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Jacobs v. Alam

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 8, 2019

EDUARDO JACOBS, Plaintiff,
v.
RAYMON ALAM, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS THE BIVENS CONSPIRACY CLAIM [#167]

          DENISE PAGE HOOD Chief Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         This matter is now before the Court on Defendants Ramon Alam, David Weinman, and Damon Kimbrough's (collectively, “Defendants”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings or Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed. R. of Civ. P. 12(c) and 56 filed on July 23, 2019. [ECF No. 167] On November 13, 2015, this Court entered an Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Count II and dismissed Count II of the First Amended Complaint. [ECF No. 37] On August 23, 2017, this Court entered an Order denying Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Eduardo Jacobs's (“Plaintiff”) Bivens claim (Count I) for excessive force, fabrication of evidence, civil conspiracy, false arrest, and malicious prosecution against Alam; Plaintiff's Bivens claim for fabrication of evidence and civil conspiracy against Weinman; and Plaintiff's Bivens claim for excessive force, fabrication of evidence, civil conspiracy, false arrest, and malicious prosecution against Kimbrough. [ECF No. 125] The Court granted Defendant Knox's summary judgment motion regarding all of Plaintiff's claims against him and dismissed Knox from this action. [Id.] On January 19, 2018, the Court denied Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration regarding their Bivens claims. [ECF No. 148] Defendants appealed this Court's ruling denying their Motion for Reconsideration. [ECF No. 151] On February 8, 2019, the 6th Circuit affirmed this Court's decision allowing Plaintiff's Bivens claims. [Jacobs v. Alam, 915 F.3d 1028, 1039 (6th Cir. 2019)] This matter is presently before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Bivens conspiracy claim in the First Amended Complaint. [ECF No. 167]

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) authorizes parties to move for judgment on the pleadings “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Motions for judgment on the pleadings are analyzed under the same standard as motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Warrior Sports, Inc. v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 623 F.3d 281, 284 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). “For purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to judgment.” Id.

         In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Supreme Court explained that “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Id. at 555. A plaintiff's factual allegations, while “assumed to be true, must do more than create speculation or suspicion of a legally cognizable cause of action; they must show entitlement to relief.” LULAC v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “To state a valid claim, a complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.” Bredesen, 500 F.3d at 527 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562).

         When deciding a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, as a general rule, matters outside the pleadings may not be considered unless the motion is converted to one for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. See Weiner v. Klais & Co., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997). The Court may, however, consider “the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Id. at 89.

         B. Intracorporate Conspiracy and Jackson v. City of Cleveland

         Defendants assert that the Sixth Circuit's recent decision-Jackson v. City of Cleveland, 925 F.3d 793 (6th Cir. 2019)-mandates that this Court apply the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine to Bivens actions.

         The intracorporate conspiracy doctrine states that if “all of the defendants are members of the same collective entity, there are not two separate ‘people' to form a conspiracy.” Id. at 817 (quoting Johnson v. Hills & Dales Gen. Hosp., 40 F.3d 837, 840 (6th Cir. 1994)). The Sixth Circuit traditionally has applied the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine to 42 U.S.C. § 1985 cases. See e.g., id. (discussing the Circuit's application of the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine to § 1985(3)). The Sixth Circuit further acknowledged that the doctrine should also apply to claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at 818.

         Defendants argue that Jackson's result now precludes Plaintiff from asserting his civil conspiracy claims. Defendants argue that they were acting as one unit under the direction of the United States Marshals on the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team (“DFAT”) and were “pursuing no task or mission on behalf of Wayne County the night of the incident, ” and therefore, were working under the authority of the United States Marshals. [ECF No. 167, Pg.ID 5715] Defendants contend that under Jackson, the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine would apply to them as actors working as one organization. Jackson, 925 F.3d at 818 (holding that civil conspiracy charges could not be brought in a § 1983 action against employees of the same agency).

         Defendants acknowledge that Jackson only involved a § 1983 claim but assert that the distinction between § 1983 and Bivens actions in the Sixth Circuit are “legally immaterial.” [Id. at 5716] Defendants argue that the Sixth Circuit's practice of borrowing § 1983 case law to determine a Bivens cause of action leaves “no question” that the Sixth Circuit would extend Jackson to Bivens actions.[1] [Id.]

         Plaintiff responds with two main arguments:[2] (1) Jackson only applies to § 1983 claims; and (2) that Defendants are not in the same department. Plaintiff is correct in asserting that Jackson did not mention Bivens once. Plaintiff further contends that even if, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine applies ...


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