United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
THE JUSTICE NETWORK, INC. PLAINTIFF
CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, JUDGE DAVID BOLING, in his individual and official capacity, JUDGE TOMMY FOWLER, in his individual and official capacitiy, CITY OF BAY, CITY OF BONO, CITY OF BROOKLAND, CITY OF CARAWAY, CITY OF CASH, CITY OF EGYPT, CITY OF JONESBORO, LAKE CITY, and CITY OF MONETTE DEFENDANTS
M. MOODY JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
are the motions to dismiss of Separate Defendants, Judge
David Boling, Judge Tommy Fowler, Craighead County, Arkansas,
City of Jonesboro, and the Cities of Bay, Bono, Brookland,
Caraway, Cash, Egypt, Lake City and Monette. (Docket #'s
10, 13, 15 and 29). Plaintiff has filed a response and
Defendants have filed replies. For the reasons set forth
herein Defendants' motions are GRANTED.
filed its Complaint with this Court on June 30, 2017 alleging
that its constitutional, statutory and common law rights were
violated when two Arkansas State District Court Judges,
Boling and Fowler, allegedly ordered the forgiveness of
certain fees owed to the Plaintiff by state probationers.
The Justice Network, a for-profit corporation, provided
services to probation clients in Craighead County and in
courts in the Cities of Jonesboro, Bay, Brookland, Lake City,
Caraway, Monnette, Bono, Cash and Egypt. Plaintiff claims
that it contracted with each individual probation client
whereby the Plaintiff agreed to provide probation services
and the probation client agreed to pay a monthly fee.
Plaintiff complains that Separate Defendants, Judge Tommy
Fowler and Judge David Boling instituted an Amnesty Program
starting in January 2017, which declared that all fees owed
by the probation clients to the Justice Network were
forgiven. The Justice Network seeks to recoup these fees. All
of the Defendants claim that Plaintiff's complaint should
be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). A claim is
plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. However,
courts are “not bound to accept as true a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation” and such
“labels and conclusions” or “formulaic
recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
929 (2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In making
this determination, the Court must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Crooks v.
Lynch, 557 F.3d 846, 848 (8th Cir.2009).
upon the allegations contained in Plaintiff's complaint,
from 1997 to February 3, 2017, all misdemeanor offenders who
had been charged in Craighead County District Court or the
City Courts, and who required probation services, where
placed under the supervision of The Justice Network.
Plaintiff claims that Boling and Fowler implemented an
“Amnesty Program” in January and February 2017.
As part of the program, the judges met with probation
offenders who had outstanding fines to discuss payment
options. The judges allowed offenders to reset their payment
plan, entered new orders of probation deleting the Justice
Network from the Order, forgave court costs, probation fees
and allowed costs and fees to be forgiven in lieu of time
served in prison.
Court finds that Judge Boling and Judge Fowler are entitled
to absolute judicial immunity against all of Plaintiff's
claims. Unless judges act completely outside all
jurisdiction, they are absolutely immune from suit when
acting in their judicial capacity. Martin v.
Hendren, 127 F.3d 720, 721 (8th Cir.1997). In Arkansas,
“[a]ll courts of record, district courts, and city
courts . . .shall have the authority to suspend the
imposition of sentences or the imposition of fines, or both,
in all criminal cases pending before the courts unless
specifically prohibited by law.” Ark. Code Ann.
§16-90-115. Further, [d]uring a period of . . .
probation, upon the petition of a probation officer or a
defendant or upon the court's own motion, a court may:
(1) Modify a condition imposed on the defendant.” Ark.
Code Ann. § 16-93-312. The acts of Judge Boling and
Judge Fowler, modifying, suspending or terminating the terms
of probation, previously imposed by the Court, are judicial
acts. See John Chism Bail Bonds, Inc. v. Pennington,
656 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D. Ark. Aug. 31, 2009)(finding the judge
defendants were acting in a judicial capacity, and were
entitled to absolute immunity, when they signed and enforced
a court order disallowing “credit bonding.”). See
also, Peak v. Richardson, 2008 WL 762110, at *8
(E.D.Mo. March 19, 2008) (“revoking a bail bond
agent's privilege to write bail bonds in a judge's
court or circuit is a judicial action, i.e., an act taken in
the judge's judicial capacity”).
claims Craighead County and the City Defendants are liable
for the constitutional violations suffered by Plaintiff based
on official policy or custom. “[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.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)
(emphasis in original). However, a municipality may be held
liable for an employee's unconstitutional actions under
§ 1983 if the municipality's custom or policy caused
the action. Id. at 692. Plaintiff claims that Judge
Fowler and Judge Boling were authorized policymakers of the
City and County defendants and that the actions of the
defendant judges should be imputed to the City and County
defendants. State district court judges are state government
officials and are not employees of the cities. Ark. Const.
Amend. 80; Ark. Code Ann. §16-17-1101, et seq.
Further, even if the judges were employees of the cities,
Judge Boling and Judge Fowler's judicial decisions were
“not a final policy decision of a type creating
municipal liability under §1983.” See, Granda
v. City of St. Louis, 472 F.3d 565, 569 (8th
Plaintiff's remaining claims for unjust enrichment,
ratification and supervisory liability also fail. No
supervisor or employee relationship exists between the judges
and the City and County defendants. Plaintiff failed to state
any facts which would support a finding that the City or
County defendants had any authority or control over the
judges. And, the probation services at issue were provided to
the probation clients. Plaintiff has failed to state facts
which demonstrate that the City or County defendants received
something of value to which they were not entitled by the
forgiveness of a debt owed by the probation clients to the
Plaintiff. Spencer v. Air Evac EMS, Inc., 2017
Ark.App. 193, 5-6 (2017).
these reasons, Defendants' motions to ...