Cruz v. Green

Citation352 F.Supp.3d 1213
Decision Date07 January 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 0:18-cv-60995-KMM
Parties Zachary Paul CRUZ, Plaintiff, v. Captain Sherea GREEN et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida

Dallas S. LePierre, Nexus Derechos Humanos Attorneys, Inc., Atlanta, GA, Mark S. Lowry, Mark S. Lowry, LLC, Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Plaintiff.

Beth Jeanne Leahy, Walton Lantaff Schroeder & Carson, Fort Lauderdale, FL, John Bajger, Attorney General Office, West Palm Beach, FL, for Defendants.



THIS CAUSE came before the Court upon Defendant Captain Sherea Green's ("Captain Green") Motion to Dismiss ("Motion") (ECF No. 18) five counts of Plaintiff Zachary Paul Cruz's ("Plaintiff") Complaint ("Compl.") (ECF No. 1).1 Plaintiff filed a response ("Response") (ECF No. 24) and Captain Green replied ("Reply") (ECF No. 27). The matter is now ripe for review.


Plaintiff is an 18–year–old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ("Stoneman Douglas") in Parkland, Florida and the brother of Nicholas Cruz. Compl. ¶¶ 10–11. On February 14, 2018, Nicholas Cruz allegedly murdered 17 Stoneman Douglas students and injured many others. Id. On March 19, 2018, after students had been dismissed for the day, Plaintiff skateboarded onto the grounds of Stoneman Douglas. Id. ¶¶ 12–13. While on school grounds, Plaintiff did not make threats, approach anyone, or otherwise behave in an odd manner. Id. ¶ 12. Nor did he use any kind of force to enter school premises. Id. ¶ 13.

An unnamed Deputy from the Broward County Sheriff's Office ("BCSO") approached and stopped Plaintiff while he was skateboarding. Id. ¶ 15. Once stopped, Plaintiff was cooperative, did not flee nor resist, and freely answered the Deputy's questions.3 Id. Plaintiff provided the Deputy with his name, telephone number, and information regarding his employment and living situation. Id. ¶ 16. When asked why Plaintiff was on school grounds, Plaintiff replied that he was "trying to soak it all in." Id. Upon learning Plaintiff's identity, Plaintiff was arrested for trespassing and booked into custody at the Broward County Main Jail (the "Main Jail"). Id. ¶ 17.

Plaintiff's bond on his misdemeanor trespass charge, initially set at $25, was paid at 9:54 p.m. while Plaintiff was booked at the Main Jail. Id. ¶ 19. After posting bond, Plaintiff attempted to depart, but Main Jail staff refused to release him. Id. ¶ 21. At 11:00 p.m., a medical report written by Gale Kite, an advanced registered nurse practitioner, stated that Cruz had no telephone, car, or responsible transportation, and that he was "at risk of being released to the streets, and has the entire community at unease." Id. ¶ 19.

The following day, Plaintiff appeared before a Florida state court judge ("Judge Mollica") for a bond hearing. Id. ¶ 22. At the hearing, the State of Florida requested that bond be set at $750,000, arguing that Plaintiff should, among other things: not be permitted to return to Broward County; have his home searched prior to Plaintiff's release; be barred from all school property; and be on house arrest and subject to GPS tracking. Id. The State claimed that these remedies were necessary because "of the fear that [Plaintiff's] presence invokes because of his family relationship," and asked Judge Mollica to "use every means available to ensure that ‘students can attend school without fear.’ " Id. Judge Mollica set bond at $500,000, noting that Plaintiff is the brother of Nicholas Cruz and that Stoneman Douglas students deserved to feel safe, especially following a grave tragedy. Id. ¶ 23.

Unable to make bail, Plaintiff remained in custody until he was involuntarily committed, under the Baker Act, Fla. Stat. § 394.467 (2016), to the Broward Health Medical Center (the "Medical Center"), where Plaintiff spent five days undergoing repeated mental health evaluations and was placed on 24–hour suicide watch, with medical staff check–ups every 15 minutes. Id. ¶¶ 24–25. Doctors at the Medical Center found Plaintiff to be pleasant, cooperative, and alert, and found no signs of depression or suicidal or homicidal behavior. Id. ¶ 25. Nonetheless, the Medical Center "did recommend [to Captain Green and jail staff] that [Plaintiff] continue [to be] on suicide prevention" watch. Id. ¶ 47.

