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Mobley v. Greensboro City Police Department

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

July 21, 2017



          Thomas D. Schroeder United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jason Darnell Mobley brings this action pro se, seeking damages as a result of his allegedly wrongful arrest. Defendants Greensboro City Police Department (“GPD”) and GPD Officers B.D. Estes and T.D. Brown move to dismiss the complaint on a variety of grounds. (Doc. 10.) Mobley has filed responsive briefs (Docs. 13, 16.)[1] For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The allegations of Mobley's complaint, which are accepted as true for purposes of the present motion, lay out the following:

         On October 31, 2013, Officers Estes and Brown arrested Mobley, along with nine other occupants of a hotel room, following a search that led to the discovery of nine baggies of marijuana, a scale, and plastic baggies. (Doc. 2 at 2-3.) Mobley personally had no illegal drugs or paraphernalia on his person, nor was the hotel room registered in his name. (Id. at 3.) Mobley seeks $10, 000, 000 in damages for “false arrest, ” as well as punitive damages.

         The Defendants now raise various contentions as to why dismissal is appropriate. Each will be addressed below.

         II. ANALYSIS

         All but one of Defendants' grounds for dismissal are raised through Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The purpose of a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) is to “test[] the sufficiency of a complaint” and not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citations omitted), and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor, Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). To be facially plausible, a claim must “plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable” and must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). While “the complaint, including all reasonable inferences therefrom, [is] liberally construed in the plaintiff's favor, ” Estate of Williams-Moore v. All. One Receivables Mgmt., Inc., 335 F.Supp.2d 636, 646 (M.D. N.C. 2004) (citing McNair v. Lend Lease Trucks, Inc., 95 F.3d 325, 327 (4th Cir. 1996)), this “does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege any facts [that] set forth a claim, ” id. Mere legal conclusions are not accepted as true, and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         “When reviewing a pro se complaint, federal courts should examine carefully the plaintiff's factual allegations, no matter how inartfully pleaded, to determine whether they could provide a basis for relief. In addition, in order to determine whether the claim of a pro se plaintiff can withstand a motion to dismiss, it is appropriate to look beyond the face of the complaint to allegations made in any additional materials filed by the plaintiff.” Armstrong v. Rolm A. Siemans Co., 129 F.3d 1258 (4th Cir. 1997) (unpublished table opinion) (citations omitted).

         However, the liberal construction of a pro se plaintiff's pleading does not require the court to ignore clear defects in pleading, Bustos v. Chamberlain, No. 3:09-1760-HMH-JRM, 2009 WL 2782238, at *2 (D.S.C. Aug. 27, 2009), or to “conjure up questions never squarely presented in the complaint, ” Brice v. Jenkins, 489 F.Supp.2d 538, 541 (E.D. Va. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Nor does it require that the court become an advocate for the unrepresented party. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         A. Defendant Estes

         Defendant Estes argues that he has never been served with process and thus the complaint against him should be dismissed for insufficiency of process, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5), as well as lack of personal jurisdiction over him, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2). Mobley responds only that Estes “is no longer employed by the Greensboro Police Department and [is] unable to be served.” (Doc. 13 at 3.)

         Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4 and 12(b)(2) and (5) require that a defendant be properly served with process to bring him before the court where it can exercise jurisdiction over him. Here, the U.S. Marshal returned the summons as unexecuted on March 16, 2017. (Doc. 9 at 2.) Mobley has made no other effort to serve Estes. Therefore, the court lacks jurisdiction over him, and the complaint and summons against him will be dismissed without prejudice.

         B. ...

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