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Horton v. Reeves

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

September 27, 2019

STEVEN HORTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ALBERT REEVES, ROY REEVES, DURWOOD "WOODY" DAVIS, MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendant Davis's motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for a more definite statement (Doc. 14) and Defendants Albert Reeves, Roy Reeves ("Individual Moving Defendants"), and McDuffie County's (collectively, "Moving Defendants") motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 32) . As an initial matter, the Court DENIES AS MOOT Defendant Davis's motion to dismiss (Doc. 14) . After Defendant Davis filed his motion, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint.[1] "It is well- established that an amended complaint super[s]edes an original complaint and renders the original complaint without legal effect." Renal Treatment Ctrs.-Mid-Atl., Inc. v. Franklin Chevrolet-Cadillac-Pontiac-GMC, No. 608CV087, 2009 WL 995564, at *1 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 13, 2009) (quoting In re Wireless Tel. Fed. Cost Recovery Fees Litig., 396 F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005)) (citing Fritz v. Standard Sec. Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 676 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1982)); accord Dresdner Bank AG v. M/V Qlympia Voyager, 463 F.3d 1210, 1215 (11th Cir. 2006) (finding that the prior complaint "is no longer a part of the pleader's averments against his adversary"); Malowney v. Fed. Collection Deposit Grp., 193 F.3d 1342, 1345 n.l (11th Cir. 1999) ("An amended complaint supersedes an original complaint."). Here, the amended complaint supersedes the original complaint effectively mooting Defendant Davis's motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for a more definite statement.

         The Court now turns to Moving Defendant's pending motion for judgment on the pleadings. Although Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains four counts, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Count III and Count IV as to all defendants. (See Voluntary Dismissal, Doc. 35; Order, Doc. 36.) Thus, the remaining counts are as follows:

Count I: Section 1983 claim for malicious prosecution;
Count II: Section 1983 claim for violation of Plaintiff's right to substantive due process.

(Am. Compl., Doc. 24, at 22-27.) For the reasons contained herein, the Court GRANTS Moving Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court outlines only the facts relevant to its findings as to Counts I and II and, notably, only as related to Moving Defendants. Plaintiff details background situations occurring before he was first brought into the custody of McDuffie County in 2011. Because this background is not directly relevant to this Order, the Court summarizes the events.

         In 2007, Plaintiff states he witnessed a fatal two-vehicle accident, and Defendant Albert Reeves ("A. Reeves"), a police investigator with the McDuffie County Sheriff's Office, arrived at the scene. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 6, 10.) Plaintiff and A. Reeves did not speak at the scene of the accident, but, thereafter, A. Reeves hired Plaintiff to install countertops.[2] (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13.)

         Later, a wrongful death suit was brought in connection with the 2007 accident. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff and A. Reeves were both used as witnesses, but, because of their differing accounts of the accident, Plaintiff offers statements showing that A. Reeves treated Plaintiff with hostility. (See, e.g., id. ¶¶ 16-17, 24-25, 29.)

         In March of 2010, Plaintiff and his wife separated, and his wife obtained a temporary protective order ("TPO") against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 18.) The next month, the couple reconciled and the TPO was dismissed. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         A. Arrest for Battery and Release on Bond

         On October 27, 2011, A. Reeves and other non-party officers responded to a reported domestic disturbance at Plaintiff's home. (Am. Compl., ¶ 30.) Plaintiff was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery. (Id.) After his arrest, Plaintiff was housed at McDuffie County Jail. (Id. ¶ 31.) Defendant Roy Reeves ("R. Reeves"), A. Reeves's father, was a jail administrator at McDuffie County jail when Plaintiff arrived. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 31.)

         On October 28, 2011, Plaintiff was released on bond with pretrial release conditions. (Id. ¶ 33.) One such condition, referred to by the parties as the "no-contact" condition, required Plaintiff to cease all contact with his wife. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 44; Br. Resp. to Mot. for J. Pleadings, Doc. 34, at 3.) R. Reeves prepared and signed the bond order with the "pre-printed name of Magistrate Judge W. Bryant Swan who was out of town at the time and had not given any instructions, either telephonically or electronically, to R. Reeves or any other jail staff regarding the bond order." (Am. Compl., ¶ 33.) In 2016, "R. Reeves testified that the manner in which the bond order was procured was part of the normal policy and practice of the McDuffie County jail." (Id. ¶ 116.)

         Apparently, Plaintiff lived at home for some period of time after being released on bond. (Compare Br. Resp. to Mot. for J. Pleadings, at 18 ("[Plaintiff] and his wife continued to reside together after [Plaintiff] was arrested for simple battery."), with Reply Supp. Mot. for J. Pleadings, Doc. 37, at 8 ("Plaintiff lived with his wife for three days after he bonded out of jail under the 'no contact' bond condition." (emphasis in original).) Plaintiff alleges that in November of 2011, non-defendant officers threatened Plaintiff's wife to incentivize her to leave Plaintiff. (Am. Compl., ¶ 34.) That same month, Plaintiff's wife told Plaintiff she wished to separate. (Id. ¶ 39.) On January 19, 2017, Plaintiff "signed a consent order to pay child support, " which Judge Roger W. Dunaway Jr. subsequently signed. (Id. ¶ 40.) From November 1, 2011, to February 29, 2012, Plaintiff states he regularly communicated with his wife "primarily about their children or their separation." (Id. ¶ 41.)

