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Hughes v. Fraley

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 28, 2017

Michael Kurt Hughes, Plaintiff,
Jacob Fraley, et al., Defendants.


          Eric J. Markovich United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         In this § 1983 action, Plaintiff Michael Hughes alleges that Defendants violated his civil rights when Defendant Fraley falsely arrested him without probable cause (Count One), used excessive force against Hughes by taking him to the ground, striking him in the head, and restraining him (Count Two), and falsely imprisoned Hughes by forcibly restraining and handcuffing him and booking Hughes into the Pima County Jail (Count Four). Hughes also alleges that Defendant Martino used excessive force by kicking him in the back when he was fully restrained on the ground (Count Three).

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). (Doc. 13). Defendants argue for dismissal of Counts One, Two, and Four pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.

         The motion has been fully briefed, and the Court heard oral arguments on April 18, 2017. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         II. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Michael Hughes filed this action in Pima County Superior Court on June 2, 2016, and Defendants removed the case to this Court on June 24, 2016. (Doc. 1). This matter is now proceeding on Plaintiff's FAC, filed on September 12, 2016. (Doc. 12). Plaintiff's FAC states four claims for relief: Count One, false arrest against Defendant Fraley; Count Two, excessive force against Defendant Fraley; Count Three, excessive force against Defendant Martino; and Count Four, false imprisonment against Defendant Fraley.[1]

         Plaintiff's claims stem from his arrest following a domestic violence incident at his residence, where Plaintiff was the alleged victim.[2] Defendant Fraley responded to the domestic violence call, but Plaintiff left his residence prior to Defendant Fraley's arrival. Plaintiff's girlfriend told Fraley that Plaintiff left the house with a large kitchen knife. When Plaintiff returned home, Fraley observed that Plaintiff had cuts on his arms consistent with self-inflicted wounds. Fraley spoke with Plaintiff in his front yard and told Plaintiff to take his hands out of his pockets, but Plaintiff did not comply. Fraley told Plaintiff that he was not under arrest but that Fraley needed to talk to him. Plaintiff walked into his house and attempted to close the door behind him, and Fraley pushed the door open. In his report, Fraley stated that he pushed the door open because Plaintiff was a danger to himself and for officer safety reasons. Fraley grabbed Plaintiff's arm and told him not to go behind the door. Plaintiff was standing in his living room and had both of his hands out of his pockets. He was holding a pack of cigarettes in one hand and the other hand was empty. Fraley said “Do not do that again and listen to everything I tell you, ” and Plaintiff responded “Let me tell you something” and pointed his finger at Fraley. Fraley alleges Plaintiff attempted to grab his uniform; Fraley then attempted to grab Plaintiff's arm. Plaintiff pushed Fraley back and they both fell to the ground. Plaintiff was on top of Fraley and Fraley struck him in the face. Plaintiff and Fraley stood up, Fraley called for backup, then Fraley tackled Plaintiff to the ground and handcuffed him. Plaintiff was fully restrained on the ground. Defendant Martino saw Plaintiff kick another officer in the shins, and then Martino kicked Plaintiff in the back.

         Plaintiff was arrested for aggravated assault on a police officer and was indicted by the Pima County Grand Jury. Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss based on his unlawful detention, and Judge Eikleberry ruled that Plaintiff's detention was unlawful and unsupported by probable cause. Defendants contend that Judge Eikleberry's ruling addressed reasonable suspicion, not probable cause. The Pima County Attorney's Office subsequently dismissed the charges against Plaintiff.

         III. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court may grant a motion to dismiss when the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, ” a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” and “a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). While Rule 8 does not demand factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a pleading must allege facts sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A claim must be plausible, allowing the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         The Court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, with every doubt resolved on his behalf, and with that party's allegations taken as true. See Abramson v. Brownstein, 897 F.2d 389, 391 (9th Cir. 1990). Generally, the court only considers the face of the complaint when deciding a motion under ...

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