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Washington v. Miami-Dade County

United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division

December 23, 2019

DARRIAN WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY and HOWARD ROSEN, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          FEDERICO A. MORENO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Darrian Washington, a Miami-Dade police officer files this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for defamation against Howard Rosen, the Deputy Chief of Special Prosecutions for the Miami-Dade State Attorney. Plaintiff is also suing Miami-Dade County under the Florida Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights and the Florida Civil Rights Act. The Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a federal § 1983 claim against Howard Rosen because his allegations are insufficient to establish the elements for a common-law defamation claim and a constitutional injury flowing from Defendant Rosen's statements. In addition, the Court finds that Howard Rosen has qualified immunity for statements made in his discretionary authority, which do not violate clearly established constitutional law. Finally, the Court grants the County's motion to dismiss the Florida Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights claim and the Plaintiffs demands for prejudgment interest and punitive damages under the Florida Civil Rights Act.

         THIS CAUSE came before the Court upon Defendant Howard Rosen's Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 28), filed on June 5, 2019 and Defendant Miami-Dade County's Motion to Dismiss (D.E. 29) filed on June 6, 2019.

         THE COURT has considered the motions, the response to Defendant Howard Rosen's motion to dismiss, the pertinent portions of the record, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, it is

         ADJUDGED that the Defendant Rosen's motion to dismiss is GRANTED because Plaintiff fails to state a defamation claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Defendant has qualified immunity. Based on the Court's finding that Defendant Rosen is entitled to qualified immunity and because this is the Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint, the Court declines to allow Plaintiff leave to amend his claims against Defendant Rosen. Lomax v. Diaz, 390 Fed.Appx. 900, 902 (11th Cir. 2010); see also Cita Tr. Co. AG v. Fifth Third Bank, 879 F.3d 1151, 1157 (11th Cir. 2018) (stating that imbedding a request to amend in an opposition memorandum is insufficient to properly request leave). It is also

         ADJUDGED that Miami-Dade County's motion is GRANTED and the claims against the County are DISMISSED without prejudice. The Court notes that Plaintiff did not file a response to the motion to dismiss, filed on June 6, 2019, and the time for doing so has passed. Southern District of Florida Local Rule 7.1(c) allows the Court to grant motions by default, when a party fails to file an opposition memorandum. In any event, the Court examines in this order the claims against Miami-Dade County. To the extent, there are any viable state law claims against the County, the Court declines to exercise pendent jurisdiction.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Darrian Washington, a Miami-Dade police officer, filed this case against Defendant Howard Rosen and Miami-Dade County. In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues Howard Rosen, the Deputy Chief of Special Prosecutions for the Miami-Dade State Attorney, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The other three counts are state law claims against Miami-Dade County for violations of the Florida Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights and the Florida Civil Rights Act.

         Plaintiff is an African-American male, who was assigned to the Miami-Dade Police Department's Narcotics Bureau. At the time, the Department was investigating the Narcotics Bureau following instances of stolen money from crime scenes. Following a sting operation where monies went missing, the Miami-Dade Police Department arrested Plaintiff on February 25, 2016 along with other members of his squad. The Department released Plaintiff, but eventually reassigned and relegated him to a Patrol Officer position in the highest crime district in the County. He claims the transfer was a demotion based on unlawful discrimination due to his race. He also claims he was denied the opportunity to work overtime shifts. His claims against the County stem from those employment decisions.

         The federal 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim is for defamation against Defendant Howard Rosen, the Deputy Chief of Special Prosecutions for the Miami-Dade State Attorney. The Second Amended Complaint alleges that Rosen had "operational management of the joint investigation" into Plaintiff and other officers within the Narcotics Bureau. Plaintiff asserts that Rosen attended a roll call meeting at the Miami-Dade Police Department, where 40 people were present. Before the meeting took place, the Miami-Dade State Attorney had already decided not to prosecute Plaintiff in connection with the sting operation, which resulted in his arrest. Throughout the meeting, Rosen referred to Plaintiff as the "officer that immediately invoked his rights upon his arrest." The allegations are that Rosen stated: "[t]he money had been counted and impounded by a particular officer whose name I'm not going to mention, ... but it's the same officer that invoked his rights. You might . . . have heard who it is . . . throughout the rumor mill. . .. [T]here's no allegation of him stealing any money, but the bottom line is he impounded the dope, he impounded the money. There was a serious credibility issue with him, so we can't file the case." The Second Amended Complaint adds that Rosen stated in the meeting that "the officer who invoked his rights" stole the money from a crime scene two days prior to the undercover operation. Rosen added that he "believed" Plaintiff stole the money because he had a lot of cash on him the day of the sting operation. The allegations also state that Rosen stated he heard Plaintiff's jailhouse call to family and based on that, he had no doubt that Plaintiff stole money from the scene.

         Defendants filed motions to dismiss. Defendant Rosen argues the Plaintiff fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for defamation and Defendant Miami-Dade County argues that Plaintiff fails to state a claim under the Florida Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights and the Florida Civil Rights Act.

         II. Legal Standard

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must do more than merely state legal conclusions," instead plaintiffs must "allege some specific factual basis for those conclusions or face dismissal of their claims." Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the plaintiffs well-pleaded facts as true. See St. Joseph's Hosp., Inc. v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 795 F.2d 948, 953 (11th Cir. 1986). This tenet, however, does not apply to legal conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Moreover, "[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 1950. Those "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). In short, the complaint must not merely allege a misconduct, but must demonstrate that the pleader is entitled to relief. See Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         III. L ...


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