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Ahmed v. Warehouse Distributing Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

September 14, 2017

SK JALAL AHMED PLAINTIFF
v.
WAREHOUSE DISTRIBUTING COMPANY; TOM TATUM, II; MARCUS VADEN; CONWAY COUNTY; and DOES 1-10 DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          J. LEON HOLMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action arises out of the prosecution of SK Jalal Ahmed for a hot check written by another individual. Authorities arrested Ahmed with a warrant in New York and transported him to Conway County, Arkansas, where prosecutor Tom Tatum II dismissed the case. Ahmed commenced this action on May 5, 2017, for a violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He alleges six claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Tatum and deputy prosecutor Marcus Vaden[1], and Does 1-10; one section 1983 claim against Conway County; and a state-law negligence claim against all the defendants. Ahmed is a resident of New York. Warehouse Distributing Company is a privately-held company with offices in Morrilton, Arkansas. Tatum is the Prosecuting Attorney for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, which encompasses Scott, Logan, Yell, and Conway counties. Vaden is a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. Conway County and the prosecutors have filed motions to dismiss. Documents #3 and #12. For the following reasons, the motions are granted.

         I.

         Ahmed alleges the following facts in the complaint. In March 2012, a grocery-store owner named Noor Ali issued a check in the amount of $7, 262.51 to Warehouse Distributing as payment for cigarettes, tobacco, and grocery items. Ali submitted the check in person to Tom Foster, a Warehouse Distributing employee. The check was drawn on a Bank of the Ozarks account in the name of Amina Investment, Inc., which Ali owned. The account did not contain sufficient funds and the check bounced. Meanwhile, Ahmed was living in New York.

         In May 2012, Ahmed moved to Arkansas to manage a store. He remained there until August 2012. While managing the store, Ahmed obtained an Arkansas Driver's License and did business with Warehouse Distributing.

         According to the complaint, the prosecutor's offices of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit and Conway County have hot check divisions, which are operated as one division by Tatum and Vaden. If a merchant deposits a check and the check bounces, the merchant may ask the prosecutor to investigate. If the maker of the check is convicted and restitution is made, the prosecutor's offices receive a portion of the recovery.

         Warehouse Distributing employee Carl Hill met with Tatum and Vaden in September 2012. He told them that Ali presented a hot check to Warehouse Distributing in March 2012. He gave the check to Tatum and Vaden and filled in the blanks of an affidavit template for hot check cases. The affidavit for warrant of arrest and information is attached to the complaint. Document #1 at 30. Hill stated that Ali was the maker of the check and listed Ali's home address, sex, race, height, weight, and phone number, but he listed Ahmed's driver's license number. Id. The information associated with Ahmed's driver's license on file with the Office of Motor Vehicle did not match the information in the affidavit. Tatum and Vaden did not contact Foster, the Warehouse Distributing employee to whom Ali presented the hot check.

         Tatum and Vaden filed a felony information charging that Ahmed violated Ark. Code Ann. § 5-37-305(b)(2)(A) and presented the information, along with a request for an arrest warrant, to Judge Daniel McCormick. Judge McCormick ordered that an arrest warrant for Ahmed be issued. The deputy county clerk issued the warrant and notice of it was subsequently put into various national law enforcement databases.

         In May 2014, Ahmed was standing in the customs line at JFK International Airport when police officers approached him and placed him under arrest. Law enforcement officials transported Ahmed from New York to Arkansas, incarcerating him at several detention facilities along the way. Once in Arkansas, he appeared in court several times in defense of the hot check charge. Tatum filed a motion to dismiss the charge against Ahmed and Judge Jerry Don Ramey dismissed the case in August 2014.

         II.

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although detailed factual allegations are not required, the complaint must set forth “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The Court accepts as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Gorog v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 760 F.3d 787, 792 (8th Cir. 2014). The complaint must contain more than labels, conclusions, or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, which means that the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

         III.

         Tatum and Vaden are sued in their official and individual capacities. They contend that they are officers or employees of the State of Arkansas, which means that the claims against them in their official capacities are claims against the State of Arkansas, which is entitled to sovereign immunity. They also argue that the claims against them in their individual capacities are barred by absolute prosecutorial immunity.

         A. The Official Capacity Claims ...


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