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Arndt v. City of Medicine Park

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 3, 2019

CASSIE MARIE ARNDT, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MEDICINE PARK, a political subdivision of the State of Oklahoma, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants Comanche County Detention Center (the “CCDC”), William Hobbs, the Board of County Commissioners of Comanche County (“Defendant Board”), and Kenny Stradley (collectively the “Defendants”) bring before the Court a Renewed Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 24] and brief in support. Plaintiff has filed a Response in opposition [Doc. No. 30], to which Defendants have replied [Doc. No. 33]. This matter is fully briefed and at issue.

         BACKGROUND

         A Medicine Park Police Officer effected a legal traffic stop on Plaintiff Cassie Arndt, pulling her over for a speeding violation, on August 13, 2017. Complaint [Doc. No. 1], at 5. The officer processed Plaintiff's information, and dispatch advised him of an outstanding Stephens County arrest warrant for “Cassie Arndt.” Id. at 6. Relying on this information and pursuant to that warrant, the officer arrested Plaintiff and transported her to CCDC. Id. At CCDC, Plaintiff was processed and booked. Id. at 7. Ruth Art, a CCDC employee, showed Plaintiff a copy of the arrest warrant and allegedly realized Plaintiff was not the same person named by the arrest warrant. Id. Art immediately informed her lieutenant-herein referenced as John Doe 2. Id. John Doe 2 took no steps to investigate Art's conclusions and told Art to move forward with the booking process. Id. Another lieutenant, John Doe 3, was also made aware of the discrepancy. Plaintiff was nonetheless booked, forced to strip naked, and searched. Id. at 8. She was then confined in a cell for approximately eighteen hours. Id. Eventually, Plaintiff was released, CCDC personnel acknowledged there was no warrant out for her arrest, and Plaintiff was told her traffic ticket would be dismissed. Id. At all relevant times, Defendant Hobbs served as Jail Administrator and Defendant Stradley as Comanche County Sheriff.

         The instant lawsuit was filed on March 7, 2018. Plaintiff alleges violations of her constitutional rights under the federal and state constitutions, along with violations of state law.

         STANDARD OF DECISION

         To 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. 2009).

         DISCUSSION

         I. CCDC is not a legal entity subject to suit, and therefore all claims against it are dismissed as a matter of law.

         Defendants' motion first asserts that, under Oklahoma law, CCDC is not a legal entity subject to suit, and therefore, all claims asserted against it should be dismissed. Plaintiff does not dispute the proposition.

         A 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) (2018). 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 relevant board of county commissioners. Id. §§ 3, 4.

         Although the Oklahoma courts have apparently not addressed the issue of whether a detention center has the capacity to be sued, other jurisdictions have concluded that detention centers and county jails are not legal entities capable of suit. See Bolden v. Gwinnett Cty. Det. Ctr. Medical Admin. Med. Doctors and Staff, 2009 WL 2496655 (N.D.Ga. 2009) (“Jails . . . are not legal entities subject to suit under § 1983 at all.”); Rackley v. Poinsett Cty. Det. Ctr., 2011 WL 1480316 (E.D. Ark. 2011) (holding a “detention center is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983”).

         The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has unequivocally stated that a county detention facility “is not a person or legally created entity capable of being sued.” Aston v. Cunningham, 2000 WL 796086 at *4 n.3 (10th Cir. 2000); see also Dutton v. City of Midwest City, 630 Fed.Appx. 742, 744 (10th Cir. 2015);Ketchum v. Albuquerque Police Dep't, 1992 WL 51481, at *2 (10th Cir. 1992) (holding that a municipal police department is not an entity that could be sued because it lacks a legal identity apart from the municipality).[1]

         Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff's claims against the CCDC should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. As dismissing the claims against CCDC with leave to amend would be futile, given the CCDC is not a legal entity capable ...


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