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Mills v. City of Bogalusa

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 29, 2015



HELEN G. BERRIGAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment by the City of Bogalusa, Joe Culpepper, and Kendall Bullen ("defendants") (Rec. Doc. 13). Plaintiff, Logan N. Mills, opposes the motion. (Rec. Doc. 24). Having considered the law, the facts, and the arguments of the parties, the Court DENIES the motion, for the reasons discussed herein.

I. Background

This action arises out of the arrest and jailing of Daniel Dendinger ("Dendinger") in connection with a lawsuit for excessive force brought by Logan N. Mills ("Plaintiff"), currently also before this Court.[1] Per plaintiff's complaint, on April 20, 2011, plaintiff committed an armed robbery of a bank in Bogalusa, Louisiana. Rec. Doc. 1 at 4. His criminal trial for armed robbery commenced on August 13, 2012 in Washington Parish. Id.

On April 18, 2012, prior to the criminal trial's commencement, plaintiff filed an action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in this Court, claiming that officers of the Bogalusa Police Department had used excessive force in apprehending him following the armed robbery. ("the excessive force suit") Id. The excessive force suit named Bogalusa's Chief of Police, Joe Culpepper ("Culpepper"), as well as Captain Kendall Bullen ("Bullen"), Lieutenant Patrick Lyons ("Lyons"), Officer Scott Seals ("Seals") and former Officer Chad Cassard ("Cassard") as defendants.

Several months after the filing of the excessive force suit, Seals and Cassard had not yet been served in that matter. Mills' counsel learned that both men were no longer employed with the Bogalusa Police Department, and that Cassard was now working in the offshore oil industry. Id. at 5. Mills' counsel determined that Mills' criminal trial would provide the best opportunity to serve Seals and Cassard, since both would be testifying in that trial. After an unsuccessful attempt at service in the Washington Parish Courthouse while the trial was ongoing, Mills' counsel instructed Douglas Dendinger ("Dendinger") to attempt service at the conclusion of the trial. Id. at 6.

Plaintiff alleges that on the afternoon of August 20, 2012, after the jury in the criminal trial returned a verdict and was excused, Dendinger delivered the summons to Cassard, who was standing on the courthouse steps near Bullen and Assistant District Attorney Leigh Anne Wall ("Wall"). Plaintiff claims that Bullen yelled at Dendinger and threw the envelope containing the summons and complaint toward Dendinger. Shortly thereafter, Mills' counsel received a call from Pamela Jean Legendre, staff attorney for the judge in Mills' criminal trial, who used profanity and stated that there had been an assault on a police officer and intimidation of a witness. Id. at 6-7. After the phone call, Dendinger was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice, intimidation of a witness, and battery of a police officer. Id. Dendinger was taken to the Washington Parish jail, where he allegedly was ridiculed by Wall, Bullen, and Culpepper. Id. at 8.

On August 19, 2013, plaintiff brought this action against the defendants under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Plaintiff claims that by selectively prosecuting Dendinger, defendants deprived plaintiff of the ability to exercise his First Amendment right to bring an excessive force suit and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. Id.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) may be granted when a complaint fails to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable interference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, taken as true, must raise the plaintiff's right to recover above the speculative level. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56. Facts from which the court could infer the mere possibility of liability will not suffice. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). However, "a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of these facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

On a motion to dismiss, the court must take all well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). Nevertheless, "conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not admitted as true, especially when such conclusions are contradicted by facts disclosed by document appended to the complaint." Associated Builders, Inc. v. Alabama Power Company, 505 F.2d 97, 100 (5th Cir. 1974).

III. Law and Analysis

Defendants argue that the action should be dismissed because plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action. Rec. Doc. 13-1 at 7. Defendants also assert that plaintiff cannot show that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated. Id. at 9. In the alternative, defendants argue that Culpepper and Bullen are entitled to qualified immunity from suit. Id. at 10. Finally, defendants argue that the City of Bogalusa should be dismissed ...

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