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Kauble v. Board of County Commissioners of County of Oklahoma

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

February 15, 2018

BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF OKLAHOMA, ex rel., the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office, a political subdivision, OKLAHOMA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, a political subdivision, and JOHN WHETSEL, former Sheriff of Oklahoma County, in his individual capacity, Defendants.



         Before the Court are motions to dismiss filed by Defendants the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office [Doc. No. 10] and the Board of County of Commissioners of Oklahoma County (BOCC or the Board) [Doc. No. 11]. Plaintiff has filed his response in opposition [Doc. No. 13]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.


         In November 2007, Plaintiff was ticketed for a traffic violation of following too closely. He failed to appear for his scheduled court date and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Plaintiff subsequently moved to New Mexico in 2008, where he remained for approximately seven years. In September 2015, Plaintiff returned to Oklahoma. On December 9, 2015, police officers appeared at Plaintiff's house and informed him there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Plaintiff was arrested and transported to the Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC).

         According to the Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 7], [1] Plaintiff was booked the day of December 9, 2015 and not released from custody until March 17, 2016. See Amend. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff alleges that, on an almost daily basis, he requested information about his case and informed the jailers that he had not seen a judge. Id. ¶ 10. Despite the jailers' assurances to check on the matter, Plaintiff states he remained incarcerated for several months. Id. Plaintiff was not given the opportunity to post bail and his son's attempts in that regard were also unsuccessful. Id. ¶ 11. On January 22, 2016, Plaintiff's son paid all outstanding fees and costs Plaintiff owed on the traffic violation and bench warrant, yet Plaintiff remained in custody. Id. ¶ 12. On March 7, 2016, Plaintiff was transported to Cleveland County District Court to appear for alleged violations of several Victim's Protective Orders. He was subsequently released on own recognizance bonds and back into the custody of the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office; the charges were later dismissed. Id. ¶ 13. On March 17, 2016, Plaintiff appeared before an Oklahoma County judge on the aforementioned bench warrant, who then ordered his release. Id. ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff alleges his confinement violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Amend. Compl. ¶ 21.[2]Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendants were aware of overcrowding issues at the OCDC and the County maintained a policy, practice or custom of “overdetention, ” i.e., imprisoning someone for longer than legally authorized. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Whetsel either created, implemented, or had responsibility for the alleged overdetention policy, and he and the County participated in overdetention with deliberate indifference to how such unconstitutional practice would negatively affect Plaintiff and others similarly situated. Id. ¶¶ 25-27. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges the BOCC failed to correct the overcrowding/overdetention issues, and the County and Whetsel, pursuant to custom or policy, failed to adequately instruct, supervise, control, and train police officers to ensure citizens were not unlawfully detained. Id. ¶¶ 28-32. Plaintiff's claims arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 via the Fourteenth Amendment.

         The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office moves to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds it is neither a political subdivision of the State nor a legal entity capable of being sued. The BOCC moves to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that: (1) the BOCC has no express authority to act in areas of detaining or releasing inmates, and Plaintiff therefore lacks standing to bring claims against the BOCC, and (2) Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


         Pursuant to the seminal decisions of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact, taken as true, “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Under this standard, “the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original)).

         The “plausibility” standard announced in Twombly and Iqbal is not considered a “heightened” standard of pleading, but rather a “refined standard, ” which the court of appeals has defined as “refer[ring] to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191 (citing Kansas Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011)). The Tenth Circuit has noted that the nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary based on context. Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1248. “Thus, [it has] concluded the Twombly/Iqbal standard is ‘a middle ground between heightened fact pleading, which is expressly rejected, and allowing complaints that are no more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, which the Court stated will not do.' ” See id. at 1247.

         Accordingly, in deciding Twombly and Iqbal, there remains no indication the Supreme Court “intended a return to the more stringent pre-Rule 8 pleading requirements.” Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). It remains true that “[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1192 (“Twombly and Iqbal do not require that the complaint include all facts necessary to carry the plaintiff's burden.”) (quoting al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009)).

         A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction takes one of two forms: a facial attack or a factual attack. Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, 790 F.3d 1143, 1148 n. 4 (10th Cir. 2015). A facial attack questions the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations. Id. In reviewing a facial attack, a district court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true. Id. In a factual attack, the moving party may go beyond allegations contained in the complaint and challenge the facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction depends. Id. When reviewing a factual attack on subject matter jurisdiction, a district court may not presume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations. Id. Instead, the court has wide discretion to allow affidavits, other documents, and a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts. Id.


         I. Oklahoma County ...

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