The Baez Law Firm | San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys

The Baez Law Firm | San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys
San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to object to a recommendation by a Magistrate Judge in District Court

Our Law Firm has objected on numerous occasion the recommendation given by Magistrate Judges to the District Judges during the litigation of our cases. Bellow, is one of such objections for our readers perusal.

The recommendation that Defendant's claims against him on his official capacity and individual capacity should be dismiss are not based on precedent. In Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985), the Court sought to eliminate lingering confusion about the distinction between personal- and official-capacity suits. The Court emphasized that official-capacity suits generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent. Id., at 165, 105 S.Ct., at 3104 (quoting Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2035, n. 55, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)). Suits against state officials in their official capacity therefore should be treated (emphasis added) as suits against the State. 473 U.S., at 166, 105 S.Ct., at 3105. Though the Judge relied on Monell for the recommendation to dismiss the Defendant in the instant suit in his official and individual capacity, nowhere in Monell did the Court suggest that the claim against the individual defendant be dismissed in a 12(b)(6) motion.

Indeed, when officials sued in this capacity in Federal court die or leave office, their successors automatically assume their roles in the litigation. See Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 25(d)(1); Fed.Rule App.Proc. 43(c)(1). The action is not dismissed, it continues.

Because the real party in interest in an official-capacity suit is the governmental entity and not the named official, the entity's policy or custom must have played a part in the violation of federal law. Graham, supra, at 166, 105 S.Ct., at 3105 (quoting Monell, supra, 436 U.S., at 694, 98 S.Ct., at 2037). Plaintiff plead facts in her amended complaint sufficiently to indicate that the Defendant, as the lead officer in his department played a part in carrying out the policies or customs that led to Plaintiff’s rape.

For the same reason, the only immunities available to the defendant Defendant in an official-capacity action are those that the governmental entity possesses. 473 U.S., at 167, 105 S.Ct., at 3105. This is found in Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25, 112 S. Ct. 358, 361-362, 116 L. Ed. 2d 301 (1991). The language does not suggest that once a claim is filled against an individual in his official capacity, the claims against the official capacity individual should be dismissed.

The phrase, “Acting in their official capacities” is best understood as a reference to the capacity in which the State officer is sued, not the capacity in which the officer inflicts the alleged injury. Hafer at 26.

Like Hafer, Plaintiff is seeking redress for of constitutional rights, privileges and immunities by an official's abuse of his position, including the actions and omissions of Defendant. The Defendant and its’ policies and/or customs played a part in causing the rape and alleged damages which Plaintiff believes is a violation of federal law. But for Defendant's failure to implement a policy to prevent Deputies from terrorizing individuals of the different sex, Plaintiff would not have suffered a rape. The current policy in place, ratified, directed, and enforced by Defendant, allows officers of opposite sex to take advantage of defenseless individuals such as Plaintiff.

Through §1983, Congress sought to give a remedy to parties deprived of constitutional rights, privileges and immunities by an official's abuse of his position. Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 172, 81 S.Ct. 473, 476, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961). Accordingly, it authorized suits to redress deprivations of civil rights by persons acting under color of any [state] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In their findings, the Court stated “the requirement of action under color of state law means that Hafer may be liable for discharging respondents precisely because of her authority as auditor general.” The Court ruled that “We cannot accept the novel proposition that this same official authority insulates Hafer from suit.” Hafer at 27-28. This is quite the opposite of what Judge recommended. In essence, Judge insulated Defendant from suit based on official authority, not on his official actions.

Conversely, Judge found that “She does specifically allege that Defendant, through his intentional acts of malfeasance, omissions, neglect, and failure to select, train, supervise, discipline, remove and prosecute his subordinate deputies, deprived Cerda of her constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eight and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States and under 42 USC § 1981, 1983 and 1985(3).” Recommendations p.14; It is his overall responsibility to supervise and train his deputies and the policy he ratified, directed and enforced to allow unsupervised opposite sex arrests, proximately caused the instant constitutional violations. However, Judge recommendations Dismisses the Defendant in both individual and official capacity. Judge is requiring a higher standard for Plaintiff pleading her case beyond that which is required by precedent. A Federal court may not apply heightened pleading standard, more stringent than usual pleading requirements of civil rule, in civil rights cases alleging municipal liability under 42 U.S.C.A., §1983; Fed.Rules Civ.Proc., Rules 8(a)(2), 9(b), 28 U.S.C.A. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 113 S. Ct. 1160, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517 (1993).

