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Jenkins v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

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

January 8, 2018



          David J. Hale, Judge

         Plaintiff Isaiah Jenkins brings this action against Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government and Louisville Metro Police Department Detectives Scott Beatty and Emily McKinley, asserting claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Kentucky common law. (Docket No. 1-2) The dispute arises from Jenkins's incarceration while awaiting trial on charges of complicity to commit murder and complicity to commit robbery. (Id., PageID # 7) Jenkins alleges that despite knowing he was not guilty, Beatty and McKinley pursued charges against him and falsified evidence in order to secure an indictment. (Id., PageID # 8) Jenkins also alleges that Louisville Metro facilitated this unconstitutional behavior. (Id., PageID # 20) Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (D.N. 5; D.N. 13) For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny without prejudice in part Defendants' motions. The Court also finds that Jenkins should be allowed an opportunity to file an amended complaint to plead his fabrication-of-evidence claim under the correct constitutional amendment.

         I. Background

         The following facts are set out in the complaint and accepted as true for purposes of the present motions. Hill v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mich., 409 F.3d 710, 716 (6th Cir. 2005).

         On January 28, 2015, Jenkins attended a social gathering at Raven McDowell's apartment with his acquaintance Maunyeh Haggard. (D.N. 1-2, PageID # 9) At the gathering, Haggard and fellow attendee DeSean Roper got into an argument, which quickly escalated. (Id., PageID # 10) Haggard pulled out a gun and told Jenkins to reach into Roper's pants to retrieve money Roper allegedly owed Haggard. (Id.) Jenkins refused to comply, and both he and Haggard were eventually kicked out of the apartment. (Id.) Roper's brother Andrew Key-Roper arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. (Id.) In the hallway outside the apartment, Haggard approached Key-Roper, who pulled out a knife. (Id.) Upon seeing the knife, Haggard fired a fatal shot at Key-Roper. (Id.) Jenkins maintains that he was merely a bystander during the entire ordeal. (Id., PageID # 12)

         Detective Beatty arrived at the apartment afterwards. (Id., PageID # 11) Upon interviewing some of the party's attendees-none of whom implicated Jenkins in the attempted robbery or shooting-Beatty requested Louisville Police Department's Viper Unit to bring Haggard and Jenkins to the station. (Id.) Beatty interviewed both men. (Id.) In his interview with Jenkins, Beatty allegedly lied to Jenkins, telling him that Haggard had brought Jenkins's name up during Haggard's interview. (Id., PageID # 12) Following the interview, Beatty informed Jenkins that he was being charged with complicity to commit murder and complicity to commit robbery. (Id., PageID # 13-14) According to Jenkins, Beatty based this decision on an alleged admission by Jenkins that he knew Haggard was going to rob Roper-an admission Jenkins denies ever making. (Id., PageID # 14)

         Jenkins was then formally arrested and eventually indicted by a grand jury. (Id., PageID # 15) Jenkins alleges that the arrest and indictment were based on reports prepared by Detectives Beatty and McKinley that contained blatant misstatements-including fabricated eyewitness statements-and grand jury testimony from Beatty that contained false and misleading statements. (Id., PageID # 14-15) Jenkins moved to quash the indictment based on false and misleading testimony on February 15, 2016. (Id., PageID # 16) On February 16, 2016, Jenkins entered an agreement with the Commonwealth in which he stipulated to the existence of probable cause in exchange for dismissal of the charges. (See D.N. 5-2) Because of his inability to post bail, Jenkins had remained incarcerated from his arrest date until the date of the agreement. (See D.N. 1-2, PageID # 16)

         Jenkins filed this action in Jefferson County, Kentucky Circuit Court on February 15, 2017. (D.N. 1-2) In his complaint, Jenkins asserts four claims against Defendants Beatty and McKinley: (i) malicious prosecution under § 1983, (ii) malicious prosecution under Kentucky common law, (iii) violations of due process under § 1983, and (iv) failure to intervene under § 1983. (Id., PageID # 17-20) Jenkins also asserts a § 1983 claim against Louisville Metro for its allegedly unconstitutional policies, customs, or practices. (Id., PageID # 20)

         On March 13, 2017, Louisville Metro removed the action to this Court. (D.N. 1) Louisville Metro now seeks judgment on the pleadings. (D.N. 5) Defendants Beatty and McKinley join in Louisville Metro's motion. (D.N. 13)

         II. Standard

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). CoMa Ins. Agency, Inc. v. Safeco Ins. Co., 526 Fed.Appx. 465, 467 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Wee Care Child Ctr., Inc. v. Lumpkin, 680 F.3d 841, 846 (6th Cir. 2012)). Thus, to survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, “a complaint must contain 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). To meet this standard, a plaintiff must “plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A complaint whose “well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct” does not satisfy the Federal Rules' pleading requirements and will not withstand a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Id. at 679; see also CoMa Ins. Agency, 526 Fed.Appx. at 467. As is the case with a motion to dismiss, for purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court is required to “accept all the [plaintiff's] factual allegations as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the [plaintiff].” Hill, 409 F.3d at 716. Finally, the Court may consider public records without converting a motion for judgment on the pleadings to a motion for summary judgment. Barany-Snyder v. Weiner, 539 F.3d 327, 332 (6th Cir. 2008).

