188 F.3d 1289 (11th Cir. 1999), 98-5722, Brown v Neumann

Docket Nº:98-5722
Citation:188 F.3d 1289
Party Name:Charles R. BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Robert NEUMANN, Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Ray Ruby, Deputy Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Defendants-Appellees. Dennis W. Maynor, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Robert Neumann, Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Ray Ruby, Deputy Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:September 14, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 1289

188 F.3d 1289 (11th Cir. 1999)

Charles R. BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Robert NEUMANN, Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Ray Ruby,

Deputy Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Defendants-Appellees.

Dennis W. Maynor, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Robert Neumann, Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Ray Ruby,

Deputy Sheriff, Palm Beach County, Florida, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 98-5722

In the United States Court of Appeals, For the Eleventh Circuit.

September 14, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. (Nos. 97-CV-8678-KLR, 97-CV-9025-KLR), Kenneth L. Ryskamp, Judge.

Before ANDERSON, Chief Judge, and BIRCH and BARKETT, Circuit Judges.

Page 1290

PER CURIAM:

Charles R. Brown and Dennis W. Maynor appeal the district court's grant of judgment as matter of law, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 50, in their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the Sheriff of Palm Beach County, in his official capacity, for injuries arising out of allegedly unjustified arrests in 1994.1 These arrests were effectuated by a Deputy Sheriff, and plaintiffs concede that the Deputy Sheriff was not carrying out the instructions of the Sheriff, that the Sheriff did not know about, ratify, or consent to the Deputy Sheriff's acts, and that there was no custom of unjustified arrests. Therefore, the district court reasoned, liability was barred under the doctrine of Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), which provides that liability of municipalities and other governmental entities under § 1983 is limited to instances of official policy or custom.

We start with the proposition that a suit against a governmental official in his official capacity is deemed a suit against the entity that he represents.2 Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). However, an entity can be held monetarily liable only through " 'a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers,' " or " 'for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental "custom" even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the body's official decisionmaking body.' " City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 121, 108 S.Ct. 915, 923, 99 L.Ed.2d 107 (1988) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91, 98 S.Ct. at 2036). A governmental entity is not liable under § 1983, merely as a matter of respondeat superior, for constitutional injuries inflicted by its employees. Monell, 436 U.S. 694, 98 S.Ct. at 2037-38. Rather, as we have held, "only those officials who have final policymaking authority may render the municipality liable under Section 1983." Hill v. Clifton, 74 F.3d 1150, 1152 (11th Cir.1996) (emphasis added). "[T]he mere delegation of authority to a subordinate to exercise discretion is not sufficient to give the subordinate policymaking authority. Rather, the delegation must be such that the subordinate's discretionary decisions are not constrained by official policies and are not subject to review." Mandel v. Doe, 888 F.2d 783, 792 (11th Cir.1989) (citing Praprotnik, 485 U.S. at 125-28, 108 S.Ct. at 925-26).

The district court's ruling was based on the premise that because the arrests in question were carried out by the Deputy Sheriff,...

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