In Leatherman, the Supreme Court stated “We think that it is impossible to square the heightened pleading standard applied by the Fifth Circuit in this case with the liberal system of notice pleading set up by the Federal Rules. Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint include only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. In Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), we said in effect that the Rule meant what it said:”
“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim. To the contrary, all the Rules require is a short and plain statement of the claim that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Id., at 47, 78 S.Ct., at 103, Leatherman at 168.

Rule 9(b) does impose a particularity requirement in two specific instances. It provides that in all averments of fraud or mistake, the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake shall be stated with particularity. Thus, the Federal Rules do address in Rule 9(b) the question of the need for greater particularity in pleading certain actions, but do not include among the enumerated actions any reference to complaints alleging municipal liability under § 1983. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius. Id. at 168.

Since Judge found that claims against Defendatn under the Fourth Amendment and under Due Process Clause of the Fourteen Amendment, pursuant § 1983 remain for trial, the same result should be obtained against Defendant. The same averments of facts and causes of action were pleaded for the County and for the Defendant, yet with different results. This dichotomy should only be resolved by keeping both Defendants for claims for § 1983 or by allowing a Rule 7 to be submitted.
The general rule is that there is an extremely high burden before a Court can dismiss pursuant Rule 12(b)(6) because the complaint must be liberally construed and well pleaded factual allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true. Woodard v. Andrus, 419 F.3d 348, 351 (5th Cir. 2005). If the facts, as pleaded are enough to overcome dismissal for the County, the same facts should overcome dismissal for the Defendant.

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted. Fernandez-Montez v. Allied Pilots Assoc., 987 F.2d 278 (5th Cir. 1993). Conversely, a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt the plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of a claim which would entitle them to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Plaintiff has made averments in her Complaint that should overcome a 12(b)(6) dismissal. Conversely, Plaintiff has requested a Rule 7 to prove some other set of facts in support of her claims. By dismissing the Defendant, she was denied of her right to redress. Plaintiff is attempting to have a change in the policy and custom of the Defendants that allow deputies too much power and no supervision.

Our San Antonio Lawyers will fight for your rights in court all the time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

12 (b)(6) Motions in Federal Court under Fourth Amendment

Our Law Firm has represented numerous clients in Federal Court with their Civil Rights case. We have consistently shown that the facts of the case are more important that precedent since it is those facts that changes the precedent.

Many time, our lawyers have been faced with 12(b)(6) motions in Federal Court and our response has been facts driven rather than law driven. An example of such is given herein for our readers perusal.

Public officials acting within the scope of their official duties are shielded from civil liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815-19 (1982). Qualified immunity “serves to shield a governmental official from civil liability for damages based upon performance of discretionary functions if the official’s acts were objectively reasonable in light of then clearly established law.” Thompson v. Upshur County, Tex., 245 F3d 447, 456 (5th Cir. 2001). A “defendant’s acts are . . . objectively reasonable unless all reasonable officials in the defendant’s circumstances would have then known that the defendant’s conduct violated the United States Constitution or the federal statute as alleged by the plaintiff.” Id at 457.

An excessive-use-of-force claim requires a plaintiff to prove 1) an injury, which 2) resulted directly and solely form the use of force that was clearly excessive to the need, and the excursiveness of which was 3) objectively unreasonable. Ikerd v. Blair, 101 F.3d 430, 433-34 (5th Cir. 1996). This determination “requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 396 (1989).