         B. Arrest for Aggravated Stalking

         "Around or about February 29, 2012, following alleged complaints by [Plaintiff's wife] to local law enforcement that [Plaintiff] was contacting her in violation of the October 28, 2011, bond order, McDuffie County Sheriff's deputies obtained an arrest warrant for [Plaintiff] for aggravated stalking." (Am. Compl., ¶ 44.) These deputies arrested Plaintiff that same day. (Id.) In brief, Plaintiff clarifies that A. Reeves was one of the deputies who obtained the arrest warrant. (Br. Resp. to Mot. for J. Pleadings, at 4.)

         On April 12, 2012, a bond hearing was held for Plaintiff's aggravated stalking charge before Judge Dunaway. (Am. Compl., ¶ 57.) The State's attorney, Defendant Durwood Davis - who is not a party to the motion before the Court - objected to the court setting bond before completion of an already ordered mental health evaluation of Plaintiff could be completed.[3] (Id. ¶¶ 57-58.) It was at this hearing that Plaintiff's defense attorney informed Judge Dunaway that Plaintiff's wife initiated some contact with Plaintiff while the "no-contact" bond condition was in effect. (Id. ¶ 59.) While in custody, Plaintiff and his wife executed their divorce.[4] (Id. ¶ 70.)

         C. Grand Jury Indictment and Guilty Plea

         A McDuffie County grand jury indicted Plaintiff on three counts of aggravated stalking on June 19, 2012. (Am. Compl., ¶ 72.) The next day, Plaintiff was released on bond. (Id. ¶ 73.) Within a few days of being released, Plaintiff states A. Reeves drove to his home, "lowered his car window, and made a statement to the effect that 'I'm still going to get you.'" (Id. ¶ 74.) In August of 2012, Plaintiff "pled not guilty to one charge of simple battery and three counts of aggravated stalking." (Id. ¶ 77.) Plaintiff later changed his plea, "on the advice of his defense attorney, " to a plea of guilty "to one felony count of aggravated stalking and one misdemeanor count of simple battery." (Id. ¶ 78.) According to Plaintiff, "[t]he sole factual basis for the aggravated stalking charge, as alleged in the indictment and restated in the plea hearing, included the element of having 'violated a condition of pre[]trial release' as set forth in the conditions of the pre[]trial release order issued on October 28, 2011." (Id. ¶ 79.)

         Plaintiff was sentenced to ten years of probation for the aggravated stalking conviction and one year of probation for the simple battery conviction, to run concurrently. (Id. ¶ 80.) Before concluding the sentencing hearing, Judge Dunaway inquired as to whether a TPO was in place. (Id. ¶ 81.) Defendant "Davis informed the Court there was a TPO in place"; Defendant Davis's statement was, according to Plaintiff, "a blatant falsity." (Id.) Judge Dunaway then ordered the execution of a permanent protective order requiring Plaintiff "to refrain from any contact with his ex-wife and minor children." (Id. ¶ 82.)

         D. Post-Conviction Arrests

         After being released from custody, Plaintiff was brought in by non-defendant officers multiple times for alleged probation violations and failure to pay child support. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 94-104.) Plaintiff's only mention of either of the Individual Defendants during this time is that after one arrest, the arresting officer "inquir[ed] as to why he was arresting [Plaintiff] again, " and R. Reeves took over processing Plaintiff and processed him directly into the general population. (Id. ¶¶ 106-07.) According to Plaintiff, processing in this way is "contrary to normal practice and procedure." (Id. ¶ 107.)

         E. Final Arrest and Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

         Plaintiff states he felt "he was no longer safe in McDuffie County" and lived under "an assumed persona until August [of] 2016, when he was arrested in Liberty County for driving under the influence and several other charges." (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 111, 113.) While still in Liberty County jail, Plaintiff petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in September of 2016 in McDuffie County Superior Court. (Id.) On October 12, 2016, a hearing was held before Judge Dunaway. (Id. ¶ 114.) That same day, Judge Dunaway vacated Plaintiff's aggravated stalking conviction. (Id. ¶ 118.) As stated by Plaintiff, "One of the findings the court made was that, in the absence of a magistrate judge, a bond order setting [] conditions of bond could not have been legally issued for the misdemeanor family-violence battery charge, and that therefore [Plaintiff] could not possibly have committed the offense of aggravated stalking." (Id. ¶ 118.) Plaintiff filed this action on October 2, 2018. (See Compl., Doc. 1.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         "After the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). "Judgment on the pleadings is proper when no issues of material fact exist, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts." Cunningham v. Dist. Attorney's Office for Escambia Cty., 592 F.3d 1237, 1255 (11th Cir. 2010). When considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court must "accept as true all material facts alleged in the non-moving party's pleading, and . . . view those facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Perez v. Wells Fargo N.A., 774 F.3d 1329, 1335 (11th Cir. 2014).

         III. ...


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