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Witchard v. Morales

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

January 16, 2018

JOSEPH WITCHARD, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY MORALES and J. PEREZ, Defendants.

          ORDER

          CARLOS E. MENDOZA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Defendant Jeffrey Morales' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment (“Motion, ” Doc. 80) and Plaintiff's Response thereto (Doc. 83). As set forth below, the Motion will be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff filed a Sixth Amended Civil Rights Complaint (“Sixth Complaint, ” Doc. 29) pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In February 2010, Plaintiff was serving a two-year prison sentence in the State of Florida (Id. at 8-9). Defendants Seeger, Keith, and Ololade[1] executed a search warrant on February 26, 2010, and seized a manuscript after a search of Plaintiff's home (Doc. 29 at 9). According to Plaintiff, this evidence was used against him on April 30, 2014, to obtain a federal Indictment in this Court in case number 6:14-cr-112-Orl-37GJK.[2] (Id. at 9, 11).

         Plaintiff states that on May 1, 2014, Defendants Seeger and Keith conspired with Defendant Morales to manufacture an arrest warrant and illegally arrest and detain him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. (Id. at 9, 11-12). Plaintiff also alleges he was then transported to the Seminole County Jail (“Jail”), where Defendant Morales violated his Fourth Amendment rights by illegally recording his jail telephone calls. (Id. at 9-10). Plaintiff notes that these recorded calls were later used against him in the Criminal Case. (Id. at 10). Plaintiff was convicted in the Criminal Case of numerous counts of mail fraud, filing false claims to a department or agency of the United States, theft of government property, and aggravated identity theft. See Criminal Case Doc. Nos. 96 and 111.

         II. Legal Standards

         “A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In determining whether to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. See United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1269 (11th Cir. 2009). Nonetheless, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions, ” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Furthermore, “[t]o 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.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Generally, in deciding a motion to dismiss, “[t]he scope of the review must be limited to the four corners of the complaint.” St. George v. Pinellas Cty., 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002). In the case of a pro se action, the Court should construe the complaint more liberally than it would pleadings drafted by lawyers. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980).

         III. Discussion

         A. Falsification of Arrest Warrant, False Arrest, and Illegal Detention

         Plaintiff contends that the arrest warrant was falsified and he was illegally arrested and detained. Defendant Morales does not address this claim because counsel incorrectly states that he was only named in Plaintiff's claim related to the illegally recorded telephone calls. (Doc. 80 at 3, n.1). Nevertheless, the Court concludes that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         To establish § 1983 liability, a plaintiff must show “‘proof of an affirmative causal connection'” between a defendant's actions and the alleged constitutional violation, which “‘may be established by proving that the official was personally involved in the acts that resulted in the constitutional deprivation.'” Brown v. City of Huntsville, 608 F.3d 724, 737 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Zatler v. Wainwright, 802 F.2d 397, 401 (11th Cir. 1986)). The Eleventh Circuit stated “[m]erely being present . . . at the scene is not enough. . . .” Id.

         The allegations in the Sixth Complaint do not link Defendant Morales to the arrest warrant, arrest, or detention. Plaintiff states that he did not have contact with Defendant Morales until after he was booked in the Jail. (Doc. 29 at 9-10). There is no allegation that Defendant Morales assisted in obtaining the arrest warrant or that he participated in Plaintiff's arrest or booking at the jail. Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that Defendant Morales was personally involved in these matters. Therefore, Plaintiff's claims will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and (b) (allowing a federal district court to dismiss a claim for failure to state a claim).[3]

         B. Illegal Recording of Jail Telephone Conversations

         Plaintiff also challenges the recording of his jail telephone conversations. Defendant Morales asserts that he is entitled to ...


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