent to a widespread pattern of unconstitutional
misconduct, and that Municipal Defendants failed to train its
police officers. Municipal Defendants also argue White's
official capacity claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Feaman and Isom are redundant of the claims against the City.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”)
12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” The notice pleading standard of FRCP 8(a)(2)
requires a plaintiff to give “a short and plain
statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” To meet this standard and to survive a FRCP
12(b)(6) 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.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal quotations and citation omitted). This requirement
of facial plausibility means the factual content of the
plaintiff's allegations must “allow the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Park Irmat Drug Corp.
v. Express Scripts Holding Co., 911 F.3d 505, 512 (8th
Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The
Court must grant all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party. Lustgraaf v. Behrens, 619 F.3d 867,
872-73 (8th Cir. 2010).
ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must liberally
construe a complaint in favor of the plaintiff. Huggins
v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 592 F.3d 853, 862
(8th Cir. 2010). However, if a claim fails to allege one of
the elements necessary to recovery on a legal theory, the
Court must dismiss that claim for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Crest Constr. II, Inc.
v. Doe, 660 F.3d 346, 355 (8th Cir. 2011). Threadbare
recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery
for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than
conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
“A pleading that merely pleads labels and conclusions
or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action, or naked assertions devoid of factual enhancement
will not suffice.” Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d
816, 817 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations omitted).
Although courts must accept all factual allegations as true,
they are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation. Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555 (internal quotations and citation omitted);
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78.
complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a
motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
Therefore, a court must determine if the well-pleaded factual
allegations “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.” Id. This
“context-specific” task requires the court to
“draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. at 679, 682. In determining the
plausibility of a plaintiff's claim, Iqbal and
Twombly instruct the Court to consider whether
“obvious alternative explanations” exist for the
allegedly unconstitutional conduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 682; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 567. The Court must
then determine whether the plaintiff plausibly alleges a
violation of the law. Id. The well-pleaded facts
must permit more than the “mere possibility of
misconduct.” Id. “Where a complaint
pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a
defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line
between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
relief.'” Id. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
ALLEGATIONS IN THE COMPLAINT
Iqbal, the Court must parse out the factual
allegations that it must accept as true and the conclusory
allegations it can disregard. Here, the Court summarizes all
of White's allegations, factual and conclusory, to
provide context to the Court's analysis below.
alleges, that on August 14, 2016, Feaman, a patrol officer,
sought to place White under arrest. A citizen bystander
recorded the arrest on video. White states he did not have a
firearm on his person and did not present a physical threat
to Feaman. As White moved backward from Feaman, White
questioned his impending arrest. Feaman became so enraged,
White alleges, he struck White with his flashlight, cracking
White's jaw. White collapsed to the ground and Feaman
yelled “get on the mother f*ckin the [sic]
ground.” Feaman then hovered over White, taunted him
again, saying “Get on the mother f*cking the [sic]
ground!” and struck White in the cranium. According to
White, as a result of Feaman's actions, White required
extensive medical care, sustained significant injuries, and
suffered severe emotional and psychological distress.
alleges that although Feaman falsely claimed he was in fear
for his life to justify his use of force against White,
Feaman charged White in municipal court because he was not
actually in fear and knew deadly force was not authorized.
Prosecutors at the municipal court “aggressively”
attempted to persuade White's defense counsel to sign a
release of civil liability in exchange for dismissing the
charges against White. White refused to sign the release and
was “forced to withstand trial.” White alleges on
September 30, 2017, Feaman discovered that White was seeking
to file a lawsuit. Feaman located White in a local
establishment and identified himself as a sworn police
officer. Feaman threatened to “crack [White's] jaw
again” until he was escorted out of the establishment.
alleges the excessive force Feaman used against him was the
result of a widespread custom in the SLMPD of “you run,
you pay” that was caused by the “Rec &
Normal” policies. According to White, the “Rec
& Normal” policies were created in 2012, when the
SLMPD Chief of Police updated a special order and trained
officers to “normally” charge any resisting
arrest charge in municipal court rather than state court when
the offender did not use force or threaten to use force, i.e.
