Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Johnson v. Holmes

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

September 6, 2016

BIANCA JOHNSON and DELMAR CANADA, Plaintiffs,
v.
ANDREW HOLMES, JOHN DOES 1-3, and ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge

         Bianca 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 denied.

         Factual Background

         The 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).

         Johnson and Canada are African-American. The couple resides in an apartment in Albemarle County, Virginia.

         On 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.

         Holmes 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 vehicles." Id.

         On the 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 permission.

         The 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.

         Procedural History

         In 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.

         On 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. ¶ 28.

         Holmes 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.[1]The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for review.

         Standard of Review

         A Rule 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.