United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Hannah Mungamuri brings this action for injunctive relief
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that defendant Gail
Choate, Acting Director of Planning for the St. Louis County
Planning Commission, violated the Equal Protection Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment by her July 2019 interpretation of
the Medical Marijuana Facility Zoning Ordinance. I will grant
defendant Choate's motion to dismiss for the reasons
stated by Choate.
pro se complaint, Mungamuri claims that, as Acting
Director of Planning, defendant Choate submitted to the St.
Louis County Zoning Commission an interpretation of a
proposed amendment to Chapter 1003 of the St. Louis County
Code of Ordinances concerning designated sites for medical
marijuana facilities. According to Mungamuri, the sites
proposed by Choate's interpretation were unfairly
concentrated in geographic areas populated by less affluent
and/or less educated persons, thereby depriving Mungamuri of
equal treatment under the law. In response to Choate's
motion to dismiss, Mungamuri also asserts that the proposed
sites for medical marijuana facilities unfairly target areas
with minority children who will thereby be placed at greater
risk of using marijuana. Mungamuri seeks a preliminary
injunction, asking that the status quo be maintained and that
I restrain the Planning Commission from granting operating
licenses to any medical marijuana facilities throughout its
jurisdiction until the siting of the medical marijuana
facilities adheres to constitutional requirements.
motion to dismiss, Choate contends that Mungamuri's
complaint must be dismissed under Rules 8(a) and 12(b)(6),
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that Mungamuri
fails to state how Choate is responsible for any alleged
violation of Mungamuri's constitutional rights and,
further, that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts
to establish Choate's official liability for any such
violation. For the reasons that follow, I agree.
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test
the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, I assume the
factual allegations of the complaint as true and construe
them in plaintiff's favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). I am not
bound, however, to accept as true a legal conclusion couched
as a factual allegation. Id. at 555. “While
legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint,
they must be supported by factual allegations.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
federal pleading rules provide that 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).
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.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The factual allegations must
be sufficient to “‘raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.'” Parkhurst v.
Tabor, 569 F.3d 861, 865 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). More than labels and
conclusions are required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678. A civil rights complaint must contain facts
that state a claim as a matter of law and must not be
conclusory. Gregory v. Dillard's, Inc., 565 F.3d
464, 473 (8th Cir. 2009) (en banc).
Mungamuri's complaint nor her response to Choate's
motion to dismiss indicates that Choate is sued in her
individual capacity. I therefore presume that Choate is being
sued in her official capacity only. Mick v. Raines,
883 F.3d 1075, 1079 (8th Cir. 2018).
official capacity claim against an individual, the claim is
actually “against the governmental entity
itself.” White v. Jackson, 865 F.3d 1064, 1075
(8th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Thus, a “suit against a public employee in
his or her official capacity is merely a suit against the
public employer.” Johnson v. Outboard Marine
Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1999) (citing
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985)).
See also Kelly v. City of Omaha, Neb., 813 F.3d
1070, 1075 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that “[a] plaintiff
who sues public employees in their official, rather than
individual, capacities sues only the public employer”);
Elder-Keep v. Aksamit, 460 F.3d 979, 986 (8th Cir.
2006) (stating that “[a] suit against a public official
in his official capacity is actually a suit against the
entity for which the official is an agent.”).
Therefore, because defendant Choate is an employee of St.
Louis County, Mungamuri's claim is actually a claim
against St. Louis County. See Mick, 883 F.3d at
order to prevail on her official capacity claim, Mungamuri
must establish St. Louis County's liability for the
alleged unconstitutional conduct of its employee.
Kelly, 813 F.3d at 1075. To do this, Mungamuri must
show that the violation of her constitutional rights
“resulted from (1) an official municipal policy, (2) an
unofficial custom, or (3) a deliberately indifferent failure
to train or supervise.” Mick, 883 F.3d at 1079
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
in her complaint, nor in response to Choate's motion to
dismiss, does Mungamuri specify a policy or custom that was
the moving force behind Choate's alleged unconstitutional
interpretation of zoning ordinances concerning the siting of
medical marijuana facilities. See Calgaro v. St. Louis
Cty., 919 F.3d 1054, 1058 (8th Cir. 2019), cert.
denied sub nom. Calgaro v. St. Louis Cty., Minn., No.
19-127, 2019 WL 4922749 (U.S. Oct. 7, 2019). While Munganari
need not specifically plead the existence of an
unconstitutional policy or custom to survive a motion to
dismiss, the “failure to include any
‘allegations, reference, or language by which one could
begin to draw an inference that the conduct complained of . .
. resulted from an unconstitutional policy or custom'
renders the complaint deficient.”
Crumpley-Patterson v. Trinity Lutheran Hosp., 388
F.3d 588, 591 (8th Cir. 2004) (quoting Doe v. School
Dist. of Norfolk, 340 F.3d 605, 614 (8th Cir. 2003)).
fails to include any language or facts from which an
inference can be drawn that St. Louis County has a policy or
custom of siting medical marijuana facilities in less
affluent areas of its jurisdiction, in areas where residents
are less educated, or in areas where minority children would
be susceptible to increased risk of marijuana use. She does
not allege that Choate is a final policy maker or that the
County took any action based on Choate's interpretation.
Nor does Mungamuri allege that the County was deliberately
indifferent in failing to train or supervise its employees
with regard to such siting. Because Mungamuri's complaint
does not allege facts which would support the existence of an
unconstitutional policy or custom, or a finding that St.
Louis County failed to train or supervise its employees, the
complaint is deficient and will be dismissed.
Crumpley-Patterson, 388 F.3d at 591.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant Gail
Choate's motion ...