In Iderd, plaintiffs brought a 1983 action on behalf of their children claiming that a police officer used excessive force against the child during an arrest of her father. Iderd, 101 F.3d at 432. During the arrest, the police officer jerked the child out of her chair and dragged her into the kitchen, which resulted in her re-injuring a broken arm. Id. In determining the first and second elements required to establish an excessive force claim, the court maintained that “the extent of the injury suffered by a plaintiff is one factor that may suggest whether the use of force was excessive in a particular situation.” Id. at 434. In analyzing the third element, the court reasoned that “in gauging the objective reasonableness of the force used by a law enforcement officer, we must balance the amount of force used against the need for that force.” Id. In overruling the district court’s judgment as a matter of law for the officer, the Fifth Circuit held that the evidence presented as sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that the officer used objectively unreasonable force against the plaintiff. Id. at 435.

In Meaux v. Williams, 113 Fed. Appx. 593, 595 (5th Cir. 2004), the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, holding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the police officer used excessive force when arresting the plaintiff. Id. at 594. Meaux alleged that when he answered the door, he was pulled out of his house and handcuffed.

In Heflin v. Town of Warrenton, 944 F.Supp. 472 (E.D.Va. 1996) the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia overruled defendant’s motion to dismiss a 1983 excessive force claim. After a domestic disturbance between brothers, several police officers responded to a residence and arrested several family members. Id. at 473. While effectuating the arrest, the police officers allegedly used excessive force against the plaintiff when he “proceeded to drag Heflin, by the handcuffs, up the concrete steps to the parking lot. In the course of this, Heflin suffered abrasions to his stomach and face, for which he subsequently sought medical treatment.” Id. at 474.

In Harper v. Harris County, Texas, 21 F.3d 597, 599 (5th Cir. 1994) the Fifth Circuit concluded that allegations that an officer grabbed plaintiff by the throat and bruised knee, were sufficient to withstand a summary judgment seeking dismissal of an excessive force claim. In Harper, the Fifth Circuit applied the test of excessive force in effect prior to the Supreme Court case of Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992), which eradicated the requirement of showing “significant” injury in order to prove an excessive force claim. Id. at 601.

Local Rule CV-12 provides, in pertinent part, that “. . . the opposing party shall have eleven days from the date the motion to dismiss is served on the opposing party, to file a response and to specify what, if any, discovery is necessary to determine the issue(s) of qualified immunity and the time period necessary for the specific discovery. Discovery needs to be conducted to see whether a good faith “qualified immunity” exist and whether the Officer Defendants acted reasonably under the circumstances in injuring a two year old child and a disabled veteran based on a “loud noise” dispatch. Plaintiffs should be allowed to obtain the video tape of the incident so they may investigate as to what threat, if any, was posed by Plaintiffs (especially the child) that caused the Officer Defendants to use excessive force. Plaintiffs would also need to depose the Officer Defendants, which can be done within 90 days, from the time the court order discovery.

Officer Defendants argue that the filling of a suit against a governmental entity pursuant to the Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”) creates an irrevocable election and forever bars suit against any government employees in their individual capacity regarding the same subject matter. TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 101.106(a). They argue that, if a suit is filed pursuant the TTCA against a government unit and any of its employees, the employees are entitled to immediate dismissal upon the filing of a motion by the government unit. Id. However, the Fifth Circuit recently rejected the Officers’ section 101.106 argument because the TTCA does not apply to intentional torts. Meadours v. Ermel, 483 F.3d 417 (5th Cir. 2007). The court concluded that section 101.106 cannot be construed as a statutory bar to intentional tort claims.

In most cases, an expert is not needed to bring a case in Federal Court for violations of the Fourth Amendment but sometimes is necessary if the Plaintiff is seeking to bring Municipalities into the suit.

Do you have a civil rights violation and do not know how to handle it, give us a call (210) 979-9777. Our lawyers are here to help you!

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Find Personal Injury Trial Lawyers that will treat you with dignity and respect. The Baez Law Firm, P.C. is dedicated to help those less fortunate. Our San Antonio Lawyers also handle family law, criminal defense, business law, immigration, social security disability, patent law, trade marks and much more. We are professionals that care about your legal needs. Our motto is simple: “Minimizing Legal Worries!”℠ Visit us at or call us (210) 979-9777. Have a blessed day!

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