United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge
Johnson and Delmar Canada filed this civil rights action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Andrew Holmes, a police
officer employed by the Albemarle County Police Department;
three unknown police officers; and Albemarle County
("the County"). Holmes and the County have moved to
dismiss the plaintiffs' amended complaint pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For
the following reasons, Holmes' motion will be granted in
part and denied in part, and the County's motion will be
following facts, taken from the plaintiffs' amended
complaint, are accepted as true for purposes of the
defendants' motions to dismiss. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
and Canada are African-American. The couple resides in an
apartment in Albemarle County, Virginia.
April 26, 2014, Holmes, who is Caucasian, executed a traffic
stop of Canada's vehicle, and issued him a summons for
driving on a suspended license. The following day, Holmes
sought and obtained a warrant to search the plaintiffs'
apartment for the suspension notification form issued by the
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV").
Prior to seeking the warrant, Holmes verified with the DMV
that Canada's license had been suspended in March of
2013, and that a suspension notice had been sent by the DMV.
included this information in an affidavit submitted in
support of the search warrant. In the affidavit, Holmes
stated as follows:
Delmar Gene Canada was operating a motor vehicle on
Greenbrier Drive in Albemarle County on April 26, 2014.
Canada's privilege to drive was suspended on March 28,
2013 for violation of code § 46.2.-32008). Officer
Holmes stopped Canada and issued Canada a summons in
violation of code 46.2-301, driving while suspended. Canada
acknowledged his address to be 141 Green Turtle Lane
apartment 6 Charlottesville, VA 22901 which was confirmed by
DMV records. A DMV driver's transcript indicated that
Canada changed his address to 141 Green Turtle Lane apartment
6 Charlottesville, VA 22901 on January 31, 2013, prior to the
suspension. DMV records also indicate that a suspension
notification was mailed 1st class to Canada at this address.
Pls.' Br. in Opp'n to Holmes' Mot. to Dismiss Ex.
1. Holmes also indicated that he had been employed by the
Albemarle County Police Department for over nine years, and
that he was aware from his training and experience "that
individuals keep, store, and maintain motor vehicle
documentation and suspension notification forms in their
possessions, residences, surrounding curtilage, and inside of
afternoon of April 27, 2014, an Albemarle County magistrate
issued a search warrant that directed officers to
"forthwith search" the plaintiffs' apartment,
"either in day or night, " for the "Department
of Motor Vehicle suspension notification form for Delmar Gene
Canada." Id. The warrant indicated that it was
issued in relation to the offense of "[o]perating a
motor vehicle on the public roadways of the Commonwealth
while license or privilege to drive has been suspended in
violation of Virginia code 46.2-301." Id.
Holmes and three unknown police officers executed the search
warrant around midnight on May 2, 2014. They searched the
apartment for approximately two hours and were ultimately
unable to locate the DMV notification form. While the search
was conducted, the plaintiffs were prohibited from leaving
the apartment or moving within the apartment without
plaintiffs allege that Holmes "has a history and
practice of targeting African-American males for vehicle
stops and intrusive searches, " and that "[t]he
application for a search warrant in this case and the search
itself were motivated, in significant part, by the [the
plaintiffs'] race." Am. Compl. ¶ 19. Prior to
the search at issue in this case, "[n]umerous
complaints" had been lodged by African-American citizens
of Albemarle County regarding Holmes' conduct in
"improperly stopping cars and unlawfully searching
people and places." Id. ¶ 20. The
plaintiffs allege that no disciplinary or other corrective
action was taken as a result of any of those complaints.
February of 2016, Johnson and Canada filed suit against
Holmes in the Circuit Court of Albemarle County. Holmes
removed the case to this court on the basis of federal
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
April 8, 2016, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint
against Holmes, three unknown police officers, and the
County. The amended complaint asserts causes of action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count I, the plaintiffs claim that
Holmes "violated [their] rights protected by the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to
be free from unreasonable searches." Id. ¶
22. In Count II, the plaintiffs claim that Holmes
"violated [their] rights protected by the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments ... to be free from unreasonable
seizures." Id. ¶ 26. In Count III, the
plaintiffs claim that the conduct described in the complaint
"violated [their] right to equal protection of the law
as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment." Id.
and the County have moved to dismiss the amended complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The court held a hearing on the
motions on June 20, 2016.The motions have been fully briefed and
are ripe for review.
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the
plaintiffs' complaint, which must contain "a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); see also
Presley v. City of Charlottesville,464 F.3d 480, 483
(4th Cir. 2006). When deciding a motion to dismiss under this
rule, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations and draw all reasonable factual inferences in the
plaintiffs' favor. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94;
see also Vitol S.A. v. Primerose Shipping Co., 708
F.3d 527, 539 (4th Cir. 2013). "While a complaint
attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to
provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action will not do."
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted). To survive
dismissal for ...