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Walker v. Dixon

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

January 13, 2020

SIVAN SHEREE WALKER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ANTHONY DIXON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          CLAY D. LAND, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         The 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.

         MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

         “To 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).

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiffs allege the following facts in support of their claims. The Court must accept these allegations as true for purposes of the pending motion.

         Anthony 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.”[1]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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.

         In 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)).

         After 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.[5] 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.

         Walker 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.[6] 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.[7]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 claims.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claims

         A. Did Dixon Act Under Color of State Law?

         No one 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) ...


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