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Price v. Law Firm of Shorty

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 18, 2014

CHERYL PRICE
v.
LAW FIRM OF EDWIN SHORTY, JR., ET AL. Section

ORDER AND REASONS

ELDON E. FALLON, District Judge.

Before the Court are three motions: two motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction and a motion for sanctions. (Rec. Docs. 4, 7, 16). The Court has considered the parties' memoranda and the applicable law and now issues this order.

I. BACKGROUND

This case involves allegations of a mismanaged legal case following Plaintiff Cheryl Price's - automobile accident. Ms. Price was hospitalized with injuries from the accident. After her accident, Ms. Price hired the law firm of Mr. Edwin Shorty to represent her. Mr. Shorty secured a settlement. As part of the settlement, the insurance company issued a check for approximately $4, 000, which Mr. Shorty deposited in his firm's IOLTA trust account.[1] Apparently, however, a lien from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals ("DHH") prevented immediate disbursement of the $4, 000 to Ms. Price. Mr. Shorty states that the insurer's $4, 000 check included "Medicaid Recovery" as a payee, seemingly reflecting the lien issue. Mr. Shorty reports that he investigated the source and value of lien with DHH. According to Mr. Shorty, he communicated these events to Ms. Price and informed her that he could not release the money until the lien issue was resolved. When Mr. Shorty did not immediately disperse the settlement funds, Ms. Price filed a complaint against Mr. Shorty to the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. The Board conducted an investigation and concluded that no disciplinary action was warranted. Mr. Shorty indicates that his firm ultimately endorsed the $4, 000 check and released it to Ms. Price.

Ms. Price thereafter filed the instant action pro se against Mr. Shorty, the "Louisiana Employment Disciplinary Council" (properly called the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board), the Louisiana Office of Risk Management, and Robert McClendon, the state investigator for the Board. Ms. Price claims violations under the Due Process of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, and state law. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

II. PRESENT MOTIONS

A. Motions to Dismiss

All Defendants move to dismiss in two separate motions. (Rec. Docs. 4, 16). First, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, the Louisiana Office of Risk Management, and Robert McClendon (collectively, the "State Defendants"), assert immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. (Rec. Doc. 4). The State Defendants also assert that they are entitled to absolute immunity against the alleged constitution violations, as the Board acts as prosecutors in attorney disciplinary proceedings. Moreover, the States Defendants assert that to the extent they are being sued in an individual capacity, they are entitled to qualified immunity because Ms. Price has not demonstrated a constitutional violation or objective unreasonableness.

Mr. Shorty argues for dismissal because (1) the complaint does not reveal any facts supporting a constitutional violation and (2) he was not acting as a state actor, but rather in his private capacity as an attorney. (Rec. Doc. 16). Mr. Shorty further argues for dismissal of the state law claims because the Court lacks supplemental jurisdiction without any federal cause of action.

Ms. Price responds in opposition to both motions. (Rec. Docs. 15, 18). She argues that any person may fall within the scope of a §1983 claim, and that Mr. Shorty's unlawful possession of her property confers a federal right. She further argues that the failure of the State Defendants to enforce state policy constitutes negligence in contravention of the federal constitution and federal law.

B. Sanctions

Ms. Price moves for sanctions and injunctive relief. (Rec. Doc. 7). She argues that the Court should sanction Mr. Price for his conduct and enjoin him from "any further dilatory technicalities."

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard ...


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