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Clifton v. Jeff Davis County

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunsmick Division

July 17, 2017

JEFF DAVIS COUNTY, GEORGIA; JEFF DAVIS COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS; RAY WOOTEN, HUGH BRANTLEY, WANDA MARCHANT, and WAYNE HALL, all Individually and as Members of the Jeff Davis Board of Commissioners; CARLA ROBERTS POWELL, Individually and as the County Attorney for Jeff Davis County, Georgia; and PRESTON BOHANNON, in His Official Capacity; Defendants.



         Defendants move to partially dismiss Plaintiff Tyler Clifton's civil rights complaint. Dkt. No. 20.[1] The motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part for the reasons below.


         As it must at this stage of the case, the Court assumes the truth of the facts alleged in Clifton's currently operative complaint, dkt. no. 18. Clifton looked into Defendant Jeff Davis County, Georgia's finances. Dkt. No. 18 ¶¶ 13-14, 16. That upset several of the Defendants who are Jeff Davis County officials. Id. ¶¶ 15-21.

         Then, Clifton started building a trailer park. Id. ¶ 23. His next-door-neighbor, Defendant Commissioner Wayne Hall, was not happy about that. Id. ¶ 24. Clifton approached the Commissioners about putting in a water line underneath a road that the county did not own, even though he did not need their permission to do so. Id. ¶¶ 25-27, 29. They Mid not specifically tell [Clifton] that he could not." IcL ¶ 27. So, on June 1, 2013, he did. Id. ¶ 28.

         Three days later, Hall told Clifton that he was angry about the water line and the installation of a trailer. Id. ¶ 31. The next day, June 5, 2013, Defendant County Attorney Carla Powell and Defendant Jeff Davis Board of County Commissioners filed an incident report regarding the water line with the local sheriff's office. Id. ¶ 32. The county had not previously prosecuted or fined anyone for putting in water lines under roads, even though-unlike Clifton-some people actually damaged the roads in doing so. Id. ¶ 33.

         The incident report was not the end of Defendants' involvement. Powell "personally researched the law and instigated [Clifton's] arrest and prosecution together with the other Defendants." Id. ¶ 34. They did so even though they "had evidence that the road was not damaged and that the County did not own the land" beside or under the road. Id.

         Defendant Sheriff Preston Bohannon approved the incident report on March 18, 2014. Id. ¶ 37. Clifton was indicted by grand jury for criminal trespass and interfering with government property on April 1, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 38-39. These charges were more serious than one for damage to county roads. Id. ¶¶ 41-43. They were chosen due to Defendants' intervention. Id. ¶ 43.

         Clifton was arrested on April 4, 2014. Id. ¶ 40. He "was told that he needed to be taught a lesson, " and his attorney "was informed that the County was just trying to prove a point." Id. ¶ 44. Clifton "was also told that the felony charges might be dropped if he agreed to apologize to Defendants." Id. He spent several thousand dollars on his case. Id. ¶ 47. Then, the prosecution nol prossed the charges. Id. ¶ 49.

         Clifton filed this lawsuit on July 8, 2016. Dkt. No. 1. He alleges malicious prosecution under federal and state law, conspiracy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Dkt. No. 18. Defendants moved to partially dismiss the case, and their motion is now ripe for disposition. Dkt. Nos. 20, 27.


         "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the . . . court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). A complaint must be "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Its "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. It has to "contain inferential allegations from which [the court] can identify each of the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 684 (11th Cir. 2001). Although a court must assume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations, it is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).


         Clifton's defamation claim is time-barred. His infliction of emotional distress one is not. Some of his ...

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