United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
PAUL A. BONIN, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
NATURE OF MOTION AND RELIEF SOUGHT
the court are Defendants' “Motion to Dismiss
Amended Complaint for Declaratory Relief, Injunctive Relief,
and Damages Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12
(b)(6)” (Rec. Doc. 22), Plaintiff's
“Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint for
Declaratory Relief, Injunctive Relief, and Damages Under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(6)” (Rec. Doc.
30) and Defendants' “Reply Brief in Support of
Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint Under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12 (b)(6) (Rec. Doc. 43); and Defendants'
“Motion to Dismiss Claims for Damages Against Members
CSR Board in their Official Capacities Under Rule of Federal
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (Rec. Doc. 20), Plaintiff's
“Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Claims for Damages
Against Members of CSR Board in their Official Capacities
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(1)” (Rec.
Doc. 31) and “Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss
Claims for Damages Against Members of the CSR Board in their
Official Capacities Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1)” (Rec. Doc. 42). For the reasons set forth
below, IT IS ORDERED that the Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule and 12(b)(6) is GRANTED IN
PART AND DENIED IN PART and the Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to
12 (b)(1) is DISMISSED AS MOOT.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Veritext Corp., is a Delaware corporation that provides
court-reporting services to clients in depositions,
arbitrations and other legal proceedings in Louisiana and
across the United States (Rec. Doc. 4). In the instant
lawsuit the Plaintiff challenges a state statute, La. Code.
Civ. Proc. Art. 1434(A)(2), which prevents court reporters
from entering into long term or volume based contracts with
frequent users of court reporting services (Rec. Doc. 4). The
law creates two categories of court reporting firms: court
reporting firms that regularly contract with party litigants
and court reporting firms that do not regularly contract with
party litigants. The law is concerned with potential bias
issues relating to court reporting firms who hold contracts
with lawyers and the judiciary and may feel a conflict of
interest when creating work product (Rec. Doc. 4). Plaintiff
claims that this law impermissibly prohibit its ability to
enter into contracts in Louisiana (Rec. Doc. 4).
also alleges that it faces the threat of prosecution as the
Louisiana Board of Examiners of Certified Shorthand Reporters
began an investigation of it as a prelude to enforcement of
Article 1434 after it attempted to contract in violation of
the law (Rec. Doc. 4). The Board has the authority to suspend
or revoke the certified court reporter certificate that a
person must hold to practice court reporting in Louisiana
(Rec. Doc. 4). The Plaintiff currently has a pending hearing
regarding suspending or revoking their certification that has
been continued without date (Rec. Doc. 4). Plaintiff sues
defendants Paul A. Bonin, Vincent P. Borrello, Jr., Milton
Donegan, Jr., Suzette Magee, Kimya M. Holmes, John H.
Andressen, May F. Dunn, Elizabeth C. Methvin, and Laura
Putnam in their official capacities as members of the
Louisiana Board of Examiners of Certified Shorthand Reporters
(Rec. Doc. 4). Plaintiff also sues defendants Borrello,
Donegan, Andressen, Dunn, Magee, and Methvin in their
individual capacities (Rec. Doc. 4).
FACTUAL AND LEGAL FINDINGS
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Such a motion
is rarely granted because it is viewed with disfavor. See
Lowrey v. Tex. A & M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247
(5th Cir.1997) (quoting Kaiser Aluminum & Chem.
Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045,
1050 (5th Cir. 1982)).
reviewing a motion to dismiss, courts must accept all
well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Baker v. Putnal,
75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). However, “[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “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.” Gonzales v.
Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009)(quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949
(2009))(internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court
in Iqbal explained that Twombly promulgated
a “two-pronged approach” to determine whether a
complaint states a plausible claim for relief.
Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. First, courts must
identify those pleadings that, “because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Id. Legal conclusions “must be
supported by factual allegations.” Id.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. at 1949.
identifying the well-pleaded factual allegations, courts
“assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief.”
Id. at 1950. A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 1949. This
is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. The plaintiffs must “nudge
their claims across the line from conceivable to
plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
EQUAL PROTECTION CLAIM
the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution it provides that
no state shall “deny to any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” The
Supreme Court has further elaborated that the Equal
Protection Clause “is essentially a direction that all
persons similarly situated should be treated alike.”
City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S.
432, 439 (1985). Furthermore, the Supreme Court has
explained, “legislatures are presumed to have acted
within their constitutional power despite the fact that, in
practice, their laws result in some inequality. Accordingly,
this Court's cases are clear that, unless a
classification warrants some form of heightened review
because it jeopardizes exercise of a fundamental right or
categorizes on the basis of an inherently suspect
characteristic, the Equal Protection Clause requires only
that the classification rationally further a legitimate state
interest.” Nordlinger v. Hahn, 505 U.S. 1, 10
(1992) (internal citations and quotations omitted). In the
current controversy Article 1434 creates a legislative
classification that distinguishes between court reporting
firms that contract with party litigants and court reporting
firms that do not. Given that this distinction does not
implicate fundamental rights or inherently suspect
characteristics, the rational basis test is appropriate. The
Supreme Court has explained that “a classification
neither involving fundamental rights nor proceeding along
suspect lines is accorded a strong presumption of
validity” under the rational basis test. Heller v.
Doe, 509 U.S. 312, 319 (1993). The Heller court
further explained that a classification “must be upheld
against equal protection challenge if there is any reasonably
conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational
basis for the classification” and that “the
burden is on the one attacking the legislative arrangement to
negative every conceivable basis which might support
it.” Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S. 312, 320 (1993)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). This is an
untenable burden for the Plaintiff in this case.
Defendants have argued that the classifications should pass
the rational basis test because they “(1) ensure that
court reporters provide comparable service to all
participants in a deposition and treat all parties fairly (2)
ensure that court reporters maintain the confidentiality of
sensitive information contained in depositions; (3) to
protect the integrity of the record; (4) to maintain the
court reports integrity; (4) to avoid any appearance of
impropriety or bias on the court reporter's
behalf.” (Rec. Doc. 22-1). These are all rationales
that survive the relevant equal protection analysis. The
Plaintiff argue that in the Fifth Circuit laws that are
protectionist or create an economic preference cannot pass
constitutional scrutiny under an equal protection analysis.
St. Joseph Abbey v. Castille, 712 F.3d 215, 221 (5th
Cir. 2013). However, this Court finds this case to be
inapposite. The law in question may have economic
implications for court reporting firms but the primary
motivation is related to the professional integrity of the
court reporting industry. Article 1434 may have collateral
consequences on court reporting businesses but it's
primary effect is one ensure that the court reporters in the
state of Louisiana do not face ...