United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
T. MOODY JUDGE
matter is before the court on defendant Lake County,
Indiana's motion to dismiss. (DE # 20.) For the reasons
set forth below, the motion will be granted.
Kathleen Escobedo is employed as a correctional officer at
the Lake County Jail. (DE # 1 at 2.) According to her
complaint, the then-Sheriff, defendant John Buncich,
suspended Escobedo after erroneously accusing her of causing
an inmate's escape. (Id.) Escobedo alleges that
similarly situated male correctional officers who were also
associated with the escape were treated more favorably.
(Id.) She believes that this discrepancy was due to
her sex. (Id. at 3.)
complaint alleges two counts against Lake County. In Count
II, Escobedo alleges that Lake County is liable under
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New
York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) for defendant Buncich's
alleged violation of her rights under the Equal Protection
Clause. (DE # 1 at 6.) Escobedo claims that the County had
“customs, policies, and practices which included
fostering a work environment in which Mr. Buncich was
permitted to treat Plaintiff and other female officers less
favorably as to matters of alleged wrongdoing and
discipline” and that women were treated less favorably
than men generally. (Id. at 7.) Count III appears
duplicative of Count II.
County has moved to dismiss the claims against it on two
bases. (DE ## 20, 21.) First, it argues that Escobedo failed
to allege sufficient factual allegations to proceed with her
Monell claim. (DE # 21 at 3.) Second, it argues that
it does not have an agency relationship with the Lake County
Sheriff's Department, and therefore cannot be held liable
for the decisions made by the Department or Sheriff.
(Id. at 5.)
County has moved to dismiss Escobedo's claim under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted. A judge reviewing a
complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must construe the
allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, accept all well-pleaded facts as true,
and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-movant. United States ex rel. Berkowitz v. Automation
Aids, Inc., 896 F.3d 834, 839 (7th Cir. 2018). Under the
liberal notice-pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, the complaint need only contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A
plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).
County argues that it cannot be held liable for the alleged
actions of defendant Buncich because the County does not have
an agency relationship with the Sheriff's Department. (DE
# 21 at 5.) Escobedo did not address this aspect of the
named Lake County as a defendant and, thus, is suing the
Board of Commissioners of Lake County, as the Board of
Commissioners is the executive of the county. See Waldrip
v. Waldrip, 976 N.E.2d 102, 118 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012).
government is liable under Section 1983 for its policies that
cause constitutional torts. Monell, 436 U.S. at
690. To determine whether a particular local
government is responsible for the policy at issue, courts
must look to state law. McMillian v. Monroe Cty.,
Ala., 520 U.S. 781, 786 (1997). Under Indiana law, the
Lake County Sheriff's Department is an entity separate
from Lake County, and operates independently. Kocon v.
Lake Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, No. 206-CV-13-PRC,
2007 WL 1959239, at *8 (N.D. Ind. June 29, 2007);
Argandona v. Lake Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, No.
2:06 CV 259, 2007 WL 518799, at *3-6 (N.D. Ind. Feb. 13,
2007); Ind. Const. Art. VI, § 2. “[T]he county
sheriff is the final policymaker for law enforcement in his
or her particular jurisdiction.” Eversole v.
Steele, 59 F.3d 710, 716 (7th Cir. 1995). The county
sheriff and the county are not responsible for each
other's actions. Estate of Drayton v. Nelson, 53
F.3d 165, 167-68 (7th Cir. 1994); Raketich v. Porter
Cty., Ind., No. 2:09-CV-417 JVB, 2010 WL 2195293, at *1
(N.D. Ind. May 28, 2010). “‘[T]he law is
well-settled that county commissioners do not have control
over the acts of a sheriff.'” Waldrip, 976
N.E.2d at 119 (internal citation omitted). See also
Radcliff v. County of Harrison, 627 N.E.2d 1305, 1306
(Ind. 1994); Carver v. Crawford, 564 N.E.2d 330,
333-34 (Ind.Ct.App. 1990).
relevant case law establishes that Lake County does not have
the authority to make policy or custom for the Lake County
Sheriff's Department. Because Lake County cannot exert
control over the Sheriff's Department, it cannot be
liable for the decisions, policies, and customs of that
department. See Holl v. Indiana, No.
3:18CV1-PPS/MGG, 2018 WL 3008671, at *5 (N.D. Ind. June 15,
2018); Bickel v. Sheriff of Whitley Cty., No.
1:08-CV-102-TS, 2010 WL 1258165, at *4 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 26,
2010); Vandewalle v. Moffa, No. 3:07-CV-400 PS, 2009
WL 631244, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 10, 2009); Burton v.
Lacy, No. 1:07CV0918 JDTTAB, 2008 WL 187552, at *4-6
(S.D. Ind. Jan. 18, 2008). Thus, Escobedo's complaint
fails to state a plausible claim for relief against Lake
County and the motion to dismiss will be granted.