United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' City of
Brunswick, Georgia Police Department, and Glynn County,
Georgia Police Department's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to
Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. Dkt. No. 7. This Motion has been fully briefed and
is ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, the Motion
stage of the case, the allegations of the complaint are
accepted as true pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). On January 18, 2017 at approximately 2:19 P.M.,
Defendant George stopped a 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche which
Scruggs was driving and in which Northrup was a passenger.
Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 15, 16. Defendant George asserted
that he stopped the vehicle because he had reason to believe
the license plate was registered to a vehicle other than the
Avalanche. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 17. Defendant George examined
Scruggs' license and the registration and insurance
information on the Avalanche. Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 20-22.
Defendant George then asked Scruggs and then Northrup if they
would consent to him searching the Avalanche. Dkt. No. 1
¶¶ 26-29. Neither consented. Dkt. No. 1
¶¶ 27, 29. Defendant George ordered both Plaintiffs
to stand behind the vehicle. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 30. Defendant
George then requested a K-9 Unit. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 34.
Additional officers arrived on the scene at approximately
2:31 P.M. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 45. Defendant George stated to
Defendant Clark, Mallard, or Doe that he had initially
stopped the Avalanche because the tag did not match, but that
he must have entered the tag number incorrectly the first
time because it did in fact match the second time. Dkt. No. 1
¶ 45. Defendant George stated that he "believed
that [Scruggs] was on probation, which would allow [him] to
perform a Fourth Amendment search on him." Dkt. No. 1
¶ 46. Scruggs was not on probation. Dkt. No. 1 ¶
51. Shortly thereafter, Defendants Lowther and Clark,
Mallard, or Doe arrived on the scene, with Defendant Lowther
handling the K-9 police dog. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 48. Defendant
Lowther ordered the dog to sniff around the Avalanche at
approximately 2:53 P.M.; the dog neither alerted to drugs or
contraband on the Plaintiffs' persons nor in or around
the Avalanche. Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 55, 58, 59, 61.
Plaintiffs were released. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 65.
brought this claim against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for alleged violations of their civil rights.
Defendants City of Brunswick, Georgia Police Department and
Glynn County, Georgia Police Department moved for the
complaint to be dismissed as to them. Dkt. No. 7.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that the
plaintiffs' complaint contain "a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). When ruling on a motion
to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a district
court must accept as true the facts set forth in the
complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiffs' favor. Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d
701, 705 (11th Cir. 2010). Although a complaint need not
contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). The Court accepts the allegations in the complaint as
true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., 836 F.3d
1340, 1347 (11th Cir. 2016). However, the Court does not
accept as true threadbare recitations of the elements of the
claim and disregards legal conclusions unsupported by factual
allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. At a
minimum, a complaint should ''contain either direct
or inferential allegations respecting all the material
elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable
legal theory." Fin. Sec. Assurance, Inc. v.
Stephens, Inc., 500 F.3d 1276, 1282-83 (11th Cir. 2007)
(per curiam) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice,
Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683 (11th Cir. 2001)).
Brunswick Police Department and Glynn County Police
Department filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff s complaint
for failure to state a claim. Defendants argue that the
action is subject to dismissal against the "City of
Brunswick, Georgia Police Department and Glynn County,
Georgia Police Department, " because such defendants are
not legal entities capable of being sued. Dkt. No. 7 p. 3.
order to state a claim for relief under § 1983,
Plaintiffs must satisfy two requirements. First, Plaintiffs
must allege that an act or omission deprived them "of
some right, privilege, or immunity secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States." Hale v.
Tallapoosa Cty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir. 1995).
Second, that act or omission must have been committed by
"a person acting under color of state law."
the issue is whether the Brunswick Police Department and the
Glynn County Police Departments are "persons"
capable of being sued under Georgia law. The "capacity
to sue or be sued shall be determined by the law of the state
in which the district court is held . . . ."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b). Looking to Georgia law, the Georgia
Supreme Court has explained that Georgia "recognizes
only three classes as legal entities, namely: (1) natural
persons; (2) an artificial person (a corporation); and (3)
such quasi-artificial persons as the law recognizes as being
capable to sue." Ga. Insurers Insolvency Pool v.
Elbert Cty., 368 S.E.2d 500, 502 (1988) (quotation
omitted). Police departments and sheriff's departments
are not one of the three legal entities subject to suit.
See Lovelace v. Dekalb Cent. Prob., 144 Fed.Appx.
793, 795 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Dean v. Barber,
951 F.2d 1210, .1214 (11th Cir. 1992)) ("We have
observed that '[s]heriff's departments and police
departments are not usually considered legal entities subject
Plaintiff[s] cannot state a claim against the Glynn County
Police Department ..., as the Glynn County Police Department
is merely the vehicle through which the county governs and is
not a proper party defendant." Clark v. Glynn Cty.
Police Dep't, 2007 WL 4287717, at *2 (S.D. Ga.
2007). Nor is the Brunswick Police Department a proper
Defendant. See Franklin v. Brunswick Police