         III. Discussion

         a. Jenkins's § 1983 Malicious-Prosecution Claim

         In Count I of his complaint, Jenkins asserts a claim of malicious prosecution under § 1983 against Detectives Beatty and McKinley. (D.N. 1-2, PageID # 17-18) Malicious prosecution under § 1983 consists of four elements:

(1) a criminal prosecution was initiated against the plaintiff, and the defendant made[, ] influenced, or participated in the decision to prosecute; (2) there was a lack of probable cause for the criminal prosecution; (3) the plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty, as understood under Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, apart from the initial seizure, and (4) the criminal proceeding was resolved in the plaintiff's favor.

King v. Harwood, 852 F.3d 568, 580 (6th Cir. 2017) (alteration in original) (quoting Sanders v. Jones, 845 F.3d 721, 728 (6th Cir. 2017)).

         In their motion to dismiss, Defendants argue that because Jenkins stipulated to the existence of probable cause, he cannot establish that the criminal proceeding was resolved in his favor and that the officers lacked probable cause. (D.N. 5-1, PageID # 40) Decisions from the Court support Defendants' position. This Court has found that “a stipulation of probable cause in an underlying criminal proceeding bars subsequent claims for unlawful search, false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution [under § 1983].” Shemwell v. Heller, No. 3:10- cv-336-CRS, 2012 WL 1038114, at *3 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 27, 2012) (citing Trimbur v. Ky. Lottery Corp., 64 Fed.Appx. 970, 974 (6th Cir. 2003)). In the Court's view, any compromise between the prosecution and the accused is not a termination in the accused's favor. See Jungblom v. Hopkins Cty., Ky., No. 4:11-CV-00126-JHM, 2013 WL 1187949, at *6 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 21, 2013) (noting that the primary reason for barring malicious-prosecution claims in light of a stipulation of probable cause is that the accused “[gives] up something to secure the dismissal of the charges and the dismissal was not the unilateral act of the prosecutor” (internal citation and quotations omitted)).

         Other federal courts have ruled similarly. See, e.g., Wilkins v. DeReyes, 528 F.3d 790, 802-03 (10th Cir. 2008) (finding that “abandonment of the proceedings is ordinarily insufficient to constitute a favorable termination if the prosecution is abandoned pursuant to an agreement of compromise with the accused” (internal alteration and quotation omitted)); Mpala v. Funaro, No. 3:13CV00252 (SALM), 2015 WL 7312427, at *6 (D. Conn. Nov. 19, 2015) (finding that the plaintiff's stipulation of probable cause barred his § 1983 malicious-prosecution action); Canario v. City of New York, No. 05 Civ. 9343(LBS), 2006 WL 2015651, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 12, 2006) (noting that a stipulation of probable cause ordinarily requires the court to grant judgment on the pleadings on a § 1983 malicious-prosecution claim); Dobiecki v. Palacios, 829 F.Supp. 229, 235 (N.D. Ill. 1993) (“Where the case is disposed of in a manner that leaves the question of the accused's innocence unresolved, there generally can be no malicious prosecution claim by the accused.”).

         There are two notable opinions that reached a contrary conclusion. These decisions are distinguishable from the case presented here, however. In Harris v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, the Court held that a prior stipulation to probable cause did not bar the plaintiff's malicious-prosecution claim. No. 3:11-CV-338-H, 2012 WL 777263, at *3 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 8, 2012). In so holding, the Court noted an affidavit submitted by the plaintiff's counsel in the underlying action, indicating that counsel entered the stipulation without consultation or consent from the plaintiff. Id. at *2. The trial transcript also indicated that the plaintiff was not present when the court approved the stipulation/dismissal. Id. Here, Jenkins was present in the courtroom when the court approved the stipulation/dismissal. (See D.N. 6, Dismissal Hearing, 2/16/16, at 10:32-10:33) The judge asked Jenkins or his counsel to specifically answer whether they stipulated to the existence of probable cause. (Id.) Jenkins's counsel turned toward Jenkins and answered the presiding judge, ...

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