United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
CASEY L. JONES, a/k/a STEPHANIE HESS, and TODD M. HESS, Plaintiffs,
UNION COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, EDDIE CATHEY, in his official capacity and capacity as Sheriff of Union County, North Carolina, STEPHEN EASON, in his individual capacity and capacity as an employee of the United County Sheriff's Office, MENDEL MILES, in his individual capacity and capacity as an employee of the Union County Sheriff's Office, JOHN JULIAN ALDRIDGE, in his individual capacity and capacity as an employee of the Union County Sheriff's Office, JOHN DOES 1-4, in their individual capacities and capacities as employees of the Union County Sheriff's Office, DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE OF UNION COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, TREY ROBISON, in his individual capacity and capacity as District Attorney of Union County, North Carolina, and KERRI FREDHEIM, in her individual capacity and capacity as Assistant District Attorney of Union County, North Carolina Defendants.
Kenneth D. Bell United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on the Motion To Dismiss
By Defendants Cathey, Eason, Miles, Aldridge, and Union
County Sheriff's Office (Doc. No. 5); the Motion To
Dismiss On Behalf Of Defendants Robison, Fredheim, and
District Attorney's Office Of Union County, North
Carolina (Doc. No. 9); the Memorandum and Recommendation of
the Honorable Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler
(“M&R”) entered September 23, 2019 (Doc. No.
15), Plaintiffs' Objection to the M&R (Doc. No. 16)
and Defendants' replies to Plaintiffs' Objection
(Doc. Nos. 17 and 18).
an independent review of the M&R, Plaintiffs'
Objection thereto, and a de novo review of the full
record, the Court concludes that the recommendation to grant
these Motions to Dismiss is correct and in accordance with
law. For the reasons stated below, and in the M&R, the
findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are
ADOPTED and the Defendants' respective
Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court may designate a magistrate judge to
“submit to a judge of the court proposed findings of
fact and recommendations for the disposition” of
dispositive pretrial matters, including motions to dismiss.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Any party may object to the
magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations,
and the court “shall make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Objections to the magistrate's
proposed findings and recommendations must be made "with
sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district
court of the true ground for the objection." United
States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir.),
cert. denied, 551 U.S. 1157 (2007). However, the
Court does not perform a de novo review where a party makes
only “general and conclusory objections that do not
direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's
proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). After
reviewing the record, the court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge or recommit the matter with
instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted” tests whether the complaint is
legally and factually sufficient. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(b)(6); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007); Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626
F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd, 566 U.S.
30 (2012). A court need not accept a complaint's
“legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and
bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.”
Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc.,
591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). The court, however,
“accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes
these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff in
weighing the legal sufficiency of the complaint.”
Id. Construing the facts in this manner, a complaint
must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
M&R provides a detailed and thorough description of the
factual and procedural background of this action, which this
Court adopts and will not be fully repeated here. However, a
shorter summary of the most critical alleged facts from the
Complaint, which are assumed to be true for the purposes of
these motions, follows.
Casey L. Jones (“Jones”), also known as Stephanie
Hess, is a partially pre-operative transgender female (with
male external genitalia), who has been diagnosed with Gender
Identity Disorder, a medical condition where the person's
gender identity does not conform to his or her anatomical sex
at birth. Jones looks like and dresses as a female as part of
the treatment for her disorder. In 2016, Jones petitioned the
South Carolina Ninth Judicial Circuit Family Court for an
order granting her a gender change from male to female, which
the court granted. Jones' South Carolina driver's
license and her Oklahoma birth certificate now indicate she
is female. Jones and Plaintiff Todd M. Hess
(“Hess”) (together “Plaintiffs”) were
legally married on August 16, 2017, and Plaintiffs'
marriage license lists Stephanie Hess as a female.
