United States District Court, D. New Mexico
AL-RASHAAD R. CRAFT, Plaintiff,
CITY OF HOBBS POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [Doc.
9], Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiff's
Second Amended Complaint [Doc. 23], and
Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended
Complaint and Third Amended Complaint [Doc. 24]. For the
reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to strike will
be granted, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an
amended complaint will be granted in part, and
Defendants' motion to dismiss will be denied as moot
without prejudice to their right to file a new motion to
dismiss in response to Plaintiff's latest complaint.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
proposed amended complaint [Doc. 24-1], Plaintiff Al-Rashaad
R. Craft (“Craft”) alleges that on April 18,
2015, he was standing in the public square in Hobbs, New
Mexico, preaching a religious sermon. Craft contends that
while he was preaching, a white woman approached him and
began yelling at him and waving a lighter near his face and
in front of the camera that Craft had set up to record his
sermon. According to the complaint, Craft ignored the woman
until he started to read from his Bible, at which point she
struck Craft in the face with his Bible. Then, Craft pushed
the woman away, and she lost her balance and fell. She got up
and continued to shout obscenities at Craft. Members of the
Hobbs Police Department arrived, took statements from the
parties, and left after finding no probable cause for an
arrest. However, one week later, officers arrested Craft and
charged him with aggravated battery and disorderly conduct.
Craft spent 17 days in the Lea County Detention Center and
later lost his job as a result. The Lea County District
Attorney's Office dismissed the charges based on lack of
April 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed his original complaint [Doc.
1] in this Court. Unfortunately, Plaintiff titled this
document “First Amended Complaint, ” an error in
nomenclature that has had a domino effect through subsequent
pleadings in this case. On June 29, 2017, Plaintiff served
the Defendants with this pleading. The Defendants did not
answer, but on August 1, 2017, the Defendants moved to
dismiss [Doc. 9] the original complaint [Doc. 1]. After
receiving an extension of time in which to respond to the
motion to dismiss, on September 12, 2017, Plaintiff instead
filed an amended complaint [Doc. 21], which he confusingly
labeled “Second Amended Complaint.” He did so
without leave of Court. Three days later, on September 15,
2017, Plaintiff filed his response [Doc. 22] to the motion to
September 20, 2017, Defendants filed their motion to strike
[Doc. 23]. In it, they argue that Plaintiff improperly filed
his so-called “Second Amended Complaint” [Doc.
21] without leave of court more than 21 days after Defendants
had filed their motion to dismiss. On the same day, Plaintiff
filed his motion [Doc. 24] for retroactive leave to file the
“Second Amended Complaint” [Doc. 21], as well as
leave to file a new “Third Amended Complaint, ”
which he attached as an exhibit to his motion. See
Docs. 24 and 24-1. The purpose of the proposed amendment
appears to be to add certain allegations, as well as to add
Ahmad White and Chad Wright as defendants. In their response
to the motion for leave to amend, Defendants argue that the
amendment would be futile.
grant of leave to amend the pleadings pursuant to Rule 15(a)
is within the discretion of the trial court, ”
Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401
U.S. 321, 330 (1971), and the Tenth Circuit will not reverse
the court's decision “absent an abuse of
discretion.” Wessel v. City of Albuquerque,
299 F.3d 1186, 1197 (10th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Under Rule 15, courts “should freely
give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “The liberal granting of motions
for leave to amend reflects the basic policy that pleadings
should enable a claim to be heard on its merits.”
Calderon v. Kan. Dept. of Soc. & Rehab. Servs.,
181 F.3d 1180, 1186 (10th Cir. 1999). The purpose of the Rule
is to provide litigants “the maximum opportunity for
each claim to be decided on its merits rather than on
procedural niceties.” Hardin v. Manitowoc-Forsythe
Corp., 691 F.2d 449, 456 (10th Cir. 1982). Denial of
leave is generally justified only for “undue delay,
undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory
motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previous
allowed, or futility of amendment.” Frank v. U.S.
West, Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365 (10th Cir. 1993).
for Failure to State a Claim
review of the complaint (whether the operative complaint or
the proposed amended complaint), the Court must accept as
true all well-pleaded factual allegations and view them in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. SEC v.
Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640 (10th Cir. 2014). “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation
marks omitted). 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. A pleading that
offers only “labels and conclusions” or “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action” does not meet this standard. Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). See Tellabs, Inc. v.
Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322
(2007) (“[O]nly if a reasonable person could not draw .
. . an inference [of plausibility] from the alleged facts
would the defendant prevail on a motion to dismiss.”).
Motion to Strike
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), an amended complaint may be filed without
first obtaining Court authorization only under certain
circumstances. The Rule provides in pertinent part that leave
of Court is not required if the amended pleading is filed
within 21 days after service of the pleading to be amended,
see Fed. R. Civ. P. (a)(1)(A), or 21 days after
either the filing of a responsive pleadings or service of a
motion under Fed. R .Civ. P. 12(b)(6), “whichever is
earlier.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). The
Rule provides that, in “all other cases, a party may
amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written
consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
case, Plaintiff's “Second Amended Complaint”
[Doc. 21] was not filed until September 12, 2017, far more
than 21 days after both service of the original complaint and
service of the Defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiff
failed to meet the deadline for filing an amended complaint
without first obtaining leave of court to do so. Accordingly,
to the extent the “Second Amended Complaint”
[Doc. 21] seeks to amend the original ...