United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge.
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.
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.)
Standard of Review
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).
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.
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).
“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)).
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, ...