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Ulrich v. Scott

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 24, 2015

AMBER HAHMER ULRICH
v.
CHARLES R. SCOTT, ET AL

MEMORANDUM RULING

S. MAURICE HICKS, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants, Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorneys Jordan Bird ("Bird") and Kenya Ellis ("Ellis"). See Record Document 22. Defendants argue that Plaintiff Amber H. Ulrich's ("Ulrich") complaint as amended fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See id. Bird and Ellis argue that many of Ulrich's allegations fails as conclusory and, additionally, that they are entitled to absolute immunity. See id. They further maintain that Ulrich continues to assert claims against them which assume they are policymakers for the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office. See id. Ulrich has opposed the motion. See Record Documents 24 & 28. For the reasons which follow, the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion is GRANTED and Ulrich's federal claims against Bird and Ellis are DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND

Ulrich asserts claims against Bird and Ellis for alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment (false arrest), Fifth Amendment (protection against double jeopardy), and Sixth Amendment (right to a speedy trial).[1] See Record Document 21 at ¶¶ 34-50. She also asserts state law claims of negligence, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and unlawful detention. See id. at ¶¶ 51-56.[2] Her claims arise from the Shreveport City Attorney transferring a dismissed misdemeanor case to the Caddo Parish District Attorney for prosecution of a felony. See Record Document 21 at ¶ 12. Ulrich alleges that the transferred case had been closed and dismissed by the Shreveport City Attorney in February 2008 after she paid administrative fees and completed "the City Attorney's probation." Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. She contends that her "sentence was a final adjudication." Id. at ¶ 6.

After the case was transferred to Caddo Parish District Court, Ulrich was arrested in January 2013, spent two to three weeks in jail, lost her security officer job at a local casino, and lost her gaming license. See id. at ¶¶ 7-10, 27. The felony charges were ultimately dismissed in February 2013, with the Caddo District Attorney's Office citing "defendant convicted in another jurisdiction" as the reason. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 28.

Ulrich contends that this chain of events occurred, in part, because two assistant district attorneys sent illegal, unfounded, unauthorized letters in August 2011 and September 2011 for her to appear in court to answer criminal charges that had been dismissed three and a half years prior. See id. As to Bird and Ellis, Ulrich specifically alleges:

13. The Caddo Parish District Attorney's office was negligent in failing to determine if the charge had been disposed of in the city court which would have protected Plaintiff Ulrich from double jeopardy. The prosecution had no probable cause in part because the case had already been prosecuted and because the Caddo Parish DA dismissed the case before trial commenced.
14. On August 8, 2011, without plaintiff's knowledge, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's office mailed a letter addressed to plaintiff but at a three and a half year old address to appear in the First Judicial District Court. At the time the letter was mailed the District Attorney had not initiated a criminal prosecution against Plaintiff. The First Judicial District Court had not issued any order for Plaintiff's appearance....
15. Th DA's letter was addressed to the same address listed on the summons that was issued to Plaintiff Ulrich in March, 2006. At the time of the letters, this summons was over five (5) years old and the Caddo Parish District Attorney did not determine if this matter had already been prosecuted and did not verify the five (5) year old address.
16. The letter dated August 8, 2011 was returned to the Caddo Parish District Attorney's office as "undeliverable." On September 6, 2011, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's office through... Bird again sent another letter requiring Plaintiff's appearance in court under the penalty of contempt for failure to appear. It was mailed to the same address as the letter dated August 8, 2011, providing a new court date. The second letter was also returned as "undeliverable."
17. The Caddo Parish District Attorney had access to obtaining Plaintiff Ulrich's correct address through the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles. Her correct address was on her State of Louisiana driver's license issued on February 15, 2011. The Caddo Parish DA never notified Plaintiff that she was required to appear in court on any criminal charges. Bird and Ellis knowingly told the First Judicial Court that Plaintiff had been notified of her duty to appear and had failed to appear under penalty of contempt at a time when Bird and Ellis knew that to be untrue. Based upon the untrue assertions of Bird, the court issued a bench warrant for Plaintiff's arrest.
18. On March 10, 2011, Defendant Ellis requested a docket number from the Clerk....
19. Assistant District Attorney... Ellis and... Bird caused to be issued from the DA's office letters to Ulrich for her to appear in court on criminal charges under the penalty of contempt. These letters were not authorized by law....
20. Ellis and Bird failed to notify Ulrich of the court dates. Ellis and Bird... neither notified Ulrich, but persisted in continuing the prosecution. On September 22, 2011, knowing that Ulrich had no knowledge of any requirement for her to be in Court, Ellis and Bird, and that no lawful order had issued to her to appear in the First Judicial District Court, requested that a bench warrant be issued for Plaintiff Ulrich for her alleged failure to appear in district court. Ellis and Bird knew or should have known at the time they issued the letters and made the decision to request the bench warrant that there was a substantial probability that (1) the prosecution of Plaintiff and all attendant proceedings were in violation of the Double Jeopardy and Due Process clauses of the Louisiana Constitution and the U.S. Constitution and (2) Plaintiff had received no notice of the proceedings against her and that a request for a bench warrant was unsupported by probable cause. There had been no probable cause determined by a court of law. Ellis and Bird knew or should have known that the notices to Ulrich to appear, and a decision to request for a bench warrant ...

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