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LaFrance v. City of New Orleans

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 31, 2017

JOSEPH T. LAFRANCE
v.
CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, ET AL.

         SECTION “R” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SARAH S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Sheriff Marlin Gusman moves to dismiss Plaintiff Joseph T. LaFrance's individual capacity claims under Count One. The Court finds that LaFrance's allegations, taken as true, cannot overcome Gusman's qualified immunity from suit. Accordingly, Gusman's motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Joseph T. LaFrance alleges that he was arrested on an invalid warrant for unpaid fines and fees and held for three weeks in Orleans Parish Prison without being brought before a judge.[1] LaFrance further alleges that no bond was ever set in his case.[2] While incarcerated, LaFrance allegedly suffered several seizures and lost his job.[3] LaFrance names the City of New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court (OPCDC), Judicial Administrator Robert Kazik, and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman as defendants.[4]

         LaFrance challenges his arrest and incarceration on several grounds. Specifically, LaFrance alleges that:

1. LaFrance had, in fact, paid all fines and fees due to the court, and his warrant was therefore issued in error.[5]
2. Defendants have a policy of issuing and enforcing such nonpayment warrants without inquiry into the subject's ability to pay, and this practice violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.[6]
3. LaFrance was “indefinitely” jailed in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and LaFrance's incarceration constitutes wrongful arrest and imprisonment under Louisiana law.[7]
4. LaFrance was deprived of his right to a neutral tribunal because the prosecutor and judicial officer that seek and approve nonpayment warrants, and conduct subsequent hearings, are financially interested in the outcome of such cases.[8]
5. Defendants imposed unduly restrictive methods of collection on LaFrance in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[9]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 697 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 239 (5th Cir. 2009); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).

         A legally sufficient complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claim is true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. It need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action. Id. In other words, the face of the complaint must contain enough factual matter to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiff's claim. Lormand, 565 F.3d at 257. If there are insufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the ...


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