United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge
before the Court is the Partial Motion to Dismiss of
Defendants City of Tempe (“Tempe”), Tempe Police
Department (“TPD”), Officer Ratko Aleksis, and
Officer Blake Dunn (collectively, “the Tempe
Defendants”). (Doc. 36). For the following reasons, the
Court grants the motion.
Prentice Williams brings this suit, pro se, against the Tempe
Defendants and Defendants Albertsons and Safeway Inc. Mr.
Williams is an African-American resident of Tempe, Arizona.
In Count I, Mr. Williams alleges that on July 8, 2015,
Officer Aleksis stopped him without probable cause. Officer
Aleksis allegedly told Mr. Williams that he was stopped
because his car was parked in a “well[-]known drug
area.” (Doc. 27, p. 2). Officer Aleksis allegedly
requested Mr. Williams's driver's license and ran a
warrants check. Mr. Williams states that Officer Aleksis did
not let him go for over an hour until a Lieutenant McHenry
was brought to the scene. Mr. Williams states that Officer
Aleksis stopped him because “I'm black, due to
historical harassment & illegal surveillance.”
Id. In Count II, Mr. Williams alleges that on May 8,
2016, a Safeway store manager, J.D. Hall, provided an
“environment, opportunity & atmosphere for Off.
Blake Dunn [ ], not in uniform, with no suspicion or probable
cause, to assaulted and harass me.” Id. at p.
3. Mr. Williams further states that Mr. Hall targeted him for
“TPD's racist toxic culture, infecting Off.
Dunn's, (acting with glee) due to my race.”
Id. The Tempe Defendants move to dismiss all claims
except the Fourth Amendment claim against Officer Aleksis.
Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a
claim.” Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732
(9th Cir. 2001). “In deciding such a motion, all
material allegations of the complaint are accepted as true,
as well as all reasonable inferences to be drawn from
them.” Id. However, “the tenet that a
court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in
a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To
survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than
“labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action”; it
must contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A
plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. “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. “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.”
Court must construe the complaint liberally since Plaintiff
is proceeding pro se. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S.
5, 9 (1980) (“It is settled law that the allegations of
[a pro se plaintiff's] complaint, ‘however
inartfully pleaded' are held ‘to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.'”) (citations omitted); Eldridge v.
Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (“The
Supreme Court has instructed federal courts to liberally
construe the ‘inartful pleading' of pro se
litigants.”) (citations omitted); Ashelman v.
Pope, 793 F.2d 1072. 1078 (9th Cir. 1986) (“[W]e
hold [plaintiff's] pro se pleadings to a less stringent
standard than formal pleadings prepared by lawyers.”).
Plaintiff's Complaint liberally, Plaintiff alleges both
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations against Officers
Aleksis and Dunn. These constitutional complaints are
cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Defendants
concede that, at this point in the litigation, Plaintiff has
sufficiently alleged a Fourth Amendment violation against
Officer Aleksis. Defendants challenge the legal sufficiency
of the remaining claims. Plaintiff alleges that Officer
Aleksis stopped and arrested him because he is black. To
succeed on an equal protection claim, Plaintiff “must
prove that [the officer] ‘acted in a discriminatory
manner and that the discrimination was
intentional.'” Bingham v. City of Manhattan
Beach, 341 F.3d 939, 948 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736,
740 (9th Cir. 2000)) (overruled on other grounds). The Ninth
Circuit has held that where a plaintiff “is
African-American, the officer is white, and they disagree
about the reasonableness of the traffic stop, . . . [w]e
disagree that this is sufficient to state an equal protection
claim.” Bingham, 341 F.3d at 948. Other than
stating that he is black and alleging that Officer Aleksis
had no reasonable suspicion, Plaintiff has alleged no further
facts to support that Officer Aleksis acted in a
discriminatory manner and with a discriminatory intent. For a
similar reason, the Court also dismisses the Fourteenth
Amendment claims against Officer Dunn. Plaintiff alleges that
Officer Dunn assaulted and harassed him at a Safeway store
and “act[ed] with glee” due to his race. (Doc.
27, p. 3). This allegation is insufficient to state a claim
for an equal protection violation. As to the Fourth Amendment
claim, Plaintiff simply alleges that Officer Dunn
“assaulted and harass[ed]” him. Id.
Plaintiff states that this occurred at a Safeway and that
Officer Dunn was not in uniform. Plaintiff has not alleged
that he was arrested or stopped without reasonable suspicion.
The Court dismisses Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims
against Officer Dunn and the Fourteenth Amendment claim
against Officer Aleksis.
move to dismiss the City of Tempe from this action. Local
governments “can be sued directly under § 1983 for
monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where, as here,
the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements
or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or
decision officially adopted and promulgated by that
body's officers.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690
(1978). Similarly, local governments may be “sued for
constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental
‘custom' even though such a custom has not received
formal approval through the body's official
decisionmaking channels.” Id. at 690-91.
However, “a municipality cannot be held liable
solely because it employs a tortfeasor--or, in other
words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983
on a respondeat superior theory.” Id.
at 691. Thus, Plaintiff cannot proceed with a suit against
the City of Tempe simply because the City of Tempe employs
Officers Aleksis and Dunn; Plaintiff must allege that the
City of Tempe itself has a policy, regulation, or custom
which violates the law. Plaintiff's Complaint is sparse,
but he does allege “historical harassment & illegal
surveillance” and “TPD's racist toxic
culture.” (Doc. 27, pp. 2-3). Even construing
Plaintiff's allegations liberally, as the Court must with
a pro se plaintiff, he has not alleged a policy or custom of
discrimination based on race at the Tempe Police Department.
also move to dismiss the Tempe Police Department. In Arizona,
“actions brought by or against a county or incorporated
city or town shall be in its corporate name.” Ariz. R.
Civ. P. 17(d). Arizona cities are empowered to
“establish and regulate the police of the town, to
appoint watchmen and policemen, and to remove them, and to
prescribe their powers and duties.” A.R.S. §
9-240(B)(12). The Tempe Police Department, therefore, is a
subpart of the City of Tempe and not a separate entity for
the purposes of a lawsuit. See, e.g., Gotbaum v.
City of Phoenix, 617 F.Supp.2d 878, 886 (D. Ariz. 2008);
Joseph v. Dillard's, Inc., No.
08-cv-1478-PHX-NVW, 2009 WL 5185393, at *5 (D. Ariz. filed
Dec. 24, 2009). Moreover, where the City of Tempe is already
named as a Defendant, the Tempe Police Department's
“presence is superfluous.” Scotti v. City of
Phoenix, No. 09-cv-1264-PHX-MHM, 2010 WL 994649, at *5
(D. Ariz. filed March 7, 2010). The Court grants
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Tempe Police Department
as a non-jural entity.
has failed to plead sufficient facts to establish a Fourth
Amendment claim against Officer Dunn, a Fourteenth Amendment
claim against Officer Dunn, or a Fourteenth Amendment claim
against Officer Aleksis. Similarly, Plaintiff has not plead
sufficient facts to state a claim against the City of Tempe.
The Tempe Police Department is ...