After being released from the Medical Center and returned to the Main Jail, Plaintiff's treatment "became immediately harsher." Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff was placed in the infirmary on 24–hour lockdown, allowed to leave his cell only for visits with his attorney or daily nurse. Id. Plaintiff was also placed in a suicide vest, a heavy restraint that limited his movement, for 24 hours a day, which was only removed once Plaintiff executed a plea deal with the State. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff suffered sleep deprivation caused by lighting not being dimmed at night and harassment by the jail nurse and attending guard regarding Plaintiff's mental health. Id. ¶¶ 28, 30

On May 3, 2018, Plaintiff filed the Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against multiple Defendants, including Captain Green, alleging violations stemming from Plaintiff's detention at the Main Jail. See generally Compl. In Counts I and II, Plaintiff alleges that Captain Green violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right against unlawful seizures ("Count I") and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process ("Count II") by failing to release him from custody after Plaintiff posted his initial bond. Id. ¶¶ 38–44. In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that, after his bond hearing, Captain Green (i) ordered jail staff to place Plaintiff under 24–hour watch, in a heavy suicide restraint vest and in a room with constant full lighting, which led to Plaintiff's sleep deprivation and (ii) approved without adequate cause Plaintiff's involuntary hospitalization under the Baker Act. Id. ¶¶ 45–49. In Count VII,4 Plaintiff asserts a Florida state law claim of false imprisonment against Captain Green for detaining Plaintiff after his posting of bond. Id. ¶ 63. Finally, in Count IX, Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees against all Defendants, including Captain Green. Id. at 23.

Captain Green moves to dismiss Counts I, II, and III pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that the doctrine of qualified immunity shields her from liability because she acted within her discretionary authority as a government official and Plaintiff has not plausibly pled facts that would overcome a qualified immunity defense. Motion at 2–5. Captain Green further argues that Plaintiff's false imprisonment claim must also be dismissed because Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged that Captain Green acted in bad faith or with a malicious purpose in continuing to detain Plaintiff. Motion at 12–13. In response, Plaintiff argues that because Captain Green acted with "intentional malice" in detaining Plaintiff after his bond was posted and then sanctioned the torture of Plaintiff by keeping him under constant, bright light 24 hours per day, Captain Green is not entitled to qualified immunity and is liable for false imprisonment. Response at 7, 12–16.


To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). The purpose of this requirement is "to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true, construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and drawing all inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008) ; Williams v. Alabama State University , 102 F.3d 1179, 1182 (11th Cir. 1997). A complaint must also contain enough facts to indicate the presence of the required elements. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ. , 495 F.3d 1289, 1302 (11th Cir. 2007). However, "[a] pleading that offers ‘a formulaic recitation of elements of a cause of action will not do.’ " Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). "[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal." Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v. Jaharis , 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002). In a civil rights action, more than mere conclusory allegations are required in order for a complaint to survive dismissal. See Fullman v. Graddick , 739 F.2d 553, 556 (11th Cir. 1984).

The doctrine of qualified immunity "offers complete protection for government officials sued in their individual capacities if their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Vinyard v. Wilson , 311 F.3d 1340, 1346 (11th Cir. 2002) (internal citation omitted). Entitlement to qualified immunity first requires that a public official establish that he or she was engaged in a "discretionary duty." Mercado v. City of Orlando , 407 F.3d 1152, 1156 (11th Cir. 2005). Once it has been established that the official was engaged in a discretionary duty, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish "both that the defendant committed a constitutional violation and that the law governing the circumstances was already clearly established at the time of the violation." Youmans v. Gagnon , 626 F.3d 557, 562 (11th Cir. 2010). "This objective–reasonableness test provides qualified immunity protection to all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." Soto v. City of North Miami , No. 17-22090-Civ-Scola, 2017 WL 4685301, *6 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 17, 2017) (internal quotation omitted)....

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT