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Lewis v. Baton Rouge Police Department

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 22, 2015

BRIAN LEWIS,
v.
BATON ROUGE POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL

RULING AND ORDER

JOHN W. deGRAVELLES, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge's and Joseph Valencia's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and to Enjoin Plaintiff from Filing Future Claims (R.Doc. 18) and Defendant Cheryl Lum's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Complaint for Damage (R.Doc. 51). Oral argument is not necessary.

Considering the facts alleged in the original complaint and the amended complaint as well as the law, Defendants' motions are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background

Pro se Plaintiff Brian Lewis filed his original Complaint (R.Doc. 1) on June 27, 2014. This original pleading was extremely skeletal and unclear. The purported grounds for the complaint were "Civil rights violation, Defamation of character, [and] discrimination." Plaintiff appeared to name as a defendant the Baton Rouge Police Department and Officer Joseph Valencia as well as an unknown "Ms. Sheryl." Plaintiff's statement of claim was that "The police officer and lady customer accused me of theft at Albertson's store on 10-17-13 for matter." (R.Doc. 1 at p. 2). Plaintiff sought $25, 000.00 to $5 million, for the defendants to go to jail, for in forma pauperis status, and for all civil damages to which he is entitled.

Attached to the initial complaint is a Baton Rouge Police Department Report of a "Suspicious Incident" which says that, on Thursday, October 17, 2013, at approximately 2:11 p.m., Officer Valencia was dispatched to the Albertson's located on 7515 Perkins Rd. HQ advised that an iPhone and wallet were taken out of a purse by an employee. When Officer Valencia arrived, he contacted the complaintant "Sherly Lum, who stated she found her [iPhone]/wallet at the check out lane upon [Valencia's] arrival. LUM advised no one took her [iPhone]/wallet she just misplaced it." (R.Doc. 1, p. 6).

On January 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint styled "Petition." (R.Doc.6). In the amended complaint, Plaintiff names the same defendants, clarifying that the previously unknown Sheryl was in fact Cheryl Lum, an Albertson's customer. Plaintiff explains that his "civil rights was violated on 10/17/13 at Alberston's store [when] [t]he lady customer accused me taking her items on matter." (Id.). Plaintiff said the police officer made 2 different police reports concerning the theft event and that this "should be called malfeasance that police officer Joseph Valencia did." Plaintiff further said the "police officer wrongfully read me the Miranda rights, and searched me at Albertson's store." Plaintiff seeks $74, 000.00 to $5 million in damages for each defamation of character, court costs, fraud, mental abuse, mental anguish, mental anxiety, mental stress, perjury of accusing Brian Lewis of theft, threatening Brian Lewis to go to jail at the store, "racism of help for a white woman concerning theft, and wrongfully searching me Brian Lewis at store." (Id.) Plaintiff urges that he also wants payment for discrimination and embarrassment.

The police report attached to the second Petition explains that the police Officer J. Valencia was dispatched to Albertsons "relative to a suspicious incident" and that he was advised that two black males were in custody for theft. Upon arrival, the black males were released because the Loss Prevention Officer thought they were shoplifting but they were not.

Thus, construing Plaintiff's claims liberally, [1] it appears that Plaintiff Brian Lewis works for Albertsons, and that, on the day in question, the defendant Cheryl Lum was shopping there. She could not find her cell phone and apparently thought a store employee had stolen it. The police were called. By the time the police arrived, Mrs. Lum had found her phone at the checkout counter, and it had not been stolen. But, the Petition reads as though Lewis was apparently "arrested" when he was read his Miranda warning and subsequently searched.

On July 9, 2014, the Magistrate issued an order (R.Doc. 13) requiring a hearing to be held pursuant to Spears v. McCotter , 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985) to determine whether all or any part of the case should be dismissed as frivolous. The hearing was held on July 29, 2014. (R.Doc. 22). The Plaintiff appeared before the Magistrate to discuss his complaints and answer questions from the Court.

On August 5, 2014, the Magistrate issued a notice (R.Doc. 24) stating that, after scheduling the Spears hearing, defendants City of Baton Rouge and Officer Valencia filed a motion to dismiss. The Magistrate explained:

By filing a Rule 12(b) motion, pursuant to Rule 15(a)(1)(B), Fed.R.Civ.P., the plaintiff now has an opportunity to file an amended complaint without leave of court. The best course is for the plaintiff to do so, and to allege in an amended complaint the facts which he believes support his claims against defendants City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge and Officer Valencia, as well as his claim against defendant Lum.

(Id.).

On August 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Petition. (R.Doc. 26) seeking to amend his petition to add state law claims against his employer, Albertson's Store Number 2, and numerous named store employees. Plaintiff claims against these defendants are based on their alleged refusal to provide him with documents ("discovery") related to a sexual assault and the "theft events" that form the basis of Plaintiff's claim in this suit. The Magistrate ruled on this motion September 30, 2014 (R.Doc. 57). The Magistrate granted the motion to amend as timely but recognized that the Court could decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these claims. Thus, the Magistrate ordered that the clerk of court not issue summons to any new defendants until ordered to do so. Further, the Magistrate explained that the case would be reviewed after this Court ruled on the pending motions to dismiss to determine whether the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims.

II. Discussion

A. Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 12(b)(6) Standard

In Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), the Supreme Court explained:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'

Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

Interpreting Rule 8(a) and Twombly , the Fifth Circuit explained:

The complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual matter (taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or expectation (4) that discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of a claim. "Asking for [such] plausible grounds to infer [the element of a claim] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal [that the elements of the claim existed]."

Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc. , 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly , 127 S.Ct. at 1965) (emphasis added). Later, in In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC. , 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010), the Fifth Circuit explained:

To avoid dismissal [under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)], "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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). To be plausible, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. In deciding whether the complaint states a valid claim for relief, we accept all well-pleaded facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. [ Doe v. Myspace , 528 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008)] (citing [ Hughes v. Tobacco Inst., Inc ., 278, 278 F.3d 417, 420 (5th Cir. 2001)]). We do not accept as true "conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions." Ferrer v. Chevron Corp ., 484 F.3d 776, 780 (5th Cir.2007) (quoting Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc ., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir.2005)); see also Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1940 ("While legal conclusions can provide the complaint's framework, they must be supported by factual allegations.").

Id. at 215.

Analyzing the above case law, our brother in the Western District stated:

Therefore, while the court is not to give the "assumption of truth" to conclusions, factual allegations remain so entitled. Once those factual allegations are identified, drawing on the court's judicial experience and common sense, the analysis is whether those facts, which need not be detailed or specific, allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft , 129 S.Ct. at 1949, Twombly , 555 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. This analysis is not substantively different from that set forth in Lormand, supra , nor does this jurisprudence foreclose the option that discovery must be undertaken in order to raise relevant information to support an element of the claim. The standard, under the specific language of Fed. Rule Civ. P. 8(a)(2), remains that the defendant be given adequate notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it is based. This standard is met by the "reasonable inference" the court must make that, with or without discovery, the facts set forth a plausible claim for relief under a particular theory of law provided there is a "reasonable expectation" that "discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of the claim." Lormand , 565 F.3d at 257, Twombly , 555 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

Diamond Services Corp. v. Oceanografia, S.A. De C.V. , No. 10-177, 2011 WL 938785, at *3 (W.D.La. Feb. 9, 2011) (citation omitted).

Afterward, in Harold H Huggins Realty, Inc. v. FNC, Inc. , 634 F.3d 787 (5th Cir. 2011), the Fifth Circuit explained:

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.'" A claim for relief is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." A claim for relief is implausible on its face when ...

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