Blumel v. Mylander

Decision Date12 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-1534-CIV-T-17A.,95-1534-CIV-T-17A.
Citation919 F. Supp. 423
PartiesThomas B. BLUMEL, Sr., Plaintiff, v. Thomas A. MYLANDER, individually and in his official capacity as Hernando County Sheriff; Hernando County, a political subdivision of the State of Florida; and Corrections Corporation of America, a Tennessee corporation, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida

Christopher M. Shulman, Law Office of Christopher M. Shulman, Tampa, FL, for Thomas B. Blumel, Sr.

Caroline Anne Falvey, Green, Kaster & Falvey, P.A., Ocala, FL, for Thomas A. Mylander.

F. Scott Pendley, Dean, Ringers, Morgan and Lawton, P.A., Orlando, FL, for Hernando County.

ORDER ON CCA'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND BLUMEL'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

KOVACHEVICH, Chief Judge.

This cause comes before the Court on the following motions, responses, and supporting material:

1. Defendant Corrections Corporation of America's (hereinafter CCA) Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum of Law in Support, filed October 17, 1995 (Docket No. 6).
2. Memorandum in Opposition to CCA's Motion to Dismiss, filed November 2, 1995 (Docket No. 8).
3. Plaintiff Thomas B. Blumel, Sr.'s (hereinafter Blumel) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, filed December 8, 1995 (Docket No. 17).
4. Defendant Hernando County's (hereinafter the County) Memorandum of Law in Response to Blumel's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, filed January 4, 1996 (Docket No. 23).
5. CCA's Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, and Memorandum of Law in Support, filed January 4, 1996 (Docket No. 24).
FACTS

On November 9, 1992, a Hernando County deputy sheriff arrested Blumel, a county resident. Acting without a warrant, the deputy arrested Blumel for allegedly violating a restraining order, which rendered him in civil contempt of court. The deputy then transported Blumel to the Hernando County Jail, which was operated by CCA pursuant to a contract.

After spending the night in jail, Blumel appeared before a Hernando County Judge, the Honorable Peyton Hyslop. According to Blumel's complaint, "Judge Hyslop did not determine whether Blumel was entitled to a public defender, did not specifically advise him of the charges against him, and did not make any determination as to either probable cause or Blumel's entitlement to bail." Verified Civil Rights Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial at 3 (Docket No. 1). Instead, Blumel alleges that the judge indicated he was in the "wrong court." Thus, the judge sent Blumel back to the jail until he appeared before Florida Circuit Judge Richard Tombrink, Jr., who had issued the restraining order.

Blumel spent the next thirty (30) days in jail. Finally, on December 10, 1992, Blumel was brought before Judge Tombrink. Dismissing the civil contempt charge for a lack of evidence, Judge Tombrink released Blumel from custody.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 18, 1995, Blumel filed a verified complaint against three (3) defendants, including the County and CCA.1 In his complaint, Blumel alleges that the County and CCA violated Section 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988), by unconstitutionally depriving Blumel of his liberty without due process. Essentially, Blumel asserts that the County and CCA violated their constitutional duty to ensure that warrantless pre-trial detainees, such as Blumel, are detained only after a judicial determination of probable cause within the first 48 hours after arrest. With respect to CCA, which operated the Hernando County jail pursuant to a contract, Blumel also alleges two (2) state law claims, false imprisonment and negligence.

On October 10, 1995, the County answered Blumel's verified complaint. In its answer, the County denies most of the allegations and raises eleven (11) affirmative defenses (Docket No. 4). Unlike the County, CCA has not yet answered Blumel's complaint. Instead, in one of the matters at bar, CCA moves to dismiss it for failure to state any claims upon which relief could be granted.

Pursuant to Local R.M.D.Fla. 3.05(c), the parties met to prepare a case management report on November 6, 1995. According to the report, the parties agreed that discovery would begin on December 6, 1995 (Docket No. 15). However, on the same day that discovery was to begin, Blumel served the defendants with a motion for partial summary judgment. In this motion, which is also before the Court, Blumel seeks summary judgment with respect to his Section 1983 claim.

