United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
William Spencer and Spencer Bros. LLC
New Hampshire State Police, et al.
MCCAFFERTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Spencer, proceeding pro se, brings 16 claims, each under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, against the New Hampshire State Police
and certain current and former officers, the New Hampshire
Office of the Attorney General and two of its employees
(collectively, with the New Hampshire State Police and its
officers, the “state defendants”), the Federal
Motor Carriers Safety Administration and three of its
employees, and the United States Department of Transportation
and two of its employees.Spencer's suit arises from the
circumstances of a traffic stop and subsequent events. The
state defendants move to dismiss the claims brought against
them. Spencer did not file a response to the
state defendants' motion.
state defendants move to dismiss all claims against them on
the ground that they are protected by sovereign immunity and
cannot be sued under § 1983. The Eleventh Amendment bars
suits in federal courts against a state unless the state has
waived its sovereign immunity or Congress has exercised its
power to override sovereign immunity. Will v. Mich.
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989).
1983 provides as follows:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for
redress . . . .
U.S.C. § 1983 (emphasis added).
Supreme Court has held that a state is not a person within
the meaning of § 1983 and, therefore, Congress has not
abrogated sovereign immunity in civil rights cases brought
under that section. Will, 491 U.S. at 64. Because the state
is not a person and cannot be sued for damages in a §
1983 claim, state agencies and individuals sued in their
official capacities as officers, employees, or agents of a
state are also not persons for purposes of § 1983.
Fantini v. Salem State College, 557 F.3d 22, 33 (1st
Cir. 2009) (“It is well settled that neither a state
agency nor a state official acting in his official capacity
may be sued for damages in a section 1983 action.”
(internal alterations, citations, and quotations omitted)).
alleges a § 1983 claim against the New Hampshire State
Police and Count XIV alleges a § 1983 claim against the
New Hampshire Office of the Attorney General. Those claims
are barred by sovereign immunity and are dismissed for the
reasons stated above. In addition, Counts II - VI, XV, and
XVI, which allege § 1983 claims against current and
former individual employees of either the state police or the
Attorney General's Office, are dismissed on the same
ground to the extent they are brought against the individuals
in their official capacities.
Failure to State a Claim
only remaining claims against the state defendants are Counts
II - VI, XV, and XVI, to the extent they are asserted against
current or former state officials acting in their individual
capacities. The state defendants move to dismiss those claims
on the ground that they fail to state claims on which relief
may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
determines whether the complaint alleges facts that
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667
(2009). That process requires the court to take the factual
allegations in the complaint as true and to draw all
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Gilbert v. City of Chicopee, 915 F.3d 74, 80 (1st
mentioned above, Spencer's suit arises from the
circumstances of a traffic stop and subsequent events. He
states in his complaint that he is bringing a “federal
civil rights claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”
Doc. no. 1 at 2.
1983 does not provide substantive rights but instead
“provides a method for vindicating federal rights
elsewhere conferred.” Albright v. Oliver, 510
U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). For
that reason, a plaintiff bringing a claim under § 1983
must allege facts that show the defendants' conduct
violated a federal constitutional or statutory right.
Garcia-Gonzalez v. Puig-Morales, 761 F.3d 81, 87
(1st Cir. 2014). In the absence of specific allegations that
identify what constitutional or statutory right the plaintiff
is alleging the defendants violated, “the Complaint
lacks a ‘short and ...