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Alfaro-Garcia v. Henrico County

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

September 26, 2016

HENRICO COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


          M. Hannah Lauck United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on two motions to dismiss Plaintiff Jaime S. Alfaro- Garcia's Complaint: Defendant Henrico County's Motion to Dismiss (the "Henrico County Motion to Dismiss"), (ECF No. 4); and, Sheriff Michael L. Wade's Motion to Dismiss (the "Sheriff Wade Motion to Dismiss"), (ECF No. 6). Both motions have been filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[1] Alfaro-Garcia has responded to both motions to dismiss, (ECF Nos. 9, 10), and both defendants have replied, (ECF Nos. 11, 12). The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process.[2] The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331[3] and 1367.[4]

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will: (1) grant the Henrico County Motion to Dismiss; and, (2) grant in part and deny in part the Sheriff Wade Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) Standard

         "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) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (omission in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must assert facts that rise above speculation and conceivability to those that "show" a claim that is "plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Therefore, in order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         "If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6)..., matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, " and "[a] 11 parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998); Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985). However, "a court may consider official public records, documents central to plaintiffs claim, and documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint [without converting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one for summary judgment] so long as the authenticity of these documents is not disputed." Witthohn v. Fed. Ins. Co., 164 F.App'x 295, 396-97 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing Alt. Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33 (1st Cir. 2001); Phillips v. LCI Int'l, Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999); Gasner v. Cty. of Dinwiddie, 162 F.R.D. 280, 282 (E.D. Va. 1995)).

         Alfaro-Garcia attaches the following to his Response to the Henrico County Motion to Dismiss: (1) the Henrico County Regional Cooperation Booklet for 2013, (Pl's Resp. to Henrico County Mot. Dismiss Ex. A, ECF No. 9-1); (2) a printout of the Henrico County Community Criminal Justice Board ("CCJB") website, (Pl's Resp. to Henrico County Mot. Dismiss Ex. B, ECF No. 9-2); (3) the Annual Jail Revenues and Expenditure Report, (Pl's Resp. to Henrico County Mot. Dismiss Ex. C, ECF No. 9-3); (4) a special report titled the Criminal Alien Program: Immigration Enforcement in Travis County, Texas, (Pl's Resp. to Henrico County Mot. Dismiss Ex. D, ECF No. 9-4); (5) Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse Immigration data for "ICE Detainers Issued for Facilities by Level of Most Serious Conviction, " (Pl's Resp. to Henrico County Mot. Dismiss Ex. E, ECF No. 9-5); and, (6) an Advisory Opinion of the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, dated January 5, 2015, (Pl's Resp. to Henrico County Mot. Dismiss Ex. F, ECF No. 9-6). Alfaro-Garcia attaches to his Response to the Sheriff Wade Motion to Dismiss an outline from the Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security discussing its "Victim Notification Program." (Pl's Resp. to Wade Mot. Dismiss Ex. A, ECF No. 10-1.)

         Alfaro-Garcia did not reference these documents in the Complaint, and the documents generally do not pertain to allegations set forth therein. As the Court will explain, while Henrico County does not dispute the authenticity of these exhibits, it takes issue with Alfaro-Garcia's reference to and reliance on these documents at this procedural stage.

         II. Procedural and Factual Background

         A. Procedural Background

         Alfaro-Garcia brings each count of his Complaint against each named defendant: Henrico County, Sheriff Wade, and John Does 1 through 10 (collectively, the "Defendants"). Alfaro-Garcia alleges three counts in his Complaint. (ECF No. 1.)

Count I: "Fourteenth Amendment[5] Violation - Due Process Violation; 42 U.S.C. § 1983[6]; Va. Const, art. 1, § 11" ("Due Process Claim"). (Compl. ¶¶ 29-31.) Alfaro-Garcia's Due Process Claim consists of three allegations:
Count I. A: The John Does followed a custom, practice, or policy when they misled Alfaro-Garcia and his family "regarding the possibility of pretrial release and advised against obtaining bail, even though [Alfaro-Garcia] was eligible for and had been awarded bail." (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 29.)
Count I. B: Based on an immigration detainer request, the Defendants unlawfully detained Alfaro-Garcia after the resolution of his criminal case. (Compl. ¶¶ 26, 30.)
Count I. C: The Defendants detained Alfaro-Garcia beyond the 48-hour period set forth in the immigration detainer request. (Compl. ¶¶27, 31.)
Count II: "Fourth Amendment[7] Violation - Unlawful Seizure; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Va. Const, art. 1, § 10" ("Unlawful Seizure Claim"). (Compl. ¶¶ 32-34.) Alfaro-Garcia's Unlawful Seizure Claim consists of three allegations:
Count II. A: The John Does followed a custom, practice, or policy when they "advised and instructed" Alfaro-Garcia "not to post bail for the state criminal charge, even though [he] was eligible." (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 32.)
Count II. B: Based on the immigration detainer request, the Defendants detained Alfaro-Garcia for 48 hours "after every basis for detention under state law had expired." (Compl. ¶¶ 26, 33.)
Count II. C: The Defendants held Alfaro-Garcia beyond the 48-hour period set forth in the immigration detainer request. (Compl. ¶¶ 27, 34.)
Count III: "False Imprisonment" ("False Imprisonment Claim"). (Compl. ¶¶ 35-37.) Alfaro-Garcia's false imprisonment claim arises out of the John Does' recommendations that he not post bond and his purported detention in the absence of "any 'legal excuse.'" (Compl. ¶¶ 36-37.)

