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Hubbard v. Holmes

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

November 3, 2016

RODNEY HUBBARD and SAVANNAH HUBBARD, Plaintiffs,
v.
ANDREW HOLMES, JOHN DOES 1-3, and ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge

         Rodney 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.

         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).

         On the 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.

         After 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.

         Holmes, 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 Virginia.

         Rodney 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.

         Procedural History

         In 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.

         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 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.

         Holmes 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.

         Standard of Review

         "The 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 ...


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