United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
STACY WILLIS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of, MITCHELL EVERETT WILLIS, Deceased, Plaintiff,
OKLAHOMA COUNTY DETNENTION CENTER et al ., Defendants.
Timothy D. DeGiusti Chief United States District Judge.
the Court is a Joint Motion to Dismiss and Brief in Support
[Doc. No. 35] filed by Defendants Oklahoma County Detention
Center, Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County,
Sheriff P.D. Taylor, and the Oklahoma County Sheriff's
Department (collectively, “Defendants”), in their
official capacities. The Joint Motion was filed pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff filed a response [Doc. No.
43], to which Defendants have replied. [Doc. No. 48].
Everett Willis (“Willis”) was arrested on August
18, 2017. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 30] at
7, ¶ 10. That same day, Willis was placed in the custody
of the Oklahoma County Detention Center (the
“OCDC”) as a pretrial detainee. Id. at
7-8, ¶¶ 10, 12. After intake, Willis was allegedly
assaulted by employees of the Oklahoma County Sheriff's
Department (the “OCSD”), suffering blunt force
trauma to the head, neck, and torso. Id. at 7,
¶ 10. Several other OCSD employees looked on as Willis
was attacked. Id. Following the assault, Willis was
left face down on the floor of his cell for several hours,
where he died as the result of his injuries. Id. at
9-10, ¶ ¶ 16, 19.
Willis' death, OCDC had been the subject of serious
concern. Because of a 2007 investigation into OCDC, the
United States Department of Justice (“DoJ”)
issued a report (“DoJ Report”). Doc. No. 30, Ex.1
at 1. Certain conditions at OCDC, the DoJ concluded,
“violate the constitutional rights of detainees
confined therein.” Id. at 2. The DoJ noted
insufficient staffing, possible uses of excessive force,
issues regarding medical care, and poor training.
Id. at 6-10.
oversees the jail's day-to-day operations. See
Memorandum of Understanding Between the United States and
Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, Doc. No. 30, Ex. 2 at 6. The
questionable practices employed at OCDC allegedly began under
Sheriff Whetsel and continued through Sheriff Taylor's
term in office. See Id. at 11, ¶ 23. About five
months before Willis' death, Defendant Sheriff Whetsel
retired from his position. That same day, March 1, 2017,
Defendant Sheriff Taylor took office. See
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 30] at 4-5,
Stacy Willis, on Willis' behalf, sued multiple defendants
alleging violations of Willis' rights under the United
States Constitution. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint at 1.
The claims were brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
along with requests for attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C.
12(b)(6) Failure to State a Claim
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain enough facts that, when accepted as true,
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009); see Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247
(10th Cir. 2008). A claim has facial plausibility when the
court can draw “the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In § 1983 cases, it is
particularly important “that the complaint make clear
exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom, to
provide each individual with fair notice as to the basis of
the claims against him or her.” See Robbins,
519 F.3d at 1249-50 (emphasis in original); see also
Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1104 (10th Cir.
OCDC and OCSD are not proper defendants and should be
dismissed with prejudice.
argue, and Plaintiff agrees, that OCDC and OCSD should be
dismissed from this action. See Joint Motion at 2;
Plaintiff's Response to Joint Motion [Doc. No. 43] at
noncorporate entity's capacity to be sued is determined
by the law of the state in which the district court is
located. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3). In Oklahoma, each organized
county can sue and be sued. Okla. Stat. tit. 19, § 1(1).
The authority of each county is exercised by its board of
county commissioners, and a lawsuit brought against a county
must be filed against the board of county commissioners of
the relevant county. Okla. Stat. tit. 19, §§ 3, 4.
Because OCDC and OCSD do not have legal identities separate
from that of Oklahoma County, they are not suable entities
and are not proper defendants in a civil rights action.
See Lindsey v. Thomson, 275 Fed.Appx. 744, 747 (10th
Cir. Sept. 10, 2007) (unpublished) (affirming dismissal of
§ 1983 claims against police departments and a county
sheriff's department, noting that defendants were
“not legally suable entities”); Reid v.
Hamby, No. 95-7142, 1997 WL 537909, at *6 (10th Cir.
Sept. 2, 1997) (unpublished) (holding that “an Oklahoma
‘sheriff's department' is not a proper entity
for purposes of a ...