United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
elections supervisor for Marion County, Georgia pled guilty
to child molestation and child cruelty under Georgia law.
Plaintiffs, who are victims of the criminal conduct, now seek
to make a federal case out of it by suing the supervisor and
employees of the department of family and children services
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the violation of their
federal constitutional rights. Because the elections
supervisor was not acting under color of state law at the
time of his egregious conduct, Plaintiffs fail to state a
federal claim against him. Because the conduct of the
employees of the department of family and children services
does not amount to a constitutional violation, Plaintiffs
fail to state a claim against them. Because Plaintiffs have
abandoned their other federal claims and the Court declines
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining
state law claims, this entire action is dismissed.
TO DISMISS STANDARD
survive a motion to dismiss” under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 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)). The complaint must include sufficient factual
allegations “to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
In other words, the factual allegations must “raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of” the plaintiff's claims. Id. at 556.
But “Rule 12(b)(6) does not permit dismissal of a
well-pleaded complaint simply because ‘it strikes a
savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is
improbable.'” Watts v. Fla. Int'l
Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
allege the following facts in support of their claims. The
Court must accept these allegations as true for purposes of
the pending motion.
Dixon maintained a polygamist compound in a secluded area of
Taylor County, Georgia. He had three domestic partners, whom
he called his wives, and more than twenty children. Sivan
Walker was one of his domestic partners, and they had eleven
children together. Dixon also had twelve children with
another domestic partner. Dixon “engaged in rampant
abuse of his wives and children on the
compound.”Compl. ¶ 18, ECF No. 1. In 2010, Dixon
was reported to the Georgia Division of Family and Children
Services (“DFCS”) for recklessly driving a van
with the door open and his son J.D. inside without a
seatbelt, but DFCS did not investigate the
report. In 2012, Walker discovered that Dixon was
sexually abusing one of his daughters, M.D.1, who was
thirteen or fourteen years old at the time. Walker confronted
Dixon, but he told her that nothing happened. In 2013, Walker
witnessed a second incident of sexual abuse involving a
different young teenage daughter named M.D.2. The child also
reported to a teacher that she had been inappropriately
touched by her father. DFCS did not investigate this report.
And in 2014, Walker witnessed another incident of sexual
abuse of M.D.1. She again confronted Dixon, but he told her
that nothing happened and that if she told someone no one
would believe her.
January 2015, Walker fled the compound with her children and
reported the 2014 M.D.1 incident to law enforcement
officials. DFCS did not conduct a complete investigation into
the report and closed the case as unsubstantiated. According
to Plaintiffs, Dixon used the power of his office as Marion
County Elections Supervisor to immunize himself from
investigation, arrest, and prosecution. Compl. ¶¶
8, 19, 97, 105, 115, 116. Plaintiffs assert that the DFCS
officials responsible for investigating Dixon were
compromised by their pre-existing friendship with him.
Id. ¶ 87 (citing Tennison Dep. 18:22-19:18, ECF
No. 20-1 (stating that DFCS employee Tennison was
“loosely” friends with Dixon because she and
Dixon had children who were the same age, that she knew him
from serving on boards and committees in the community, and
that a DFCS employee named Jones attended school with some of
Dixon's older children)).
Walker fled the compound with her children and reported
Dixon's conduct, Dixon filed a petition for legitimation
and custody of the children. That petition led to a bench
trial. In his denial of the petition, the superior court
judge found by clear and convincing evidence that Dixon
“engaged in a pattern of sexual abuse of his minor
daughters for several years” and that he
“physically and emotionally abused his minor
children” and “negligently cared for his minor
children.” Order Adopting Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law (Oct. 5, 2016) Ex. A, Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law ¶ 154, ECF No. 1-1. A criminal
proceeding ensued. After the Georgia Bureau of Investigation
began investigating Dixon in November 2016, a magistrate in
Marion County refused to sign a warrant for the search of
Dixon's property until after Dixon presided over an
upcoming election. Compl. ¶ 97. The GBI continued its
investigation, and in 2018 Dixon pleaded guilty to multiple
counts of child molestation and cruelty to children.
and seven of her children brought this action in 2019.
Plaintiffs brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
“Deprivation of Constitutional Rights” against
DFCS employees Donna Tennison, Kalen Jones, Angelique Ludlam,
and Bobby Cagle (Tennison, Jones, and Cagle are the
“DFCS Defendants”; Ludlam is in default) based on
their failure to investigate and address reports of
Dixon's child abuse from 2010 to 2015. Compl.
¶¶ 108-13. Plaintiffs also brought a claim under
§ 1983 for “Deprivation of Constitutional
Rights” against Dixon in his official and individual
capacities and the Marion County Elections Supervisor based
on Dixon's abuse of his children.Compl. ¶¶ 115-18.
The § 1983 claims are all asserted as substantive due
process claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs
also contend that Defendants conspired to violate their civil
rights. Plaintiffs brought claims against all Defendants
under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. §
1962. In addition to these federal claims, Plaintiffs allege
state law claims against Dixon in his individual capacity for
battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
civil RICO. Defendants seek dismissal of all the federal
Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claims
Dixon Act Under Color of State Law?
disputes the egregious nature of Dixon's conduct. But not
all bad conduct amounts to a violation of the United States
Constitution or gives rise to a federal cause of action.
Plaintiffs rely upon § 1983 to remedy the alleged
constitutional violations. Section 1983 seeks to prevent the
misuse “of power, possessed by virtue of state law and
made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the
authority of state law.” Butler v. Sheriff of Palm
Beach Cty., 685 F.3d 1261, 1268 (11th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Dunwoody Homeowners Ass'n, Inc. v. DeKalb
Cty., 887 F.2d 1455, 1460 (11th Cir. 1989)). But, §
1983 “does not federalize all torts or other
deprivations of rights committed by a person who is a . . .
government agent.” Id. at 1265. “A
successful section 1983 action requires that the plaintiff
show she was deprived of a federal right by a person acting
under color of state law.” Almand v.
DeKalb Cty., 103 F.3d 1510, 1513 (11th Cir. 1997)