United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge
matter is before the court on defendants' motions to
dismiss for failure to state a claim. (DE 13, DE 18). The
issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for
adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants
OF THE CASE
October 21, 2016, plaintiff, a pretrial detainee incarcerated
in Columbus County detention center during the relevant
period, filed this civil rights action pro se
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting claims based on
“Laws involving: Miranda, false imprisonment,
detainment and arrest, fraudulent evidence.” (Complaint
(DE 1) at 5). Additionally, plaintiff appears to be asserting
violations of his right to a speedy trial and right to face
his accuser. (See id.; DE 25). On May 17, 2017, the
court completed its frivolity review and ordered that the
case proceed. (DE 8). On June 15, 2017, defendant Columbus
County Sheriff's Office (“Sheriff's
Office”) filed the instant motion to dismiss, arguing
the Sheriff's Office is not an entity capable of being
sued. On June 19, 2017, all defendants filed a motion to
dismiss, arguing that defendants cannot be liable for the
claims asserted by plaintiff and that plaintiff's claims
are barred by the doctrine established by Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) (“Younger
doctrine”). Plaintiff filed a response to
defendants' motions on July 3, 2017, to which all
defendants replied on July 6, 2017.
OF THE FACTS
relevant facts alleged in the complaint are as follows. In
June 2013, plaintiff was arrested by the Fair Bluff Police
Department pursuant to an arrest warrant on charges of
“burglary, safe cracking, possession [of a] firearm,
[possession of a] firearm by a felon, conspiracy, [and]
larceny.” (Complaint (DE 1) at 6). Plaintiff disputes
these charges and the “false imprisonment” he has
been subject to following his arrest. (Id.).
Plaintiff additionally appears to allege that his right to a
speedy trial and right to face his accuser has been violated
in that the victims have been subpoenaed six times and have
been a “no show, ” and plaintiff's case has
been ongoing for 16 months. (Id. at 6-7; DE 25 at
2). Plaintiff further alleges defendant Rene Trevino
(“Trevino”) was involved in fabricating evidence
or lied to plaintiff concerning said evidence. (Complaint (DE
1) at 7; DE 25 at 2). Plaintiff alleges that he has been
“wrongfully arrested for a crime [he] did not do [and]
lost time from [his] family because of this situation more
than 23 months altogether now, ” and additionally
submits complaints concerning the amount of bail that has
been set. (DE 25 at 2).
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) determines only whether
a claim is stated; “it does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Republican Party v.
Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). A claim is
stated if the complaint contains “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
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In
evaluating whether a claim is stated, “[the] court
accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ” but
does not consider “legal conclusions, elements of a
cause of action, . . . bare assertions devoid of further
factual enhancement[, ] . . . unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Nemet
Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d
250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). In other words,
this plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to articulate
facts, that, when accepted as true, demonstrate that the
plaintiff has stated a claim that makes it plausible he is
entitled to relief. See Francis v. Giacomelli, 588
F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678, and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Claims Against Defendant Sheriff's Office
Sheriff's Office is not a legal entity capable of being
sued. State law determines whether a state governmental
agency has the capacity to be sued. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3)
(“Capacity to sue or be sued is determined . . . by the
law of the state where the court is located.”). In the
instant case, there is no North Carolina statute authorizing
suits against sheriff's departments. Cf. N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 58-76-5 (authorizing suits against
sheriffs). This court has repeatedly found that sheriff's
departments lack capacity to be sued in North Carolina.
See, e.g., Dillon v. Mills, No.
4:16-CV-00003-FL, 2016 WL 3102015, at *2 (E.D. N.C. June 2,
2016) (citing Parker v. Bladen County, 583 F.Supp.2d
736 (E.D. N.C. 2008)) (“District courts in North
Carolina have found that sheriff departments do not have
capacity to be sued.”); McCallister v. Lee,
No. 7:13-CV-154-FL, 2014 WL 3700337, at *1 (E.D. N.C. July
24, 2014), aff'd, 585 F. App'x 56 (4th Cir.
2014) (“Under North Carolina law, [the Onslow County
Sheriff's Department] is not an independent legal entity
with the capacity to sue and be sued.”).
Sheriff Office lacks the capacity to be sued under North
Carolina law, and therefore defendant Sheriff Office's
motion to dismiss is granted, and plaintiff's ...