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Kustes v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 3, 2013

MATTHEW KUSTES, Plaintiffs,
v.
LEXINGTON-FAYETTE URBAN COUNTY GOVERNMENT, JIM GRAY, in his capacity as Mayor of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, LEXINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, RONNIE BASTIN, in his capacity as Chief of the Lexington Police Department, OFFICER JOSH MITCHELL, individually and in his capacity as an officer of the Lexington Police Department, and UNKNOWN OFFICERS, individually and in their capacities as officers of the Lexington Police Department, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motions for partial dismissal (DE 4, 17, 18) filed by the Defendants named in the Plaintiff's complaint.

I. Background.

The Plaintiff filed his initial complaint in this matter on October 22, 2012 in which he alleged that, on October 23, 2011, he was at a neighbor's house. The neighbor was not there but had granted the Plaintiff permission to be inside the house. The Plaintiff alleged that, during the evening, Lexington police officers arrived at the house in response to complaints about a loud party there. He alleged the officers ordered him to leave and that, when he stated that he had permission to be there, the officers, including Defendant Officer Josh Mitchell, arrested him for criminal trespassing. He also asserted that Officer Mitchell and other unknown officers searched his person without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, handcuffed him and took him to the jail where he was held for several hours. He alleged that, after a jury trial, he was acquitted of the trespassing charge. (DE 1, Complaint.)

The Plaintiff asserted claims against five named Defendants: the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG), Lexington Police Department (which identifies itself in its motion to dismiss as the LFUCG Division of Police), LFUCG Mayor Jim Gray, LFUCG Division of Police Chief Ronnie Bastin, and Lexington police officer Josh Mitchell.

The Defendants moved to dismiss various claims asserted in the original complaint (DE 4). The Plaintiff did not file a response to that motion but instead filed an amended complaint (DE 15) which he asserted addressed the Defendants' arguments raised in their motion to dismiss. The Defendants then filed a supplemental motion to dismiss. (DE 17) arguing that the amended complaint had not cured the deficiencies alleged in its original motion to dismiss.

Because the arguments made in the Defendant's original motion to dismiss apply to the amended complaint also, the Court will interpret both motions to dismiss to be directed at the amended complaint.

II. The Proper Defendants

As an initial matter, the LFUCG Division of Police is a division of the LFUCG's Department of Public Safety. LFUCG Charter, ยง 6.07. It is not a legal entity separate and apart from the LFUCG. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the LFUCG Division of Police - identified by the Plaintiff as the Lexington Police Department - as a party to this action.

As to the claims asserted against Mayor Jim Gray and Division of Police Chief Ronnie Bastin, as the Plaintiff states in his response to the motion to dismiss, the amended complaint asserts only "official-capacity" claims against these defendants. (DE 21, Response at 6.) All of these claims must be dismissed. "A suit against an individual in his official capacity is the equivalent of a suit against the governmental entity." Matthew v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994); Commonwealth v. Harris, 59 S.W.3d 896, 899 (Ky. 2001). Because the claims against Mayor Gray, Chief Bastin, and the officers in their official capacities are regarded as claims against the county, these claims will be dismissed.

Thus, the remaining Defendants are the LFUCG and Officer Mitchell and the unknown officers, in their individual capacities only.

III. The Claims

A. Claims against Officer Mitchell

In the initial motion to dismiss, Officer Mitchell moved to dismiss all of the Plaintiff's constitutional claims asserted against him except the claim that he violated the Plaintiff's Fourth-Amendment rights. Officer Mitchell also moved to dismiss the state law claims of ...


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