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Lester v. Caddo Parish

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

March 30, 2017

JAMES HAYWARD LESTER
v.
CADDO PARISH, ET AL.

          HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Caddo Parish's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Record Document 44) Plaintiff James Hayward Lester's (“Lester”) allegations in his Complaint (Record Document 1) and Amended Complaints (Record Documents 33 and 42) alleging federal constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Louisiana constitutional violations, and state tort claims against Caddo Parish and other Defendants. For the reasons which follow, Caddo Parish's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Lester is a resident of Tarrant County, Texas, but for many years has been active as a commercial contractor in Shreveport. See Record Document 1 at 1-4. On February 28, 2003, Lester first filed his application for a Louisiana commercial contractor's license in Shreveport. See id. at ¶ 13. This application included a statement that Lester had never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor; in fact, Lester had previously been convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas. See id. at ¶ 25; see also State v. Lester, 165 So.3d 1181 (La.App. 2 Cir. 05/20/16). Lester received a valid commercial contractor license on May 15, 2003. See Record Document 1 at ¶ 14. He continually reapplied for such a license and held a valid license during all times relevant to this case. See id. at ¶ 15.

         Part of Lester's contracting work involved making repairs to houses of people who applied for grants from the City of Shreveport's Bureau of Housing and Business Development. See id. at ¶ 16-17. Lester would submit a bid for the requested work and, if he had the lowest bid, he would receive the contract to perform the work. See id. In October 2007, Lester was awarded the contract to perform work on Ms. Bessie Lee Broadway's (“Broadway”) home. See id. On January 14, 2008, a change order for the original contract was approved, allowing Lester to receive an additional fee of $5, 100 for additional work. See id. at ¶ 21. On January 24, 2008, Lester, Broadway, and City Inspector Daniel Lacour (“Lacour”) executed a “Contractor's Pay-Out Request” to pay Lester $17, 900 for work that Lester had completed. See id. at ¶ 20.

         On March 8, 2008, Lacour and Lester orally agreed to a second change order which would allow Lester to repair and service the furnace in the home rather than replace it entirely and use the money that would have paid for a new furnace to replace a deteriorated wall. See id. at ¶ 22. Lacour later admitted that he forgot to complete a physical change order for these changes. See id. On April 1, 2008, Lester, Broadway, and Lacour executed a second “Contractor's Pay-Out Request” to pay Lester $7, 090 for the remainder of the work that Lester had completed. See id. at ¶ 23.

         On March 19, 2009, Sergeant Jason Turner (“Turner”) of the Louisiana State Police and Sergeant Jay Long (“Long”) and Corporal John May (“May”) of the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Department began an investigation into Lester's activities as a contractor. See id. at ¶ 24. During the investigation, Turner found Lester's previous misdemeanor conviction and received documents related to the repairs Lester completed on Broadway's house. See id. at ¶¶ 24-27. On July 15, 2009, Turner obtained a warrant for Lester's arrest for Filing or Maintaining False Public Records by submitting renewal applications for his contractor's license without correcting the statement that he had not been convicted of a previous misdemeanor. See id. at ¶ 28.

         Turner, Long, and May continued their investigation of Lester by inspecting Broadway's property with another inspector, Timothy Weaver (“Weaver”). See id. at ¶ 29. Weaver later sent a letter to Turner stating that he found that Lester had failed to install as much insulation in Broadway's attic as the contract had called for. See id. at ¶ at 30. On August 29, Turner obtained an arrest warrant for Lester and Lacour's arrest for Home Improvement Fraud. See id. at ¶ 31. In interviews with the officers after the arrest warrants were issued but prior to his actual arrest, Lacour admitted that he had failed to complete a second change order for Broadway's house, and he stated that if the officers had found something wrong with the repairs to the house, “its my fault, nobody elses . . . I should've did my job right (sic).” See id. at ¶ 32.

         On August 31, 2009, Lester and six other African American contractors and inspectors, including Lacour, were arrested. See id. at ¶ 34. That day, a press conference “featuring Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator and Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott” was held on the steps of the Caddo Parish courthouse. See id. at ¶ 35. At the press conference, Prator announced a $1.5 million scandal involving the arrestees to defraud the City of Shreveport, a statement that Lester alleges was made “falsely and with the full intention to mislead the public.” See id. at ¶ 35. On November 18, 2009, Assistant District Attorney Lea Hall, Jr. (“Hall”) filed the first Bill of Information against Lester, charging him with Home Improvement Fraud and Filing or Maintaining False Public Records. See Id. at ¶ 36.

         On May 25, 2010, the trial of one of the other contractors, James Alex III (“Alex”), resulted in a mistrial. See id. at ¶ 37. According to Hall's statements to a reporter after the trial, the parties had made a joint motion for mistrial after they discovered that the jury instructions did not reflect the fact that Alex was charged with Home Improvement Fraud that allegedly occurred under an old statute and an amended statute. See id. at ¶ 37. On July 8, 2010, Lester filed a Motion to Quash the Information in his case on the basis of statutory affirmative defenses to Home Improvement Fraud. See id. at ¶ 38. The trial judge held a hearing on the motion, but reserved a ruling until after trial. See id. at ¶ 39. On September 28, 2011, Lester provided the State with photographic evidence that allegedly proved that he was innocent of the Home Improvement Fraud charge. See Id. at ¶ 40. On February 14, 2012, a second Bill of Information was filed against Lester which dropped the Home Improvement Fraud charge and included only the Filing or Maintaining False Public Records charge. See id. at ¶ 41.

         On April 9, 2014, Lester filed a Motion to Quash the Amended Information, which the trial court granted. See id. at ¶ 42-43. On July 4, 2014, Sheriff Prator gave an interview to the editor of local newspaper The Inquisitor in which he stated that he was frustrated with the fact that Lester had not been prosecuted for Home Improvement Fraud and stating that Lester had committed theft and abuse of Broadway. See id. at ¶ 44. That same day, acting District Attorney Dale Cox[1] (“Cox”) sent an email to the editor of The Inquisitor stating why the Home Improvement Fraud charge against Lester was dropped and that the State would be appealing the trial court's decision to quash the Filing or Maintaining a False Public Record charge against Lester. See id. at ¶ 45. On May 20, 2015, the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision to quash the Filing or Maintaining False Public Records charge against Lester on the basis of prescription. See id. at ¶ 51; see also Lester, 165 So.3d 1181 (La.App. 2 Cir. 05/20/16).

         Lester filed this suit against Hall, Scott, Cox, Turner, Long, and May on July 2, 2015. See Record Document 1. On December 1, 2015, Lester filed an Amended Complaint adding Caddo Parish as a defendant in the instant action. See Record Document 33. On December 14, 2015, Lester filed a second Amended Complaint adding more allegations against Defendants. See Record Document 42. On September 29, 2016, the Court granted the Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss by Hall and Scott. See Lester v. Caddo Parish, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136192 (W.D. La. 2016). On October 26, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss by Cox. See Lester v. Caddo Parish, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148414 (W.D. La. 2016). Caddo Parish filed the instant Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss on January 29, 2016, and the Motion is fully briefed. See Record Documents 44 and 48.

         LAW ...


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