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Raub v. Bowen

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia

August 2, 2013

BRANDON RAUB, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL LEE BOWEN, et al., Defendants

Page 603

For Brandon Raub, Plaintiff: Anthony F. Troy, LEAD ATTORNEY, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC (Rich), Richmond, VA; Stephen Charles Piepgrass, William Henry Hurd, Troutman Sanders LLP, Richmond, VA.

For Daniel Lee Bowen, Russell Morgan Granderson, Michael Campbell, Defendants: Jeffrey Lee Mincks, LEAD ATTORNEY, Julie A.C. Seyfarth, Stylian P. Parthemos, Chesterfield County Attorney's Office, Chesterfield, VA.

OPINION

Page 604

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Henry E. Hudson, United States District Judge.

(Motion to Dismiss)

Brandon Raub (" Raub" ) was detained for a mental health evaluation after he was arrested by Chesterfield County, Virginia, police officers, acting in concert with federal authorities and mental health professionals. Both a state-court magistrate and a special justice found probable cause for his detention, but a state court judge ultimately reversed the detention orders and ordered Raub's release. This lawsuit ensued and several Defendants now move to dismiss the claims against them.

Based on the events surrounding his detention, Raub asserts constitutional and common law claims against two Chesterfield County police officers, two mental health professionals, [1] and ten unidentified federal agents. The police officers and mental health professionals move to dismiss based on qualified immunity and for failure to state a claim. (ECF Nos. 8, 15.) Those motions have been thoroughly briefed and the Court heard oral argument on July 26, 2013. For the reasons that follow, the motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

As required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes Raub's well-pleaded allegations to be true, and views all facts in the light most favorable to him. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan, LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). The Court's analysis at this stage is informed and constrained by the four corners of the Complaint. [2]

Page 605

Viewed according to these standards, the facts are construed as follows for purposes of resolving the Motions to Dismiss.

Raub served his country as a United States Marine, seeing active duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. (Compl. at ¶ 7.) At some point after returning home, Raub started to express political views highly critical of the government. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 15, 19.) Allegedly concerned about Raub's political beliefs, on August 16, 2012, federal agents and Chesterfield County police officers Daniel Bowen (" Bowen" ) and Russell Granderson (" Granderson" ) went to question Raub at his home. (Compl. at ¶ 15.) Bowen and Granderson were in uniform with their badges on display. ( Id. at ¶ 15.) Raub was introduced to several unidentified agents of the Secret Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation, who had allegedly instructed Bowen and Granderson to confront Raub about his political views. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 16-19.) Raub agreed to speak with the officers on the curtilage of his home, freely discussing his beliefs with all officers and agents present. ( Id. at ¶ 19.)

After conversing with Raub for a few minutes, one of the federal agents telephoned Michael Campbell (" Campbell" or collectively with Bowen and Granderson, the " County Defendants" ), a licensed psychotherapist employed by Chesterfield County, to discuss the situation. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 11, 22-23.) Although Campbell had never met, observed, or evaluated Raub, he allegedly concluded that Raub should be taken into custody as potentially dangerous. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 22-23.) Beyond that, the Complaint does not elucidate the contents of the phone conversation between Campbell and the John Doe Defendant. On Campbell's recommendation, Bowen and Granderson handcuffed Raub and arrested him without a warrant, relying on Virginia laws involving mental health evaluations. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 21-22.) [3]

Later that day, Campbell evaluated Raub. ( Id. at ¶ 29.) Around midnight that night, Campbell filed a sworn " Petition for Involuntary Admission for Treatment" (the " First Petition" ) pursuant to Va. Code § § 37.2-800 through 37.2-847. ( Id. at ¶ 30.) In the First Petition, he alleged that Raub had a mental illness and that there was a substantial likelihood that he would cause serious physical harm to others in the near future. ( Id. at ¶ 31.) Campbell attached a " Prescreening Report" in support of his request, in which he opined that Raub was " psychotic" based on a " clinical finding" that he " had long pauses before answering questions" and was " very labile w[ith] the Secret Service." ( Id. at ¶ 32.)

