United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge
Polk and Malcolm Cook 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.
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).
the day of June 30, 2015, Holmes executed a traffic stop of a
motor vehicle near a Kmart store in Albemarle County. Polk
was driving the vehicle, and Cook was riding in the passenger
stopping the vehicle, Holmes ordered the plaintiffs out of
the vehicle at gunpoint, and directed them to sit on a curb
in the Kmart parking lot. Holmes and three other officers
then conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle. No
contraband or evidence of a crime was found during the
search. Polk was ultimately issued a ticket for not having a
front license plate, for excess window tinting, and for
failure to have his registration in his possession. Polk and
Cook were detained for approximately three hours before the
ticket was issued by Holmes.
and Cook are African-American. They allege that Holmes, who
is Caucasian, "has a history and practice of targeting
African-American males for vehicle stops and intrusive
searches, " and that "[t]he stop and the search at
issue here were motivated, in significant part, by the race
of plaintiffs." Am. Compl. ¶ 11. Prior to the
incident 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. ¶ 13. The
plaintiffs allege that no disciplinary or other corrective
action was taken as a result of any of those complaints.
February of 2016, Polk and Cook 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
the length of their detention "constitute[d] an
independent and unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments." Am. Compl. ¶ 14. In
Count II, the plaintiffs claim that the search of Polk's
vehicle "violated his right to be free from unreasonable
searches protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments." Id. ¶ 16. In Count III, the
plaintiffs claim that the actions taken by Holmes
"violated [their] right to equal protection of the law
as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment." Id.
¶ 18. In Count IV, the plaintiffs claim that Holmes
"violated their right to be free from excessive force in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments."
Id. ¶ 20. In Count Five, the plaintiffs assert
a claim for municipal liability against the County.
and the County have moved to dismiss the amended complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The motions have been fully
briefed and are ripe for review.
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro.
178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). 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 failure to
state a claim, "a ...