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Maqablh v. Heinz

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

May 4, 2017

ALI AL MAQABLH PLAINTIFF
v.
CRYSTAL L. HEINZ, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Heinz's Motion to Dismiss [DN 19] and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply [DN 29]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision. For the following reasons, Defendant Heinz's Motion is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Ali Al Maqablh filed his Complaint in this Court alleging multiple claims against Jefferson County, Trimble County, and various Kentucky state employees regarding the criminal proceedings commenced against him and related to the contact that he had with Defendant Lindsay Alley. On December 12, 2016, upon initial screening, this Court dismissed most of Plaintiff's claims, with three exceptions. (Mem. Op. [DN 10] at 16.) Only one of those excepted claims is at issue here: “the § 1983 claims related to statutes being void for vagueness against Defendant Heinz in her official capacity.” (Id.) On February 6, 2017, Defendant Crystal Heinz, in her official capacity as the Trimble County Attorney, filed the instant Motion to Dismiss addressing this claim. (Mot. Dismiss [DN 19] at 1.)

         II. Standard of Review

         Upon a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a court “must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, ” League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted), “accept all well-pled factual allegations as true, ” id, and determine whether the “complaint . . . states a plausible claim for relief, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Under this standard, the plaintiff must provide the grounds for its entitlement to relief, which “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A plaintiff satisfies this standard only when it “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint falls short if it pleads facts “merely consistent with a defendant's liability” or if the alleged facts do not “permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id at 679. Instead, “a complaint must contain a ‘short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” Id at 663 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief” Id at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). A complaint, or portion thereof, should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted “only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief” Brown v. Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867 (6th Cir. 2000).

         III. Discussion

         The remaining claim against Defendant Heinz relates to the § 1983 claim in which Plaintiff states that “KRS 525.080 is vague and unlawful and violates [f]ederal law and [the] U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Elonis v. United States.” (Compl. [DN 1] ¶ 29.) Additionally, Plaintiff claims that KRS 519.040, “falsely reporting an incident[, ] is void for vagueness and unconstitutional.” (Id. at 43 ¶ J.) Consequently, he calls for the “[i]mmediate [s]uspsension of the Kentucky Statues KRS 519.040 AND KRS 525.080” and requests this Court to “ask the Kentucky legislature to introduce a new statute” in light of Elonis. (Id. at 44 ¶ M.) Although this claim passed initial screening, it must now be dismissed, because the Plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts which would entitle him to the relief he seeks.

         Though Plaintiff focuses mostly on the First Amendment in his void for vagueness analysis, and Defendant concentrates mainly on the due process aspect, the void for vagueness doctrine can be approached from both angles. “The Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments provide the constitutional foundation for the void-for-vagueness doctrine.” Belle Maer Harbor v. Charter Twp. of Harrison, 170 F.3d 553, 556 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing United States v. Haun, 90 F.3d 1096, 1101 (6th Cir.1996); Columbia Nat. Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1104 (6th Cir. 1995)). However, the First Amendment also allows a plaintiff to bring a claim of void for vagueness of the law because the allegedly overbroad statute potentially regulates a substantial amount of protected speech. United States v. Coss, 677 F.3d 278, 289 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Williams, 553 U.S. 285, 304 (2008)); see Vill. of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 494-95 (1982).

         Generally, “the void-for-vagueness doctrine requires that a penal statute define the criminal offense with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited and in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” Risbridger v. Connelly, 275 F.3d 565, 572 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U.S. 352, 357 (1983)); see Coss, 677 F.3d at 289. “Although the doctrine focuses both on actual notice to citizens and arbitrary enforcement, ” in fact “the more important aspect of vagueness doctrine ‘is not actual notice, but the other principal element of the doctrine-the requirement that a legislature establish minimal guidelines to govern law enforcement.'” Kolender, 461 U.S. at 357-58 (quoting Smith v. Goguen, 415 U.S. 566, 574 (1974)). To that effect, “[v]agueness may invalidate a criminal statute if it either (1) fails ‘to provide the kind of notice that will enable ordinary people to understand what conduct it prohibits' or (2) authorizes or encourages ‘arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.'” United States v. Caseer, 399 F.3d 828, 836 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v. Bowker, 372 F.3d 365, 380 (6th Cir.2004)); see City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41, 56 (1999)).

         First, Plaintiff challenges the Kentucky harassing communications statute, which reads:

(1) A person is guilty of harassing communications when, with intent to intimidate, harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:
(a) Communicates with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telegraph, mail, or any other form of electronic or written communication in a manner which causes annoyance or alarm and serves no purpose of legitimate communication;
(b) Makes a telephone call, whether or not conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate communication; or
(c) Communicates, while enrolled as a student in a local school district, with or about another school student, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, the Internet, telegraph, mail, or any other form of electronic or written communication in a manner which a reasonable person under the circumstances should know would cause the other student to suffer fear of physical harm, ...

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