United States District Court, D. Utah
MARK L. SHURTLEFF, et al., Plaintiffs,
SIM GILL, et al., Defendants,
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING COUNTY
DEFENDANTS AND FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
Waddoups United States District Judge
the court are motions to dismiss filed by defendants Salt
Lake County, Sam Gill, and the Salt Lake County District
Attorney Office (the “County Defendants”); and
the United States of America, the FBI, the Salt Lake Public
Corruption Task Force (“SLPCTF”), Agent Pickens,
Agent Isakson, and Agent Nesbitt (the “Federal
Defendants” and together with the County Defendants,
the “Defendants”). (ECF Nos. 36 and 37). For the
reasons stated herein, both motions to dismiss are
8, 2018, Plaintiffs Mark Shurtleff, M'Liss Marler
Shurtleff, Thomas James Shurtleff, and Adrianna Carolina
Shurtleff filed a Complaint (ECF No. 2) against the State of
Utah, Utah Department of Public Safety, and Utah State Bureau
of Investigation (the “State Defendants”); the
County Defendants; and the Federal Defendants, in which they
allege that the defendants, individually and in concert,
violated their constitutional rights through the
investigation, search and seizure, and prosecution of Mark
Shurtleff. Specifically, Plaintiffs' Complaint asserted
five claims against the defendants: 1) violation of rights
under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed.
Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971); 2) a general
42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim; 3) a § 1983 excessive force
claim; 4) a § 1983 malicious prosecution claim; and 5) a
§ 1983 claim for deliberately indifferent policies. On
July 27, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a First Amend Complaint (ECF
No. 3) that reasserted the same five claims but offered
significantly more background and allegations in support of
the defendants separately moved to dismiss Plaintiffs'
action-the State Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on
October 23, 2018 (ECF No. 33), and the County Defendants and
Federal Defendants filed motions on November 26, 2018 (ECF
Nos. 36 & 37). Each motion was fully briefed, and the
court heard arguments on the same on July 10, 2019. At that
hearing, and at the Plaintiffs' concession, the court
granted the State Defendants' motion to dismiss, and the
State Defendants were thereafter dismissed with prejudice.
(ECF No. 68).Both the County Defendants and Federal
Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' action on the
bases that their claims were, among other things, untimely
and “non-cognizable based on the doctrines of absolute
or qualified immunity.” (See ECF No. 36, at 2;
ECF No. 37, at 8-20).
argument, the court found that Plaintiffs had failed to meet
their burden of establishing that qualified immunity does not
bar their claims. Although the court recognized that this
failure provided it with sufficient basis to grant the
motions to dismiss, it gave Plaintiffs one “last
shot” to respond to defendants' arguments and
properly plead their case. (See ECF No. 77 at
51:11-58:11). To that end, the court granted Plaintiffs leave
to file a supplemental response to the defendants'
motions to dismiss, which Plaintiffs filed on September 16,
2019. (ECF No. 75). The County Defendants thereafter filed
their supplemental reply brief in support of their motion to
dismiss on November 15, 2019 (ECF No. 82), and the Federal
Defendants filed their corresponding brief on November 18,
2019 (ECF No. 85). The motions to dismiss are therefore fully
briefed and argued and are ripe for decision.
First Amended Complaint asserts five claims. The first
asserts that the Federal Defendants violated Plaintiffs'
constitutional rights pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown
Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971). Plaintiffs' other four claims arise under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and are asserted against both the Federal
Defendants and the County Defendants. The Defendants have
moved to dismiss each claim.
Plaintiffs' claims against the Salt Lake County
District Attorney Office fail.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Office is named as one of
the County Defendants. Because the Salt Lake County District
Attorney Office is not a separate legal entity that is
distinct from Salt Lake County, it cannot be sued. See
Gonzalez-Lopez v. Cache Cty. Corr. Facility, No.
1:10-cv-19, 2010 WL 1071389, at *2 (D. Utah Mar. 22, 2010)
(“[S]ubordinate agencies of counties are not separate
legal entities with capacity to sue or be sued.”
(citing Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th
Cir.1992))). As such “the Court construes
[Plaintiffs'] claims against [the Salt Lake County
District Attorney Office] as claims against [Salt Lake]
County itself” and therefore DISMISSES
Plaintiffs' claims asserted against the Salt Lake County
District Attorney Office. See id.
Plaintiffs' first claim against defendants the United
States of America, the FBI, and the SLPCTF is
first claim arises under Bivens and is asserted
against the Federal Defendants. “Bivens was a
landmark decision holding that plaintiffs may sue federal
officials in their individual capacities for damages for
Fourth Amendment violations, even in the absence of an
express statutory cause of action analogous to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983.” Simmat v. U.S. Bureau of
Prisons, 413 F.3d 1225, 1231 (10th Cir. 2005) (emphasis
added). Because such claims only lie against federal
officials in their individual capacities, they “cannot
be asserted directly against the United States, federal
officials in their official capacities or federal
agencies.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d
1090, 1099 (10th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). As such,
Plaintiffs' first claim against the United States of
America, the FBI, and the SLPCTF is
Plaintiffs' second, third, fourth, and fifth claims
against the Federal Defendants are dismissed.
unclear whether Plaintiffs' second, third, fourth, and
fifth claims, which each arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
are asserted against the Federal Defendants. To the extent
they are, those claims fail as a matter of law, as §
1983 “applies to actions by state and local entities,
not to the federal government.” Belhomme v.
Widnall, 127 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 1997) (citations
omitted). As such, to the extent that ...