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Walker v. Shafer

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

February 9, 2018

CORY SHAFER, in his individual and official capacity; CITY OF RAPID CITY; THE UNITED STATES, THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA; and the POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.




         Plaintiff Clayton Walker initiated this action against defendants. (Docket 1). On July 9, 2015, plaintiff had an interaction with Rapid City Police Officer Cory Shafer (“Officer Shafer”) that plaintiff claims resulted in violations of his constitutional and statutory rights. Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff asserts Officer Shafer stopped him on the street and proceeded to place him in handcuffs, search his backpack and inspect his wallet's contents. Id. Officer Shafer checked whether plaintiff had outstanding warrants and discovered there was a warrant. Id. While Officer Shafer placed plaintiff in his police vehicle, plaintiff claims he suffered a head injury. Id.

         Plaintiff asserts Article III of the United States Constitution provides the proper basis for filing his case. Id. at p. 1. In stating the relief he seeks, plaintiff cites a variety of authorities: the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the Federal Tort Claims Act; Bivens;[1] and several South Dakota statutes.[2] Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff seeks money damages. Id. at p. 4.

         The court granted plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directed service. (Docket 6). Aside from Officer Shafer, who filed an answer, (Docket 22), each defendant filed a motion to dismiss. (Dockets 14, 27, 28, 29 & 33). Plaintiff failed to file his required responses until the court specifically ordered him to do so. (Dockets 37 & 38).

         The court addresses each motion to dismiss in turn.


         I. Rapid City Police Department

         Defendant Rapid City Police Department (“Police Department” or “Department”) moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint based on Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket 27). The Police Department claims it is not an entity amenable to suit. Id. at pp. 2-6. If the Department was an entity plaintiff could sue, it claims plaintiff fails to establish a legitimate claim against it. Id. at pp. 6-7.

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Two “working principles” underlie Rule 12(b)(6) analysis. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). First, courts are not required to accept as true legal conclusions “couched as . . . factual allegation[s]” in the complaint. See Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court does, however, “take the plaintiff's factual allegations as true.” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009). Second, the plausibility standard is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). The complaint is analyzed “as a whole, not parsed piece by piece to determine whether each allegation, in isolation, is plausible.” Braden, 588 F.3d at 594.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(b)(3), the court assesses the Department's capacity to be sued under South Dakota law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3). The Department demonstrates that under SDCL §§ 9-29-1 & 2 it is not an entity separate from the municipality of Rapid City. (Docket 27 at p. 3). The applicable sections of the Rapid City Municipal Code confirm this finding. Id. at p. 4 (citing RCMC § 2.20.020). As this court has held before, “police departments . . . are not suable entities.” Purchase v. Sturgis Police Dep't, CIV. No. 13-5060, 2015 WL 1477733, at *12 (D.S.D. Mar. 31, 2015); see Ketchum v. City of W. Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992) (holding that a police department was not a “juridical entit[y] suable as such”); Diggs v. City of Osceola, 270 Fed.Appx. 469, at *1 (8th Cir. 2008) (unpublished); Shannon v. Koehler, No. C 08-4059, 2008 WL 4735265, at *2-4 (N.D. Iowa Oct. 13, 2008) (collecting cases). The court finds it must dismiss plaintiff's complaint against the Police Department on this basis under Rule 12(b)(6). Because dismissal is required on this ground, the court need not reach the Department's second argument.

         Although the complaint does not name Karl Jegeris, the Department's Police Chief, he was served with a copy of the summons and complaint. (Docket 9 at p. 7). To the extent the complaint does attempt to hold Mr. Jegeris liable, it fails and must be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). “Supervisors [such as Mr. Jegeris] cannot be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for the actions of a subordinate.” L.L. Nelson Enterprises, Inc. v. Cty. of St. Louis, Mo., 673 F.3d 799, 810 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675-76). Plaintiff has not “plead that the supervising official, through his own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Id.

         II. City of Rapid City

         Defendant City of Rapid City (“the City”) moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint under Rule 12(b)(5) for “insufficient service of process.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5); (Docket 29). The City points out South Dakota law requires plaintiff to serve the Mayor of Rapid City. (Docket 29 at pp. 2-3) (citing SDCL § 15-6-4(d)(2)(ii)). The court denies the City's motion because the record shows ...

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