CCA'S MOTION TO DISMISS
I. The Standard for Dismissal

Under Conley v. Gibson, a district court should not dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts" that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); accord Bracewell v. Nicholson Air Services, Inc., 680 F.2d 103, 104 (11th Cir. 1982). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff may not merely "label" his or her claims. At a minimum, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require "a short and plain statement of the claim" that "will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. at 103 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, this Court will examine only the four corners of the complaint. Rickman v. Precisionaire, Inc., 902 F.Supp. 232 (M.D.Fla.1995). Also, the Court must accept a plaintiff's well pled facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Howry v. Nisus, Inc., 910 F.Supp. 576 (M.D.Fla.1995).

II. Count I: Section 1983

To impose Section 1983 liability on a state actor for failing to act to preserve a constitutional right, a plaintiff must establish: (1) that he possessed a constitutional right which was deprived; (2) that the defendant had a policy or custom; (3) that the policy or custom constituted a deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional right; and (4) the policy or custom was the moving force behind the deprivation. City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388, 109 S.Ct. 1197, 1204, 103 L.Ed.2d 412 (1989); Oviatt v. Pearce, 954 F.2d 1470, 1473-75 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Ali v. Clearwater, 807 F.Supp. 701, 706-07 (M.D.Fla.1992).

A person arrested and detained without a warrant has a constitutional right to have a judicial officer determine probable cause within the first forty-eight (48) hours. County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44, 111 S.Ct. 1661, 114 L.Ed.2d 49 (1991); Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 95 S.Ct. 854, 43 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975). In the case at bar, Blumel alleges that the County and CCA violated this right by failing to ensure that Blumel received due process.

In its motion to dismiss, CCA asks the Court to dismiss Blumel's Section 1983 claim because, as a matter of law, "errors in the arrest and commitment process are not chargeable to a corrections institution." CCA's Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum of Law in Support at 4 (Docket No. 6). As support, CCA advances Buenrostro v. Collazo, 777 F.Supp. 128 (D.P.R.1991), aff'd on other grounds, 973 F.2d 39 (1st Cir.1992). In addition, CCA argues that it shares judicial immunity from Section 1983 liability because it was merely implementing a judge's order. As support, CCA relies on United States ex rel. Bailey v. Askew, 486 F.2d 134 (5th Cir. 1973).

Blumel responds by distinguishing Buenrostro and Askew. Specifically, Blumel argues that, unlike the Buenrostro and Askew judges, Judge Hyslop did not sign any commitment order, valid or otherwise.

The Court agrees with Blumel and, therefore, denies CCA's motion to dismiss Count I. In Buenrostro, the court dismissed a plaintiff's Section 1983 claim against two prison officials because "if ... plaintiff was sent to the State Penitentiary with a facially-valid commitment order, there certainly can be no duty on the part of the Department of Corrections to verify or otherwise review the correctness of the judicially issued order." 777 F.Supp. at 135 (emphasis added). Similarly, the Askew court affirmed the dismissal of a Section 1983 claim, holding that "a jailer cannot be held liable for an error in an order of commitment which is patently proper." 486 F.2d at 135 (emphasis added).

Unlike the Buenrostro and Askew complaints, Blumel's Complaint alleges sufficient facts to state a valid Section 1983 claim against CCA. Indeed, Blumel asserts that neither Judge Hyslop or any other judicial officer "ever determined whether there was probable cause to detain Blumel." Verified Civil Rights Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial at 3-4 (Docket No. 1). In contrast, the Buenrostro and Askew judicial officers found probable cause to detain those plaintiffs and accordingly issued "facially-valid" or "patently proper" commitment orders. 777 F.Supp. at 135; 486 F.2d at 135. Therefore, Blumel's alleged facts are materially different from the alleged facts in Buenrostro and Askew.

Notwithstanding Buenrostro and Askew, CCA may be held liable for constitutional violations under the "public function" theory. With the exception of slavery, the federal Constitution does not generally restrict "individual invasion of individual rights...." The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S.Ct. 18, 27 L.Ed. 835 (1883). However, when a governmental entity delegates one its traditional or "public functions" to a private entity, the private entity may be held liable under the Constitution with respect to its performance of that function. Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501, 66 S.Ct. 276, 90 L.Ed. 265 (1946); Jeffries v. Georgia Residential Finance Auth., 678 F.2d 919, 924-25 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 971, 103 S.Ct. 302, 74 L.Ed.2d 283 (1982); Gerber v. Longboat Harbour North Condominium, Inc., 757 F.Supp. 1339, 1341 (M.D.Fla.1991). For example, "if a state contracted with a private corporation to run its prisons it would no...

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