United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE.
the Court is the Defendants' partial motion to dismiss
(Doc. 16). The Defendants argue (1) Washington County lacks
control over sheriff's deputies and magistrates and thus
cannot be held liable for their misconduct, (2) Defendants
King and Burgamy are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity
as to federal claims against them in their official
capacities, and (3) Defendants King and Burgamy are entitled
to sovereign immunity as to state law claims against them in
their official capacities. As discussed below, the motion
(Doc. 16) is GRANTED.
Plaintiff, Anne King, has brought a suit under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and Georgia state laws against Officer Corey
King, Investigator Trey Burgamy, and Washington County. Doc.
13. The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants (1) violated
her First Amendment right to free speech; (2) retaliated
against her in violation of the First Amendment; (3) violated
her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable
seizures; and (4) maliciously prosecuted her, falsely
arrested her, and committed civil conspiracy against her, in
violation of Georgia law. Id. at ¶¶ 36-76.
The Plaintiff alleges that Defendant King, who is the
Plaintiff's former husband, conspired with Defendant
Burgamy to arrest the Plaintiff and her friend in retaliation
for a Facebook post and that a magistrate charged her with
“criminal defamation.” Id. at
¶¶ 13-21. The Plaintiff argues that Washington
County is liable because it “has done nothing to
stop” similar unconstitutional criminal defamation
arrests in the past and has failed to train its law
enforcement officers and magistrates on First Amendment
rights, and this failure to train and failure to supervise
amounted to a custom or policy and constituted deliberate
indifference to the Plaintiff's constitutional rights.
Id. at ¶¶ 10, 45-48, 64-66.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Defendants
have moved to dismiss in part. Doc. 16. The Defendants argue
that Washington County lacks control over sheriff's
deputies and magistrates and therefore cannot be held liable
for their actions. Doc. 16-1 at 3-6. The Defendants also
argue that Defendants King and Burgamy are entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity as to the federal law claims
against them in their official capacities and are entitled to
sovereign immunity as to the state law claims against them in
their official capacities. Id. at 6-8.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
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.” To
avoid dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Garfield v. NDC Health Corp., 466
F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2006) (quotation marks and
citation omitted). However, “where the well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it
has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is
entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “[C]onclusory
allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal
conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent
dismissal.” Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v.
Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002) (citations
omitted). The complaint must “give the defendant fair
notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation
marks and citation omitted). Where there are dispositive
issues of law, a court may dismiss a claim regardless of the
alleged facts. Marshall Cty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall
Cty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993)
Defendant Washington County
may be sued under § 1983 for their constitutional
violations. Knight v. Miami-Dade Cty., 856 F.3d 795,
819 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978)). To
establish that the county carried out a constitutional
violation, “a plaintiff ‘must identify either (1)
an officially promulgated county policy or (2) an unofficial
custom or practice of the county shown through the repeated
acts of a final policymaker for the county.'”
Id. (quoting Grech v. Clayton Cty., 335
F.3d 1326, 1329 (11th Cir. 2003)). Unless an official county
policy exists, the plaintiff “must show that the county
has authority and responsibility over the governmental
function in issue and must also identify those officials who
speak with final policymaking authority for that local
governmental entity.” Id. (citation omitted).
On the other hand, “[counties] can never be liable
under § 1983 for the acts of those whom the local
government has no authority to control.” Turquitt
v. Jefferson Cty., 137 F.3d 1285, 1292 (11th Cir. 1998).
Whether an official is acting as a policymaker for the State
or for the county depends on the function the official is
serving and “on the definition of the official's
functions under relevant state law.” McMillian v.
Monroe Cty., 520 U.S. 781, 785-86 (1997) (citations
Defendants assert that Washington County cannot be held
liable because the Plaintiff's amended compliant fails to
state a plausible allegation that Washington County has
control over sheriff's deputies or magistrates. Doc. 16-1
at 4-6. The Court agrees.
Control over Sheriff's Deputies
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants King and Burgamy were
employed by the Washington County Sheriff's Office at the
time they allegedly denied the Plaintiff her constitutional
rights by arresting her. Doc. 13 at ¶¶ 4-5.
Therefore, one issue for the Court is whether the complaint
plausibly alleges that Washington County controls
sheriff's deputies in their law enforcement duties.
Supreme Court has held that an Alabama sheriff represents the
state, not the county, when acting in a law enforcement
capacity. McMillian, 520 U.S. at 785-86. The Court
considered the Alabama Constitution, Alabama state course
cases, and the Alabama Code and held that “the weight
of evidence is strongly on the side of the conclusion [that]
Alabama sheriffs, when ...