Soon thereafter, a magistrate reviewed the First Petition and issued a Temporary Detention Order (" TDO" ). The Magistrate found probable cause pursuant to Va. Code § 37.2-809 that Raub

Page 606

(i) has a mental illness, and that there exists a substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, the respondent will, in the near future, (a) cause serious physical harm to him/herself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm and other relevant information or (b) suffer serious harm due to his/her lack of capacity to protect him/herself from harm or to provide for his/her basic human needs, (ii) is in need of hospitalization or treatment, and (iii) is unwilling to volunteer or incapable of volunteering for hospitalization or treatment.

( Id. Ex. B.) On these findings, the magistrate ordered that Raub be taken into custody and transported to John Randolph Hospital for emergency evaluation or treatment. ( Id. ) He was held pursuant to this TDO until August 20, 2012. ( Id. at ¶ 37.) [4]

Allegedly at the behest of the federal agents involved, on August 20, 2012, LaTarsha Mason (" Mason" ) filed a " Petition for Involuntary Admission for Treatment" (the " Second Petition" ) in her capacity as a social worker working in conjunction with Chesterfield County. [5] ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 12-13, 37-40, Ex. C.) A Special Justice held a hearing on the Second Petition and found " by clear and convincing evidence that [Raub] meets the criteria for involuntary admission and treatment specified in Virginia Code § 37.2-817(C)." ( Id. at ¶ 41, Ex. D.) Specifically, he found that Raub had a mental illness, that there was a substantial likelihood that he would cause serious physical harm to others in the near future, and that less restrictive means of treatment were inappropriate. ( Id. Ex. D.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the Special Justice entered an order requiring Raub to be civilly committed for treatment for thirty days. ( Id. )

Page 607

On August 22, 2012, Raub's attorneys appealed the August 20 order and moved to suspend his detention pending appeal. ( Id. at ¶ 43.) A judge of the Circuit Court for the City of Hopewell, Virginia, held a hearing the next day and found that the Second Petition was " so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy." ( Id. at ¶ 45, Ex. E.) Raub was then released.

As a result of these events, Raub initiated the immediate action against Bowen, Granderson, Campbell, Mason, and ten " John Doe" agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and/or Secret Service. [6] Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he alleges violations of his Fourth Amendment (Count I) and First Amendment (Count III) rights against Defendants Bowen, Granderson, Campbell, and Mason. He also asserts a state law claim for false imprisonment (Count IV) against Bowen and Granderson specifically, but also against other " Defendants" indiscriminately. Each of these Defendants moves to dismiss principally on qualified immunity grounds, but also arguing that Raub fails to state a claim generally. In large part, both arguments rely heavily on extraneous evidence that goes beyond the pleadings, which the Court will not consider. See supra at n.2. Instead, the Court analyzes the arguments within the generally-applicable confines of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

" A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure " require[] only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). A complaint need not assert " detailed factual allegations," but must contain " more than labels and conclusions" or a " formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). Thus, the " [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," id. (citation omitted), to one that is " plausible on its face," id. at 570, rather than merely " conceivable." Id. In considering such a motion, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. T.G. Slater, 385 F.3d at 841 (citation omitted). Legal conclusions enjoy no such deference. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). [7]

Page 608

III. DISCUSSION

Before addressing the merits of Defendants' Motions, the Court must carefully frame the impact of the applicable standard of review. At oral argument, counsel for the County Defendants repeatedly directed the Court to the Prescreening Report, parsing the sequence of events and asking the Court to draw a number of " necessary inferences" in favor of Defendants. Specifically, they ask the Court to infer that the County Defendants had knowledge of the violent nature of Raub's Facebook posts, or at least that one of the John Doe Defendants possessed such information at the time of Raub's arrest. To draw such an inference in favor of the movant would run afoul of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard. Indeed, there is no authority allowing this Court to draw inferences in favor of a defendant when addressing a motion made under Rule 12(b)(6), and the Supreme Court has specifically rejected attempts to alter the standard of review when the defense of qualified immunity may apply. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 594-95, 118 S.Ct. 1584, 140 L.Ed.2d 759 (1998) (rejecting heightened pleading and proof standards where qualified immunity is defense). At the same time, the Court remains cognizant of the Supreme Court's admonition that qualified immunity should be addressed at the earliest possible stage. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 ...


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