Stockton v. City of Freeport TX ( 2002 )


Menu:
  •              IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
    
                             FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
    
    
    
                                    No. 01-40588
    
    
    LISA STOCKTON, ETC., ET AL,
                                                            Plaintiffs,
    
    JEREMY DOUGLASS HILL;
    LUCAS GALLAGHER; GEORGE
    LARRY COURS, as next of friend of
    COURTNEY COURS, a minor,
                                                            Plaintiffs-Appellants,
    
                                        versus
    
    CITY OF FREEPORT, TEXAS;
    BRAZOSPORT INDEPENDENT
    SCHOOL DISTRICT,
                                                            Defendants-Appellees.
    
    
    
                      Appeal from the United States District Court
                 for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division
                               USDC No. G-00-CV-744
    
                                    May 20, 2002
    
    Before POLITZ, STEWART, and CLEMENT, Circuit Judges.
    POLITZ, Circuit Judge:*
    
          Jeremy Douglass Hill, Lucas Gallagher, and Courtney Cours appeal the Fed.
    
    R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal of their civil rights actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
    
    and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, against the Brazosport Independent
    
    School District and the City of Freeport, Texas. They also assert that the district
    
    court erred in denying them leave to amend their complaint a second time.
    
    Concluding that the complaint and amendment fail to state a constitutional
    
    violation, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to
    
    amend, we affirm.
    
                                      BACKGROUND
    
          The instant action involves a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal and we accordingly
    
    treat all of the allegations in the complaint as true.1 Three days after the tragic and
    
    shocking 1999 shooting incident at Columbine High School, a threatening letter
    
    was found in the Brazosport High School computer room. School authorities
    
    suspected that a particular student, who spent his idle time with appellants, had left
    
    the letter there. Appellants were sophomores attending Brazosport High School in
    
          *
           Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the Court has determined that this opinion should
    not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth
    in 5TH CIR. R. 47.5.4.
          1
              Malina v. Gonzales, 
    994 F.2d 1121
    , 1125 (5th Cir. 1993).
                                              2
    Freeport. They ate lunch together and traveled in the same social circle. On April
    
    27, 1999, they were confronted by officers of the Freeport Police Department who
    
    placed them in a police car and took them to the Freeport municipal building. This
    
    building houses the local municipal court. During the process, the officers used
    
    profane language and threatened the students with immediate imprisonment and
    
    other harm if they did not yield to the officers’ authority. The confrontation and
    
    subsequent detention took place without a warrant. Neither the officers nor the
    
    school authorities have placed in the record any reason for the detention.
    
          Upon their arrival at the courthouse the students were placed in the municipal
    
    courtroom under a threat of five years imprisonment if they left. After an hour or
    
    so in the courtroom they were told to telephone their parents to tell them to come
    
    to the municipal building. The parents arrived and were told to wait with their
    
    children in the courtroom. The police and the school principal then lectured the
    
    students and parents, after which they were permitted to leave. Hill was the only
    
    appellant ever questioned by the police. His interrogation was short and occurred
    
    only after his mother stated that she could not wait in the courtroom and had to
    
    leave with her son. He was questioned briefly and they then left the building.
    
                                        ANALYSIS
    
          In granting the Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal, the district court concluded
    
                                              3
    that the plaintiffs failed to allege a Fourteenth Amendment violation, a Fourth
    
    Amendment violation, or a custom or policy as a cause of the violations.
    
    Appellants insist that the district court erroneously dismissed their complaint. We
    
    review a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) de novo,2 and dismissal is only proper when
    
    “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his
    
    claim which would entitle him to relief.”3 Appellants complain that the district
    
    court failed to accept as true all facts alleged in their complaint and failed to draw
    
    reasonable inferences from those facts. Additionally, they assert that the court
    
    applied the incorrect standard to the police/school actions by adopting a “special
    
    needs” analysis rather than a probable cause or reasonable suspicion analysis. After
    
    reviewing the record we are not persuaded.
    
    Fourth Amendment
    
          “The Fourth Amendment protects the right of people to be secure in their
    
    persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”4
    
    These protections extend “to searches and seizures by state officers, including
    
    
    
          2
              Spiller v. City of Texas City, Police Dep’t, 
    130 F.3d 162
    , 164 (5th Cir. 1997).
          3
              Shipp v. McMahon, 
    234 F.3d 907
    , 911 (5th Cir. 2000).
          4
                Milligan v. City of Slidell, 
    226 F.3d 652
    , 654 (5th Cir. 2000) (citations
    omitted).
                                                4
    public school officials.”5      An otherwise unconstitutional search may be
    
    constitutional, however, “when special needs, beyond the normal need for law
    
    enforcement, make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impracticable.”6
    
    In Milligan v. City of Slidell,7 we held that “students in the school environment
    
    have a lesser expectation of privacy than members of the population generally.” 8
    
          The district court reasoned that the mere detention of the students for several
    
    hours was not sufficient to establish a Fourth Amendment violation in light of the
    
    school’s custodial and tutelary responsibilities. Under all relevant circumstances
    
    herein we are compelled to agree. The reasonableness of a search and seizure must
    
    be determined by balancing the interests of the government against the invasiveness
    
    of the search or seizure.9 Given the totality of the circumstances surrounding the
    
    detention of appellants, we cannot say with the required certainty that the actions
    
    of the school officials and police herein were unreasonable. Accordingly, the
    
    
          5
            Vernonia Sch. Dist. 47J v. Acton, 
    515 U.S. 646
    , 652 (1995) (citations omitted)
    (holding that the Fourth Amendment was not infringed by the school district’s
    requirement of random drug-testing for all student athletes).
          6
              Id. at 653.
          7
              
    226 F.3d 652
    .
          8
              Id. at 655.
          9
              Id. at 654.
                                              5
    district court did not err in its holding that appellees’ interest in maintaining the
    
    safety of the other students outweighed appellants’ Fourth Amendment rights in
    
    this sharply defined setting.
    
    
    
    Fourteenth Amendment
    
          The district court found that the appellants failed to assert a Fourteenth
    
    Amendment claim because their allegations only gave rise to a claim under the
    
    Fourth Amendment. We have held that a substantive due process claim does not
    
    exist where the allegations of a civil rights complaint assert illegal arrest and
    
    detention.10 A review of the complaint clearly discloses that they do not raise a
    
    Fourteenth Amendment claim.11
    
    Leave to Amend
    
          Appellants maintain that the district court erred in denying them leave to
    
    amend a second time. We review the denial of a motion to amend for abuse of
    
    discretion.12 The record before us does not reflect that they requested such leave
    
    
          10
               Blackwell v. Barton, 
    34 F.3d 298
    , 302 (5th Cir. 1994).
          11
                Id. (holding that a claim against a government official, or a government body
    itself, for arrest without probable cause is properly considered under the Fourth, rather
    than the Fourteenth, Amendment).
          12
               Whitaker v. City of Houston, 
    963 F.3d 831
    , 836 (5th cir. 1992).
                                               6
    to amend or that it was denied. Accordingly, we cannot and will not review that
    
    issue. Having determined that appellants failed to state a constitutional violation,
    
    we do not reach the issue involving a claimed custom or policy.
    
          The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
    
          Judge Stewart concurs in the judgment only.
    
    
    
    
                                             7