United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Russell, Senior Judge.
matter is before the Court upon Defendant Lynn Pryor's
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [R. 4.] Plaintiff
Benjamin Walden responded, [R. 6], and Pryor replied, [R. 9].
With the leave of the Court, Walden filed a Sur-reply. [R.
12.] Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for adjudication. For
the reasons stated herein, Pryor's Motion to Dismiss, [R.
4], is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
factual allegations as set out in the Complaint, [R. 1-1],
and taken as true are as follows. On or about February 3,
2017, Pryor commenced a criminal action as a Commonwealth
Attorney in Christian County, Kentucky against Walden for the
following charges: 1st degree Sodomy; 1st Degree Rape;
Assault 4th Degree, Minor Injury; Promoting Prostitution;
Official Misconduct, 1st Degree; Terroristic Threatening, 3rd
Degree; Intimidating a Participant in a Legal Process;
Retaliating Against a Participant in a Legal Process; and
Tampering with a Witness. [R. 1-1 at 2-3.] Walden alleges
that Pryor caused a warrant to be issued for Walden's
claims that Pryor interviewed the alleged victims and
witnesses involved in the charges, including showing an
alleged victim a photo of Walden for identification purposes.
[Id. at 3.] Walden also claims that Pryor presented
the charges to the Christian County Grand Jury before the
Kentucky State Police concluded their investigation.
October 22, 2018, Walden filed a complaint in Christian
Circuit Court against Pryor, in her individual and official
capacity, asserting claims of malicious prosecution,
“the tort of defamation and libel, ” the tort of
outrage, and “for violation of 42 U.S.C. section
1983.” [R. 1-1.] On November 13, 2018, Walden's
complaint was removed to federal court. [R. 1.] Currently
before the Court is Pryor's Motion to Dismiss for Failure
to State a Claim. [R. 4.]
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to survive a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a party must
“plead enough ‘factual matter' to raise a
‘plausible' inference of wrongdoing.” 16630
Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B.,
727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim becomes
plausible “when the plaintiff 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 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). When considering a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must presume all
of the factual allegations in the complaint are true and draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc., 552 F.3d at 434 (citing
Great Lakes Steel, 716 F.2d at 1105). “The court need
not, however, accept unwarranted factual inferences.”
Id. (citing Morgan v. Church's Fried
Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987)). Should the
well-pleaded facts support no “more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, ” then dismissal is
warranted. Iqbal, 556 U.S at 679. The Court may grant a
motion to dismiss “only if, after drawing all
reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint
in favor of the plaintiff, the complaint still fails to
allege a plausible theory of relief.” Garceau v.
City of Flint, 572 Fed.Appx. 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014)
(citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677- 79).
asserts five claims against Pryor both in her official and
individual capacities: malicious prosecution,
“defamation and libel, ” tort of outrage, false
imprisonment, and “violation of 42 U.S.C. section
1983.” [R. 1-1 at 2; 7.] The Court will first address
Walden's official capacity claims followed by the
individual capacity claims.
recited above, Walden asserts five claims against Pryor in
her official capacity. In her Motion to Dismiss, Pryor argues
that, as she was serving as a Commonwealth's Attorney at
the time in question, she is immune from suit in her official
capacity. Therefore, the claims against her in her official
capacity should be dismissed under the doctrine of sovereign
immunity. [R. 4-1 at 4-5.] Walden initially disputes this
argument, but he appears to argue the issue of prosecutorial
immunity in one's individual capacity instead of official
capacity. [R. 6-1 at 3.] More explicitly, after noting that
“a public officer sued in an official capacity is
afforded the same immunity as the pertinent governmental
entity, ” Walden goes on to explain the underlying
rationale for absolute immunity in a prosecutor's
individual capacity. [Id.] Although the Court will
address Walden's claims in relation to Pryor's
individual capacity, the Court will first address the claims
against Pryor in her official capacity.
suits . . . ‘generally represent [ ] another way of
pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is
an agent.'” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.
159, 166 (1985) (quoting Monell v. New York City
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 n.55
(1978)). Because Pryor is an officer of the Commonwealth of
Kentucky, the claims brought against her in her official
capacity are deemed a claim against the Commonwealth of
Kentucky. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 166.