the “Normal” policy. White alleges the City also
enforced a mandatory policy, called the “Rec
Policy.” In exchange for a city prosecutor's
recommendation to dismiss a charge for resisting arrest in
municipal court, the defendant signs a release of any civil
liability that the City may have for use of excessive force
against the defendant.
written “Normal” policy states, in part:
Under normal circumstances, the defendant will be charged
with a city ordinance violation of resisting arrest or
interfering with an officer. The information application will
be made at the City Counselor's Office.
written “Rec” policy states, in part:
Resisting arrest & Interfering [sic] with a Police
Officer charges cannot be amended without first
obtaining a signed release from the defendant (See Sample).
alleges the Rec & Normal policies directly and indirectly
motivate SLMPD officers to use excessive force or make false
arrests with the protection of the City's municipal
court. White claims this shield, “whether or not
individually known to each SLMPD officer, was embedded in
SLMPD training policies and practices.”
to White, prosecutors escorted unrepresented defendants into
the hallway and explained that the prosecutor will dismiss or
amend the charge if the defendants sign a blank form titled
“Release.” Generally, the prosecutors complete
the remaining lines of the form and defendants “have
only seconds to decide to release his/her rights or face up
to 90 days in jail.” Without legal representation, many
of the accused, according to White, “were pressured and
forced to sign the release in exchange for their freedom,
even when they were innocent of the facts.”
alleges he has not found a single case where a release
agreement was legally enforced against a plaintiff in federal
court. The release was created for its “psychological
and marketing effects that resulted and continue to cause
censorship and prior restraints on accused victims . . . to
petition the courts for redress of civil rights violations .
. . Prosecutors and legal practitioners have been aware of
the psychological effects of release agreements since
alleges SLMPD learned of the release policy because executed
release agreements were regularly sent to the SLMPD once
completed. The release form specifically states the releasor
agrees not to sue the SLMPD for injuries sustained during
his/her arrest. White claims that but for the
blanket policy, the SLMPD could have investigated the
underlying facts precipitating the need for a release.
Instead, the facts were ignored and the case considered
closed because the SLMPD had an executed release agreement
from the accused victim.
alleges the Rec & Normal policies caused and concealed a
widespread pattern of civil rights abuses throughout the City
that began with unlawful searches or excessive-use-of-force
incidents and then escalated to illegal arrests and
unjustified deadly force. White alleges regardless of whether
an individual presents a physical threat, if the individual
runs, protests, or walks away from an officer, the officer
will use excessive to deadly force as his/her primary means
of detaining the individual. Therefore, White alleges the Rec
& Normal policies have established widespread systematic
patterns of unlawful arrests and searches as retaliation for
recording or protesting an officer's misconduct.
“defines SLMPD's widespread police misconduct as
tyrannical practices” including the “use of
excessive and unjustified deadly force when the accused
victim runs, pulls away, or protests[, ]” and
“unlawful arrests to search and destroy
evidence.” The Complaint lists 16 examples of SLMPD
pattern cases between 2013 through the present. White alleges
by 2018, the alleged pattern and practices were so pervasive
and widespread that SLMPD officers beat an undercover officer
and claimed the officer resisted arrest. According to White,
the common denominator in all of these cases is that the
accused victim allegedly pulled away, ran, protested, or
walked away, i.e., resisted arrest.
Motion to Dismiss, Municipal Defendants argue White's
Complaint fails to state a claim for municipal liability.
Specifically, Municipal Defendants claim White fails to
plausibly allege that Feaman cracked White's jaw
because of the release policy, that the City was
deliberately indifferent to a widespread pattern of
unconstitutional misconduct, or that the City failed to train
its officers on the use of excessive force. Municipal
Defendants also state White's putative municipal
liability claim fails because the City's policy prohibits
the use of flashlights as impact weapons. Finally, Municipal
Defendants assert White's § 1983 claims against
Feaman and Isom in their official capacities are redundant of
the municipal liability claims against the City.
1983 of Title 42 allows individuals to bring causes of action
for violations of the ...