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Thrasher v. Hall County

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division

February 23, 2015

GREGORY E. THRASHER, Plaintiff,
v.
HALL COUNTY; HALL COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT; STEVE CRONIC, as Sheriff of Hall County; GERALD COUCH, as Sheriff of Hall County; HALL COUNTY PROBATION DEPARTMENT; and CHARLES BAKER, in his Official Capacity as Hall County Clerk of Court, Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [6]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.

Background[1]

Plaintiff Gregory E. Thrasher brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging his arrest pursuant to a Hall County warrant. On July 8, 2011, Plaintiff entered a plea of guilty to DUI and speeding in the State Court of Hall County. (Compl., Dkt. [1] ¶ 13.) The state court sentenced Plaintiff to twenty-four months' probation and levied a fine and fees. (Id. ¶ 14.) The court further required Plaintiff to abstain from possessing or consuming alcohol or illegal drugs, to complete alcohol and drug evaluation and treatment, and to submit to random drug and alcohol screenings. (Id.)

On or about August 30, 2011, Plaintiff violated the terms of his probation when he consumed alcohol resulting in a positive drug screen, and on September 23, 2011, an affidavit and warrant issued for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Plaintiff appeared before the state court at a hearing on October 28, 2011 on a Petition for Modification/Revocation of Probation. (Id. ¶¶ 17-19.) The court ordered a revocation of thirty days of Plaintiff's probation, suspended upon Plaintiff complying with the terms of his probation and attending a minimum of two AA meetings per week. (Id. ¶ 20.) The court also ordered dismissal of the warrant. (Id.)

On July 6, 2012, Plaintiff was pulled over for a traffic violation. (Id. ¶ 9.) The officer ran a check on Plaintiff's name, which showed an outstanding warrant for violation of probation. (Id. ¶ 10.) On the basis of that warrant, Plaintiff was arrested, taken into custody by the Hall County Sheriff's Office, and incarcerated over the weekend. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.)

Plaintiff filed suit on July 7, 2014 naming Hall County; Hall County Sheriff Department; Hall County Probation Department; Steve Cronic as Sheriff of Hall County ("Sheriff Cronic"), Gerald Couch as Sheriff of Hall County ("Sheriff Couch"), and Charles Baker in his Official Capacity as Hall County Clerk of Court ("Clerk of Court Baker") (collectively, the "individual Defendants") as defendants. (Compl., Dkt. [1].) Plaintiff raises federal Constitutional claims for violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights (id. ¶¶ 27-33), as well as state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. ¶¶ 34-36), "imputable negligence: respondeat superior" (id. ¶¶ 37-41), wrongful/false arrest (id. ¶¶ 42-44), false imprisonment (id. ¶¶ 45-47), and negligence (id. ¶¶ 48-50). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. ("Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss"), Dkt. [6].) The Court now addresses this motion.

Discussion

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." While this pleading standard does not require "detailed factual allegations, " "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In order to withstand 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A complaint is plausible on its face when the plaintiff pleads factual content necessary for the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. Id.

At the motion to dismiss stage, "all-well pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999). However, the same does not apply to legal conclusions set forth in the complaint. Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, the court does not "accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

II. Analysis

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint on three grounds. First, Defendants argue that the Hall County Sheriff's Office and Hall County Probation Office are not legal entities capable of being sued.[2] Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiff does not allege sufficient facts to hold the County and the individual Defendants in their official capacities liable for claims under § 1983. Third, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's state law claims are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion, arguing that the Complaint includes sufficient ...


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