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Martin v. Julian

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

December 19, 2019

LISA JULIAN, individually; BLAKE HUDSON, individually; GILL BRAZEALE, individually; and KEITH WEAVER, individually DEFENDANTS


          Kristine G. Baker United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are separate defendant Blake Hudson's motion to dismiss and separate defendants Lisa Julian, Keith Weaver, and Gill Brazeale's motion to dismiss (Dkt. Nos. 8, 10). Plaintiffs Hubert W. Martin, Karen Farmer, and Matthew Williams have not responded, and the time to file a response has passed. For the following reasons, the Court grants Mr. Hudson's motion to dismiss as to plaintiffs' federal claims and grants Ms. Julian, Mr. Weaver, and Mr. Brazeale's motion to dismiss as to plaintiffs' federal claims (Dkt. Nos. 8, 10). The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims.

         I. Background

         On December 11, 2018, plaintiffs filed a complaint in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Dkt. No. 1).[1] Plaintiffs allege that, in late October or early November 2011, Mr. Hudson, a member of the First Judicial Drug Task Force, contacted Dustin Miller to set in motion a scheme to set up separate plaintiff Mr. Martin for a drug bust (Id., ¶ 13). Mr. Hudson allegedly told Mr. Miller that if he would plant secret various drug paraphernalia and precursors on Mr. Martin's property that Mr. Hudson would aid Mr. Miller in getting custody of his child (Id., ¶ 15). Mr. Hudson allegedly gave Mr. Miller drug paraphernalia and instructed him to plant it on Mr. Martin's property, and Mr. Miller did so (Id., ¶¶ 16-17). Mr. Miller allegedly reported back to Mr. Hudson; Mr. Hudson and Mr. Julian, the Director of the First Judicial Drug Task Force, equipped Mr. Miller with video and audio equipment and sent him back to Mr. Martin's house to video the drug paraphernalia, and Mr. Miller did so (Id., ¶¶ 11, 18-19).

         With Mr. Julian's review and approval, Mr. Hudson allegedly presented a fraudulent affidavit to the St. Francis County District Judge for issuing a search warrant of plaintiffs' property on November 6, 2011 (Id., ¶¶ 21-22). Plaintiffs attached to their complaint a copy of that affidavit (Id., Ex. B). Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Hudson failed to provide the issuing magistrate judge with all of the relevant information, and the magistrate judge issued the requested search warrant (Id., ¶¶ 23-24). On November 7, 2011, Mr. Hudson and other members of the First Judicial Drug Task Force executed the warrant and seized drug paraphernalia and other items from Mr. Martin's property (Id., ¶¶ 25-27). Plaintiffs attached to their complaint a confiscation report containing comprehensive list of 32 possessions they claim were seized (Id., Ex. A). That same day, plaintiffs were arrested without warrants and held in the St. Francis County Detention Facility (Id., ¶ 28). On November 8, 2011, Mr. Weaver, an undercover agent with the First Judicial Drug Task Force, provided an affidavit to the issuing magistrate judge for arrest warrants for plaintiffs (Id., ¶ 29).

         As a result of the search, plaintiffs were charged with: (1) manufacturing a controlled substance, methamphetamine; (2) simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms; (3) possession of ephedrine with intent to manufacture; and (4) possession of drug paraphernalia (Id., ¶ 30). Plaintiffs allege that a criminal information was filed against them on December 22, 2011, and the State of Arkansas ultimately nolle prossed all of the charges against plaintiffs on January 7, 2016 (Id., ¶¶ 32, 34). Plaintiffs' allege that the State of Arkansas continued to hold onto their property and wrongfully refused to return the property to plaintiffs, despite plaintiffs' demands for the return of their property (Id., ¶¶ 37-38). Prior to charges being dismissed, the State of Arkansas, through Fletcher Long, prosecuting attorney, First Judicial District, commenced a civil forfeiture action concerning the items seized pursuant to the search warrant (Dkt. No. 11, at 1-2). This action was filed on November 25, 2015, and it is still pending in St. Francis County Court (Id., at 2). Plaintiffs commenced this action while the state action was pending, and the state action remains pending currently (Id.). In the state action, plaintiffs filed an answer demanding the return of the seized items (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 39). Additionally, upon dismissal of the criminal charges, plaintiffs filed Rule 15 motions for return of their property pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 15 (Id., ¶ 40).

         Based on these allegations, plaintiffs bring this action against defendants seeking redress for alleged violations of plaintiffs' rights to be free of unreasonable searches, unreasonable seizures to include false arrest, false imprisonment, violation of their rights to be free of malicious prosecution, abuse of legal process, wrongful institution of legal process and/or wrongful use of judicial process protected by the Fourth Amendment and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (“ACRA”), Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-23-101 et seq. (Id., ¶ 52). Specifically, plaintiffs allege the following counts against defendants: unreasonable search and seizure in violation of plaintiffs' rights protected by the Fourth Amendment; violations of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), amounting to violations of plaintiffs' rights to a fair trial protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; violation of plaintiffs' rights under Article 2 §§ 2, 6, 9, 15 of the Arkansas State Constitution; state law tort claim of malicious prosecution; and state law tort claim of false imprisonment (Id., ¶¶ 2, 42, 44, 46, 48-66). Plaintiffs seek damages to compensate for the purported mental anguish and humiliation suffered in the past and to be experienced for an indefinite time in the future, the loss of use of their property continuously held by defendants, and the needless expenditure of funds for attorneys' fees and cost of attending hearings and trials to fight the charges against them (Id., ¶¶ 68).

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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.'” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 566 U.S. 662, 678 (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, 588 F.3d at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). “When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the district court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and all reasonable inferences from the complaint must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Hafley v. Lohman, 90 F.3d 264, 266 (8th Cir. 1996)).

         III. Discussion

         In considering the dual motions to dismiss, the Court first addresses the federal claims plaintiffs allege generally in their complaint (Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiffs allege unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment and violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         A. Fourth Amendment Claims

         The Court takes each motion to dismiss in turn with regard to plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims.

         1. Mr. Hudson's ...

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