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Lafleur v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

February 9, 2015




Before the court is the defendants' Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 9], to which the plaintiff has filed a Response [Docs. 11 & 12]. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 9] is GRANTED.


On November 12, 2013, Judge Steve C. Gunnell granted an order of protection to Karen Lopez.[1] The order prohibited Danial L. Lafleur ("Lafleur") from contacting Karen Lopez, and their child, Elliott Lafleur, until May 11, 2015.[2] Lafleur alleges that there was never any abuse in the household and that Karen Lopez fabricated the allegations against him.[3] Lafleur also was not represented by an attorney at the hearing in which the order of protection was granted.[4]

On October 14, 2014, Lafleur filed suit against Judge Steve C. Gunnell, individually and his official capacity, and against the State of Louisiana.[5] He asserts that he is bringing suit against Judge Gunnell (1) for multiple violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and (2) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[6] Lafleur seeks an injunction to stop enforcement of the protective order, declaratory relief that he is entitled to full custody of Elliott Lafleur, and $28, 000, 000 in damages.[7] The defendants filed the instant Motion on November 24, 2014.[8]


The defendants moved to dismiss Lafleur's complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, respectively.[9]

I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional issue. Cozzo v. Tangipahoa Parish Council, 279 F.3d 273, 280 (citing Koehler v. United States, 153 F.3d 263, 267 (5th Cir. 1998)). In Hans v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Eleventh Amendment, which bars suits against a state by a citizen of a different state, reflected the underlying principle that a citizen is also barred from suing his own state unless the state gives consent to be sued. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 13-17 (1890). Congress may also abrogate a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity by "unequivocally" expressing its intent to do so when "acting pursuant to a valid exercise of power." Fla. Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd. v. Coll. Sav. Bank, 527 U.S. 627, 634 (1999). When Congress enacted 42 U.S.C. § 1983, it did not abrogate the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979), and furthermore, a "state" is not a "person" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Will v. Michigan, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989).

Lafleur has made no factual allegations against the state in his complaint, but even if he had, his suit is barred by sovereign immunity. There is no indication that Louisiana consented to suit or that Congress abrogated Louisiana's sovereign immunity in this matter.

II. Failure to State a Claim

The defendants next argue that a dismissal is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). They assert that Judge Gunnell is entitled to absolute immunity and that Lafleur's requests for injunctive and declaratory relief are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seek the dismissal of an action for failure to state a claim and challenge the sufficiency of a plaintiff's allegations. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). The Fifth Circuit has stated that motions to dismiss are generally viewed with disfavor and should rarely be granted. Harrington v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 563 F.3d 141, 147 (5th Cir.2009) (citing Gregson v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 322 F.3d 883, 885 (5th Cir. 2003) (additional citations omitted)).

In ruling on motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts "must consider the complaint in its entirety, as well as other sources courts ordinarily examine... in particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice." Jackson v. NAACP, No. 12-20399, 2013 U.S.App. LEXIS 20493, at *9 (5th Cir. Oct. 8, 2013) (citing Funk v. Stryker Corp., 631 F.3d 777, 783 (5th Cir. 2011) (additional citation omitted)). "The court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and it must view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Herbert v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. 11-cv-1574, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93848, at *6 (W.D. La. Jun. 5, 2012) (citing In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted)). However, conclusory allegations ...

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