United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
G. Edmunds United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to
dismiss. (Docket 2.) Plaintiffs bring claims for violation of
their civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, and
the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution. Plaintiffs also brought state law claims
for common law and statutory conversion. This action was
removed from state court and the Court remanded
Plaintiffs' state law claims. (Dkt. 4.) Plaintiffs filed
a response to Defendant's motion and Defendant filed a
reply. (Dkts. 7, 8.) In their response, Plaintiffs
“abandoned” their procedural due process claims.
(Pls.' Resp. 10, dkt. 7.) Thus, the only issues remaining
in the current motion are Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment
claim and Defendants' claim of qualified immunity. The
Court heard Defendants' motion on April 12, 2017.
actions at issue in this case arose during the investigation
of a store known as Surma Grocery for alleged bridge card
fraud in violation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP). (Compl. ¶ 11; Defs.' Mot. Dismiss,
Ex. A, dkt. 2-2.) Plaintiffs Musleh Ludi and Nargis Sultana
are a married couple. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Although neither
Plaintiff was ever involved in the operation of Surma Grocery
and Plaintiff Musleh Ludi is employed full time working for a
hotel, Plaintiff Ludi's brothers, Mukim Ludi and Mahtab
Ludi, were involved in the operation of the grocerystore.
(Compl. ¶¶ 9, 10, 16.)
September 23, 2014, the Michigan State Police executed a
search warrant at 12237 Gallagher, Detroit, Michigan 48212
(the “Gallagher home”), in connection with the
investigation of Surma Grocery, Mukim Ludi and others
involved in operating the grocery store. (Compl. ¶¶
6, 12.) The Gallagher home is owned by Plaintiff Musleh
Ludi's nephew and at the time the warrant was executed,
Plaintiffs were renting a portion of the Gallagher home and
resided there. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 7.) Other relatives of
Plaintiffs resided there as well, including Mukim Ludi.
(Compl. ¶¶ 8, 9.) Neither Plaintiff was the subject
of the investigation for which the search warrant was issued.
(Compl. ¶ 17.)
Theresa Maylone and Jerome Wren are employed by the Michigan
State Police Department and were involved in executing the
search warrant at the Gallagher property. (Compl.
¶¶ 2, 12.) When the search took place, both
Plaintiffs and Mukim Ludi were present at the Gallagher home.
(Compl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiffs allege that during the search,
Defendants wrongfully seized property belonging to Plaintiffs
that was located in rooms that “Defendants knew were
rooms used/rented by Plaintiffs.” (Compl. ¶ 18.)
This property included currency of approximately $16, 000 to
$17, 000, and other property owned by Plaintiffs. (Compl.
¶¶ 18, 19.) Plaintiffs allege that despite their
protests, Defendants have not returned their property.
(Compl. ¶ 20.)
allege that at all relevant times, Defendants knew that
Plaintiffs had never been involved in any way with the
operation of Surma Grocery. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs
also allege that Defendants were advised by Plaintiff Ludi
that certain rooms in the house were used and occupied by
Plaintiffs, and that Defendant Maylone interviewed Plaintiff
Ludi during the execution of the search warrant, and
Plaintiff Ludi advised her that he had nothing to do with
Surma Grocery and was not affiliated with it in any way.
(Compl. ¶¶ 14, 15.) Plaintiffs allege that during
this search, “Defendants wrongfully seized property
belonging to the Plaintiffs located in rooms that the
Defendants knew were rooms used/rented by Plaintiffs (and so
designated by the Defendants on their tabulation form),
specifically the rooms designated in the evidence tabulation
sheet as rooms ‘B' and
‘G.'”(Compl. ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs ultimately
allege that “there was nothing in the search warrant or
warrants executed at the Gallagher property that authorized
the Defendants to take property belonging to the Plaintiffs,
who were not mentioned in the search warrant and the search
warrant affidavits and were not the subject of the criminal
investigation.” (Compl. ¶ 21.)
bring this motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), alleging the "failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The
Sixth Circuit noted that under the United States Supreme
Court's heightened pleading standard laid out in Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “a
complaint only survives a motion to dismiss if it contains
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Estate of
Barney v. PNC Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, 714 F.3d 920,
924 (6th Cir. 2013) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). The court in Estate of Barney goes on to
state that under Iqbal, “[a] claim is
plausible 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. (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Furthermore, while the "plausibility standard is not
akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' . . . it asks
for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court
to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” Estate of Barney, 714 F.3d at
924 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). If the plaintiffs do "not nudge[
] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,
their complaint must be dismissed." Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570. Finally, the Court must keep in mind that
“on a motion to dismiss, courts are not bound to accept
as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation.” Id. at 555 (citation omitted).
attached to the pleadings become part of the pleadings and
may be considered on a motion to dismiss.”
Commercial Money Ctr., Inc. v. Ill. Union Ins. Co.,
508 F.3d 327, 335 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
10(c)). "A court may consider matters of public record
in deciding a motion to dismiss without converting the motion
to one for summary judgment.” Id. at 336.
"In addition, when a document is referred to in the
pleadings and is integral to the claims, it may be considered
without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary
judgment." Id. at 335-36; see also
Greenberg v. Life Ins. Co. of Va., 177 F.3d 507, 514
(6th Cir.1999)(documents not attached to the pleadings may
still be considered part of the pleadings when the
“document is referred to in the complaint and is
central to the plaintiff's claim”) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted).
Whether Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment Claim Fails As A
Matter Of Law
argue that because the seizure of the currency was authorized
by a valid judicial warrant, Plaintiffs cannot claim a Fourth
Amendment violation. Defendants point out that Plaintiffs do
not claim that the warrant was not supported by probable
cause. Instead, Plaintiffs appear to argue that the currency
was not subject to seizure because Plaintiffs were not a
subject of the investigation or warrant, the Defendants knew
the currency belonged to Plaintiffs, and the currency was
located in rooms Defendants knew were
“used/rented” by Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶¶
14, 15, 18, 19, 37, 40.)
Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. “In general, like seizures of the
person, seizures of personal property require probable
cause.” Farm Labor Org. Comm. v. Ohio State Highway
Patrol, 308 F.3d 523, 543 (6th Cir. 2002). “In the
ordinary case, the Court has viewed a seizure of personal
property as per se unreasonable within the meaning
of the Fourth Amendment unless it is accomplished pursuant to
a judicial ...