         Henrico County has moved to dismiss Counts I and II against it on the basis that it "has no involvement in the facts underlying the case." (Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Henrico County Mem. Supp.") 1, ECF No. 5.) Principally, Henrico County argues that Sheriff Wade alone "is legally responsible for operating the jail for Henrico County, Virginia." (Id.) Henrico County also has moved to dismiss Count III against it, claiming sovereign immunity. Alfaro-Garcia has responded to the Henrico County Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 9), and Henrico County has replied, (ECF No. 11).

         Sheriff Wade has moved to dismiss all claims against him on the basis that he must be afforded either sovereign immunity, immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, [8] or qualified immunity. Sheriff Wade also contends that Alfaro-Garcia cannot establish supervisory liability against him nor has he "alleged facts sufficient to show that Sheriff Wade acted personally in the deprivation of his rights." (Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Wade Mem. Supp.") 3-4, 10, ECF No. 7.) Finally, Sheriff Wade argues that Alfaro-Garcia fails to plausibly plead punitive damages. Alfaro-Garcia has responded to the Sheriff Wade Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 10), and Wade has replied, [9] (ECF No. 12).

         B. Summary of Allegations in the Complaint[10]

         On or about June 10, 2013, Alfaro-Garcia was lawfully arrested and detained at Henrico County Jail West. Following Alfaro-Garcia's arrest, the United States Department of Homeland Security (the "Department of Homeland Security") filed a "Form 1-247, Immigration Detainer -Notice of Action." (Compl. ¶ 13.) Alfaro-Garcia alleges that, "[w]hen filed with a Law Enforcement Agency (LEA) such as Henrico County Jail West, Immigration Detainers request the LEA [to] maintain custody of a subject 'for a period NOT TO EXCEED 48 HOURS, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, beyond the time when the subject would have otherwise been released."' (Id. ¶ 14.)

         On or about June 11, 2013, Alfaro-Garcia was formally charged and an unspecified court set his bail. Alfaro-Garcia and his family repeatedly inquired about the possibility of pre-trial release through bail, but John Does 1 through 7 suggested that posting bail would have no effect given the existence of the immigration detainer.[11] Alfaro-Garcia "resolved his criminal matter" at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 17, 2013. (Compl. ¶¶ 15, 17.) At that point, Alfaro-Garcia alleges, the 48-hour period stated in the immigration detainer was triggered and continued until its expiration on or about Friday, July 19, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. During the 48-hour period, the Defendants failed to provide Alfaro-Garcia with a copy of Form 1-247 or to allow him an opportunity to challenge his detention on the basis of the immigration detainer.

         Following the expiration of the 48-hour period, the Defendants continued to keep Alfaro-Garcia in custody. Counsel for Alfaro-Garcia arrived at Henrico County Jail West at some point in the evening of Friday, July 19, 2013, and requested that Alfaro-Garcia be released. John Does 8 and 9 refused to release Alfaro-Garcia and referred Alfaro-Garcia's counsel to John Doe 10, whom the Complaint identifies as a booking officer or manager. John Doe 10 acknowledged that Alfaro-Garcia was being held beyond the 48-hour period provided in the immigration detainer, but John Doe 10 refused to release Alfaro-Garcia absent authorization from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"). Subsequently, Alfaro-Garcia's counsel obtained authorization from ICE. Henrico County Jail West released Alfaro-Garcia between 11:30 p.m. on Friday, July 19, 2013, and 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 20, 2013, between 14 and 15 hours beyond expiration of the ICE detainer.

         The Complaint alleges that the "Defendants have a policy, practice, or custom of misleading inmates regarding the opportunity to be released by posting bail, solely due to the existence of an immigration detainer request, notwithstanding that the court had set bail." (Compl. ¶ 25.) The Complaint further alleges that the Defendants "have a policy, practice, or custom of detaining certain inmates for an additional 48 hours after they would normally be released, ... solely due to the existence of an immigration detainer request." (Id. ¶ 26.) According to Alfaro-Garcia's allegations, the Defendants also have a policy of detaining certain inmates beyond 48 hours even when "the immigration detainer has expired." (Id. ¶ 27.) As a result of the Defendants' actions, Alfaro-Garcia alleges that he "has suffered loss of liberty, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, mental suffering, emotional distress, stress, and other non-economic losses." (Id. ¶ 28.)