The Eastern District of Kentucky has put it in a slightly
different way: “The Commonwealth's Attorney's
office, which is a constitutionally-established office of the
state government, is without question an integral extension
of the state such that suit against the office ‘may be
legitimately classified as “brought against the
Commonwealth.”'” Joseph v. Office of Perry
Cty. Com. Attorney, No. CIV.A. 6:14-97-KKC, 2014 WL
2742796, at *2 (E.D. Ky. June 16, 2014). Either way, the
Supreme Court of Kentucky has held that “[i]t is an
inherent attribute of a sovereign state that precludes the
maintaining of any suit against the state unless the state
has given its consent or otherwise waived its
immunity.” Yanero v. Davis, 65 S.W.3d 510, 517
(Ky. 2001). “Section 231 [of the Kentucky constitution]
limits sovereign immunity to ‘suits . . . against
the Commonwealth.'” Kentucky Cntr. for the Arts
Corp. v. Berns, 801 S.W.2d 327, 329 (Ky. 1990). Thus,
the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Attorney's Office
are both shielded from suit unless the General Assembly has
waived its immunity. Ky. Const. § 231. The Court is
unaware of any act by the General Assembly waiving immunity
in the present case, and the plaintiff has not indicated
otherwise. Thus, the state law claims against Pryor in her
official capacity are precluded under the doctrine of
is also precluded from bringing a § 1983 claim. Section
1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides
remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere. As
such, it has two basic requirements: (1) the deprivation of
federal statutory or constitutional rights by (2) a person
acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins,
487 U.S. 42, 48, (1988); Flint v. Ky. Dep't of
Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). In Will v.
Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989), the
Supreme Court held that “a State is not a person within
the meaning of § 1983, ” Id. at 64, and
applied that holding to “governmental entities that are
considered ‘arms of the State.'” Id.
at 70; Jordan v. Kentucky, Civil Action No.
3:09CV-424-M, 2009 WL 2163113, at *4 (W.D. Ky. July 16,
2009) (finding Commonwealth's Attorney's Office is
not a “person” subject to suit under §
1983); York v. Warren County Commonwealth Attorney's
Office, No. 1:08CV-P16-R, 2008 WL 339505, at *2 (W.D.
Ky. Feb. 6, 2008) (“[T]he Warren County Commonwealth
Attorney's Office is not a ‘person' under the
Act.”). Because neither the Commonwealth of Kentucky
nor the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office is a
“person” subject to suit under § 1983, the
§ 1983 claim must be dismissed for failure to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted.
under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a
state and its agencies may not be sued in federal court,
regardless of the relief sought, unless the state has waived
its immunity or Congress has overridden it. Puerto Rico
Aqueduct and Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc.,
506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993); Pennhurst State Sch. &
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 124 (1984); Alabama
v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 78l, 782 (1978). The Commonwealth of
Kentucky has not waived its immunity, Adams v.
Morris, 90 Fed.Appx. 856, 857 (6th Cir. 2004), and in
enacting § 1983, Congress did not intend to override the
traditional sovereign immunity of the states. Whittington
v. Milby, 928 F.2d 188 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Quern
v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979)). Thus, the Eleventh
Amendment further bars a § 1983 action against the
Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Commonwealth's
Attorney's Office. See York, 2008 WL 339505 at *2
(“[T]he Eleventh Amendment acts as a bar to all claims
for relief against the Warren County Commonwealth
Attorney's Office.”); Ferritto v. Ohio
Dep't of Highway Safety, No. 90-3475, 1991 WL 37824,
at * 2 (6th Cir. Mar.19, 1991) (“The Eleventh Amendment
prohibits actions against states and state agencies under
section 1983 and section 1985.”).
Pryor's Motion to Dismiss as it pertains to Walden's
claims against Pryor in her official capacity is GRANTED.
to federal law, Walden's complaint alleges a
“violation of 42 U.S.C. section 1983.” While
Walden does not specify what constitutional right was
violated by Pryor, he asserts a claim for malicious
prosecution, which the Sixth Circuit recognizes as a
“separate constitutionally cognizable claim”
under the Fourth Amendment that encompasses “wrongful
investigation, prosecution, conviction, and
incarceration.” Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d
606, 616 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Sykes v. Anderson,625 F.3d 294, 308 (6th Cir. 2010)). In support of his claim
that Pryor “maliciously and with no probable cause
commenced the above described criminal action against
Plaintiff, ” Walden alleges two actions taken by Pryor.
First, Walden claims that Pryor “acted outside the
scope of her duties as a Prosecutor and acted as an
investigator when she interviewed the alleged victims and
witnesses, ” including “showing the alleged
victim the Facebook photo of the Plaintiff for
identification.” [R. 1-1 at 3.] Second, Walden alleges
that Pryor “maliciously and with no probable cause
presented said charges to the ...