also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety
disorder and has drug and alcohol addictions. These
addictions have led to Jones being involuntarily committed at
least five times for treatment and also numerous engagements
with law enforcement officers. Specifically, Union County
Sheriff's Deputies were called to Plaintiffs'
residence on “at least ten, if not more occasions, over
the course of the past year, and they always found that
Plaintiff Jones was in an inebriated state . . . Jones would
routinely make the calls to 911 while in her drunken
March 2018, Jones planned to enter treatment at Dove's
Nest, a women's treatment program affiliated with
Charlotte Rescue Mission, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
However, she could not be immediately admitted first because
a bed was not available until March 19, then because of
another brief involuntary commitment on March 20, and
subsequent inebriation after her discharge on March 21. In
the evening of March 22, the night before she was to try once
more to be admitted to Dove's Nest, Jones began drinking
again, which led to Hess calling “911.”
employees of the Union County Sheriff's office arrived at
Plaintiffs' residence, they noticed red marks surrounding
Jones's neck and asked her if Hess choked her. Jones says
that she does not remember her response. Defendant Eason
wrote in his report that Hess admitted to choking his wife,
but Hess asserts that he did not choke or harm Jones and that
he did not admit to doing so to Defendant Eason. Ultimately,
Hess was charged with “assault on a woman” in
Union County File No. 18 CR 051508 and Jones was charged with
“simple assault” in Union County File No. 18 CR
and Hess were transported separately to the Union County
jail. Jones was taken inside the jail first for processing,
while Hess remained in the back of a patrol car. Although the
timing of the call is unclear, Plaintiffs allege that Hess
placed a telephone call to Defendant Miles, who they assert
is the Captain of the Union County jail. In that call, Hess
informed Miles that Jones had been legally declared a female,
was listed as a female on her driver's license and that
she suffers from Gender Dysphoria, which worsens if she is
not treated as a female. In response, Miles allegedly said
that the jail determines an inmate's sex based on
“the parts they have” and not on their legal
status. However, Miles also told Hess that he would discuss
the situation with the Union County Sheriff's Office
attorney, Defendant Aldridge.
Union County jail segregates male and female prisoners, as is
typical among correctional facilities. Although Jones alleges
that she was “treated as a male” at the jail, she
does not allege that she was housed with the men. Rather, the
Complaint states that Jones was required to “remain
secluded from other female inmates in one area of the
jail.” (Doc. 1, ¶147). Thus, Jones was apparently
placed in neither the male nor the female section, and no
further details are alleged related to her confinement,
either as to the duration of that confinement or any of its
conditions. Jones alleges that she was listed as a
“White / Male” at some point in the Union County
Sheriff's Office website, although it is not alleged when
and how this statement came to be made or how long it was on
Plaintiffs allege that during the Sheriff's Deputies'
visits to their residence and during the arrest and booking
process on March 22, various employees of the department,
including one or more of the individual defendants, made
derogatory and/or insensitive comments about Jones'
gender, refusing to properly acknowledge her status as a
female. Plaintiffs further allege that derogatory and/or
discriminatory statements were made to or about Hess because
of his relationship with Jones.
as detailed in the M&R, in addition to their allegations
related to Jones' confinement and the discriminatory
comments made to Jones and Hess, Plaintiffs allege that one
or more of the defendants filed untruthful police reports,
denied Plaintiffs access to public records, failed to turn
over exculpatory evidence, slandered the Plaintiffs in court
statements and failed to properly accommodate her Gender
Dysphoria (alleging that Jones should have been taken to a
treatment facility rather than to a jail and that placing
Jones “in the woman's section of the jail would
have been the best approach given her Gender Dysphoria and
desires to be recognized as female”).
Jones and Hess, appearing pro se (although Hess is a
licensed attorney), filed their Complaint in this action on
September 19, 2018. The Complaint is brought against twelve
Defendants and includes seventeen causes of action.
Defendants include the Union County Sheriff's Office
(“UCSO”), Sheriff Eddie Cathey
(“Cathey”), Deputy Stephen Eason
(“Eason”), Captain Mendel Miles
(“Miles”), Attorney John Julian Aldridge
(“Aldridge”) and four (4) unnamed deputy John Doe
employees of the UCSO (“Defendant Doe 1-4”), (all
together, the “Sheriff Defendants”). Defendants
also include the District Attorney's Office of Union
County, North Carolina ...