         III. Analysis

         Alfaro-Garcia brings Counts I, II, and III against each defendant, asserting his Due Process Claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, his Unlawful Seizure Claim under the Fourth Amendment, and his False Imprisonment Claim under state law. Both Henrico County and Sheriff Wade seek dismissal of all three counts, but on different grounds. Given the distinct arguments set forth by Henrico County and Sheriff Wade, the Court will address the viability of Alfaro-Garcia's Complaint separately for each defendant.

         A. Alfaro-Garcia Fails to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted Against Henrico County

         In the Complaint, Alfaro-Garcia does not delineate, in a discernible fashion, the theories upon which municipal liability against Henrico County rests. Henrico County argues that it cannot be liable for either Alfaro-Garcia's Count I Due Process Claim or his Count II Unlawful Seizure Claim because Henrico County does not have responsibility for implementing policies and practices at Henrico County Jail West. With respect to Alfaro-Garcia's Count III False Imprisonment Claim, Henrico County argues that, as a subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it must be afforded immunity from tort liability. Having reviewed the Complaint, considering all theories of liability that Alfaro-Garcia may have raised, the Court finds that settled law supports both of Henrico County's arguments. For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss all claims against Henrico County.

         1. The Court Will Dismiss Counts I and II Against Henrico County Because, Under Virginia Law, Henrico County Does Not Operate Henrico County Jail West

         Alfaro-Garcia brings his Count I Due Process Claim and his Count II Unlawful Seizure Claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides a private right of action for a violation of constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of state law. "Section 1983 ... 'is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred Hence, to establish liability under Section 1983, a plaintiff must show that the defendant, acting under color of law, violated the plaintiffs federal constitutional or statutory rights, and thereby caused the complained of injury." Brown v. Mitchell, 308 F.Supp.2d 682, 692 (E.D. Va. 2004) (citations omitted).

         When a plaintiff brings a § 1983 claim against a local government entity such as Henrico County, liability attaches only if that municipality undertakes "an official policy or custom" that "causes an unconstitutional deprivation of the plaintiffs rights." Id. (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). A policy or custom for which a municipality may be held liable can arise in four ways:

(1) through an express policy, such as a written ordinance or regulation;
(2) through the decisions of a person with final policymaking authority;
(3) through an omission, such as a failure to properly train officers, that "manifest[s] deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens"; or[, ] (4) through a practice that is so "persistent and widespread" as to constitute a "custom or usage with the force of law."

Lytle v. Doyle, 326 F.3d 463, 471 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Carter v. Morris, 164 F.3d 215, 217 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         Henrico County argues that it cannot face liability for a policy or custom affecting Alfaro-Garcia's detention at Henrico County Jail West because Henrico County has no control over the facility's policies and practices. This position has merit. A county cannot be liable under § 1983 for the actions of its sheriff in the administration of its jail because "under the law of Virginia those actions do not embody an official policy of the [county]."[12] Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1390 (4th Cir. 1993) (relying on Virginia cases addressing county liability to hold that the City of Richmond cannot face Monell liability for actions by the sheriff in administering the city jail); see also Grayson v. Peed, 195 F.3d 692, 697 (4th Cir. 1999) ("As the county has no control over policy within the jail, it bears no concomitant responsibility." (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694)); Sleeper v. City of Richmond, No. 3:12cv441, 2012 WL 3555412, at *8 (E.D. Va. Aug. 16, 2012) ("The [United States Court of Appeals for the] Fourth Circuit... has explicitly held that 'under Virginia law, the Sheriff has been granted independent authority to establish policies and procedures for the Sheriffs department.'" (quoting Strickler, 989 F.2d at 1390)).

         In spite of this well-settled statement of Virginia law, Alfaro-Garcia offers three counterarguments. First, Alfaro-Garcia argues that "Henrico County has an express policy of cooperation with [ICE]." (Pl's Resp. to Henrico County Mot. Dismiss 6, ECF No. 9.) Second, Alfaro-Garcia turns to Virginia Code § 9.1-180, [13] contending that, through its CCJB, "Henrico County has policymaking authority over the availability of pretrial services and the release of inmates." (Id. at 7.) And third, Alfaro-Garcia posits that Henrico County funds the enforcement of immigration detainer requests. Ultimately, Alfaro-Garcia suggests that, with respect to immigration detainers, "it is reasonable to conclude that Henrico County knowingly provides funds for the enforcement of a 'practice that is so persistent and widespread as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law."' (Id. at 10 (citing Lytle, 326 F.3d at 471).) Each argument fails to persuade.

         a. Henrico County's "Express Policy" of Cooperating With ICE Does Not Provide a Basis ...

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