United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge
Hubbard ("Rodney") and his mother, Savannah Hubbard
("Savannah"), 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).
morning of September 11, 2015, Holmes executed a traffic stop
of a vehicle driving north on Route 29 in Albemarle County,
Virginia. Rodney was driving the vehicle, and Savannah was
riding in the passenger seat. At some point thereafter, three
other officers arrived at the scene of the traffic stop.
stopping the plaintiffs' vehicle, Holmes directed Rodney
to exit the vehicle, searched his person, and placed him in
handcuffs in the back of Holmes' patrol car. Holmes then
searched Savannah's person and placed her in the back of
another patrol car.
with the assistance of the other officers, then conducted a
warrantless search of the plaintiffs' vehicle. The search
lasted approximately two hours. No contraband or evidence of
a crime was found during the search. Rodney was ultimately
issued a summons for driving a motor vehicle while his
privilege to do so was suspended by the Commonwealth of
and Savannah 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. ¶ 13. Prior to
the events 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. ¶ 14. The
plaintiffs allege that no disciplinary or other corrective
action was taken as a result of any of those complaints.
February of 2016, Rodney and Savannah 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 Amendments to the United States Constitution
to be free from unreasonable seizures." Id.
¶ 16. In Count II, the plaintiffs claim that Holmes
deprived Rodney of his "right to be free from the use of
excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments." Id. ¶ 20. In Counts Three and
Four, the plaintiffs claim that Holmes deprived them of their
"right to be free from unreasonable searches in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments."
Id. ¶¶ 23, 25. In Count Five, 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.
¶ 26. In Count Six, 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 ...