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Morgan v. Stevenson

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 1, 2019

DUSTIN JADE MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
LANCE STEVENSON, State of Idaho Fifth Judicial District Court Prosecuting Attorney; STATE OF IDAHO FIFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF MINIDOKA; and STATE OF IDAHO SIXTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF BANNOCK, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Dustin Jade Morgan, an inmate in the custody of the Bannock County Jail, is proceeding pro se in this civil rights action. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. 7.) Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record and that oral argument is unnecessary. See D. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1. Accordingly, the Court enters the following order granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and dismissing the Complaint without prejudice. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint within 28 days after entry of this Order.

         1. Standard of Law Governing Motions to Dismiss

         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)). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) “can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). Dismissal is also appropriate where the plaintiff has included allegations disclosing an absolute defense or bar to recovery. See Weisbuch v. County of Los Angeles, 119 F.3d 778, 783 at n.1 (9th Cir. 1997) (“If the pleadings establish facts compelling a decision one way, that is as good as if depositions and other ... evidence on summary judgment establishes the identical facts.”).

         A complaint fails to state a claim for relief if the factual assertions in the complaint are insufficient for the Court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. In other words, a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must include “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the facts pleaded are “merely consistent with a defendant's liability, ” or if there is an “obvious alternative explanation” that would not result in liability, the complaint has not stated a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 678, 682 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the court generally should not consider materials outside the complaint and pleadings. See Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 1997). “A court may, however, consider certain materials-documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.” United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003).

         A court may take judicial notice of a fact that is “not subject to reasonable dispute” in that the fact “(1) is generally known within the trial court's territorial jurisdiction; or (2) can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned, ” Fed.R.Evid. 201(b), such as “records of state agencies and other undisputed matters of public record, ” Disabled Rights Action Comm. v. Las Vegas Events, Inc., 375 F.3d 861, 866 n.1 (9th Cir. 2004). Judicial opinions of other courts are appropriately subject to judicial notice. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689-90 (9th Cir. 2001), abrogated on other grounds as stated in Galbraith v. Cty. of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2002). Specifically, the Court may judicially notice the existence of the opinion-which includes the stated reasoning of the authoring court-but not the facts recited in that opinion.[1] Id.

         2.Factual Allegations[2]

         Plaintiff alleges that, in January 2010, he was criminally charged in Idaho state court. Soon after, he was arrested and incarcerated in Montana. Idaho authorities lodged detainers against Plaintiff but “failed to extradite even after [Plaintiff] waived his rights.” (Dkt. 1 at 6.) Over four years later, Plaintiff was released from Montana prison and returned to Idaho, and his initial hearings in the Idaho case were held in August 2015.

         Plaintiff entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss for denial of his statutory right to a speedy trial. Morgan, 400 P.3d at 641. The Idaho Court of Appeals remanded for further proceedings and additional factual findings. Id. at 644-45. The 2010 criminal charges against Plaintiff were dismissed in October 2017. (Dkt 1 at 6.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that, “[s]ince his arrest in 2010 and subsequent release in 2014, [Plaintiff] has been habitually pursued by law Enforcement even in neutral locations such as convenience store parking lots. (Id.) Plaintiff was held without charge in the Bannock County Jail in February 2017 for fourteen days. In July 2017, he was arrested on Montana charges, which were later dismissed. (Id.) Plaintiff also states that he was arrested on June 24, 2019 on other charges and that he is currently facing “revocation in Montana for the third time.” (Id.)

         3. Discussion

         For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend the Complaint to address the deficiencies identified in this Order.

         A. Federal Law Claims

         i. Standards of Law

         Plaintiff brings his federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the federal civil rights statute. (Dkt. 1 at 3.) To state a plausible civil rights claim, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). To be liable under § 1983, “the defendant must possess a purposeful, a knowing, or possibly a reckless state of mind.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2472 (2015). Negligence is not actionable under § 1983, because a negligent act by a public official is not an abuse of governmental power but merely a “failure to measure up to the conduct of a reasonable person.” Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332 (1986).

         Governmental officials generally are not liable for damages in their individual capacities under § 1983 unless they personally participated in the alleged constitutional violations. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (“[E]ach Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct.”). Section 1983 does not allow for recovery against an employer or principal simply because an employee or agent committed misconduct. Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045. However, “[a] defendant may be held liable as a supervisor under § 1983 ‘if there exists ... a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation.'” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989)). A plaintiff can establish this causal connection by alleging that a defendant (1) “set[] in motion a series of acts by others”; (2) “knowingly refus[ed] to terminate a series of acts by others, which [the supervisor] knew or reasonably should have known would cause others to inflict a constitutional injury”; (3) failed to act or improperly acted in the training, supervision, or control of his subordinates”; (4) “acquiesc[ed] in the constitutional deprivation”; or (5) engag[ed] in “conduct that showed a reckless or callous indifference to the rights of others.” Id. at 1205-09.

         To bring a § 1983 claim against a municipality-a local governmental entity such as Bannock County, Minidoka County, or the Fifth and Sixth Judicial District Courts-a plaintiff must allege that the execution of an official policy or unofficial custom inflicted the injury of which the plaintiff complains, as required by Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Under Monell, the requisite elements of a § 1983 claim against a municipality or private entity performing a state function are the following: (1) the plaintiff was deprived of a constitutional right; (2) the municipality or entity had a policy or custom; (3) the policy or custom amounted to deliberate indifference to plaintiff's constitutional right; and (4) the policy or custom was the moving force behind the constitutional violation. Mabe v. San Bernardino Cnty., 237 F.3d 1101, 1110-11 (9th Cir. 2001). Further, a municipality or private entity performing a state function “may be held liable under § 1983 when the individual who committed the constitutional tort was an official with final policy-making authority or such an official ratified a subordinate's unconstitutional decision or action and the basis for it.” Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1250 (9th Cir. 2010), overruled in part on other grounds by Castro v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1069 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc).

         An unwritten policy or custom must be so “persistent and widespread” that it constitutes a “permanent and well settled” practice. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691 (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-168 (1970)). ‚ÄúLiability for improper custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic incidents; it must be founded upon practices of sufficient duration, frequency and consistency that the ...


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