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Moore v. Salt Lake City Corporation

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

February 21, 2017

LAURA MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
SALT LAKE CITY CORPORATION; SALT LAKE CITY DEPARTMENT OF AIRPORTS; SALT LAKE CITY AIRPORT POLICE; and JOHN DOES 1-5, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DALE A. KIMBALL United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on Defendants Salt Lake City Corporation, Salt Lake City Department of Airports, and Salt Lake City Airport Police's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. A hearing on the matter was held on February 8, 2017. At the hearing, Plaintiff was represented by Kent Morgan. Defendants were represented by S. Spencer Brown. Before the hearing, the court carefully considered the memoranda and other materials submitted by the parties. Since taking the matter under advisement, the court has further considered the law and facts relating to the matter. Now being fully advised, the court renders the following Memorandum Decision and Order.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Laura Moore alleges that Salt Lake City Airport Police officers, who are employees of Defendants Salt Lake City Corporation, Salt Lake City Department of Airports, and Salt Lake City Airport Police (collectively “SLCC”), violated her civil rights by refusing to let her travel with her two children.

         Ms. Moore divorced Tyler Moore on November 4, 2009. On December 2, 2010, the court in the divorce proceeding, upon a motion from Mr. Moore, entered an Order for Enforcement of Divorce Decree and Amended Divorce Decree, which allowed for peace officer enforcement of the decrees. On May 31, 2013, the court in the divorce proceeding granted another petition to modify the divorce decree. The May 31, 2013, modification granted sole physical and legal custody of Tyler Moore and Ms. Moore's two minor children to Tyler Moore. The order allowed for parent time for Ms. Moore as set forth in Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-35 and provided for peace officer enforcement of the decree. The order also required Ms. Moore to complete parenting classes or programs and allowed Tyler and Ms. Moore to agree to parent-time arrangements after Ms. Moore completed the training, which they did through a Stipulation on November 10, 2014.

         On December 29, 2014, Ms. Moore attempted to travel with her minor children from the Salt Lake City International Airport to Hawaii. On that day, Tyler Moore appeared at the airport with the most recent divorce decree and the stipulated agreement and stated that Ms. Moore was attempting to travel out of state with his minor children in violation of the court's order. Tyler Moore asked a Salt Lake City Airport Police officer to enforce the court's order. The officer reviewed the order and the applicable statutes alone and reviewed them again with his sergeant, who arrived shortly thereafter. Tyler Moore and the officers apparently interpreted the order and applicable statutes as requiring Ms. Moore to receive permission from Tyler Moore before taking the children on extended vacations. The two officers contacted Ms. Moore at a departure gate and informed her that she would not be allowed to fly with her children. She was compliant and left the secure area of the airport. Ms. Moore was not arrested during this incident.

         After the incident, David Maddox, Ms. Moore's attorney in her divorce case, contacted the Salt Lake City Airport Police to explain to them that Ms. Moore's ex-husband was notified well in advance of Ms. Moore's visitation dates and of her plans to take the children to Hawaii. The officer who took the call explained to Mr. Maddox that he would not discuss the case over the phone and that Mr. Maddox could obtain a copy of the report through the proper channels.

         On March 31, 2016, Ms. Moore filed a Complaint in this court against SLCC alleging a violation of her constitutional right to interstate travel; a failure to supervise or train the Salt Lake City Airport Police officers; and a violation of the due process clause of the Utah Constitution. On August 20, 2016, SLCC filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment asking the court to dismiss all of Ms. Moore's claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         DISCUSSION

         In its Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, SLCC argues that Ms. Moore fails to allege facts to establish any violation of her civil rights or to provide plausible grounds for government entity liability against SLCC. Ms. Moore argues that the Salt Lake City Airport Police officers prevented Ms. Moore from boarding an airplane in violation of her constitutional right to interstate travel without any justification and that they made many unreasonable and unjustified errors, which manifests a fundamental lack of training of the officers by SLCC. The court will address each of these arguments.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss an action for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must “contain enough factual allegations ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Smith v. Millett, No. 2:07-CV-723-TS, 2009 WL 3181996, at *6 (D. Utah Sept. 28, 2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Tenth Circuit has interpreted Twombly to mean that “[t]he complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide ‘plausible grounds' that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff's allegations.” Shero v. City of Grove, 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, “[f]actual allegations in a complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” and “the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for his claim.” Smith, 2009 WL 3181996, at *6 (internal quotations and citations omitted). “The requirement of plausibility serves not only to weed out claims that do not (in the absence of additional allegations) have a reasonable prospect of success, but also to inform the defendants of the actual grounds of the claim against them.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). “[T]hreadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are therefore insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Generally, a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim is generally with prejudice. Smith, 2009 WL 3181996, at *6 (citing Sheldon v. Vermonty, 269 F.3d 1202, 1207 (10th Cir. 2001)).

         Rule 12 also requires the court to treat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) as a motion for summary judgment “[i]f . . . matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). To the extent the court construes the motion as a motion for summary judgment, summary judgment “should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issues as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). When the non-moving party bears the burden of proof, summary judgment is warranted by demonstration of an absence of facts to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When qualified immunity is involved, “a defendant asserts a qualified immunity defense” then “the burden shifts to the plaintiff, who must meet a ‘heavy two-part burden.'” Chavez v. Poleate, No. 2:04-CV-1104-TC, 2007 WL 1795763, at *3 (D. Utah June 20, 2007) (quoting Medina v. Cram, 252 F.3d 1124, 1128 (10th Cir. 2001)). The plaintiff first must establish that “the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right, ” and then the plaintiff must show that “the right was clearly established.” Id. (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)).

         CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO ...


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