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Price v. United States Government

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 23, 2017

ORA PRICE
v.
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, ET AL.

         SECTION “B” (2)

          OPINION

         Before the Court is “Plaintiff's Ex Parte Motion for Vacation/Set Aside Judgment Due to Judicial Conduct/Prevent Manifest Injustice.” Rec. Doc. 35. Plaintiff Ora Price and various members of her family have been involved in several suits in this Court during the past six years. A brief review of those cases will provide the appropriate context.[1]

         I. HISTORY IN THIS COURT

         A. CIVIL ACTION 01-3156, CONSOLIDATED WITH 01-3180, 03-1145

         Desire Area Resident, v. Housing Auth of NO, , CV-01-3156, Section “S, ” was a class action suit filed by members of the Desire Housing Development; both Ora Price and her son, Stanley, were listed as Plaintiffs. The original petition and amended complaint alleged that the Housing Authority of New Orleans (“HANO”) failed to comply with United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) regulations and the requirements of federal HOPE VI grant guidelines. Rec. Doc. 99 at 2. A settlement agreement, ultimately approved by the Court, committed HANO to funding programs and activities for Desire residents at a minimum of three million dollars. Id. at 8. Stanley Price appealed the dismissal of his claims under Federal Rule of 12(b)(6) (Rec. Doc. 100), but the Fifth Circuit granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss the appeal and affirmed the district court's dismissal of Stanley Price's claims (Rec. Docs. 103-04).

         B. CIVIL ACTION 11-114

         In Ora Price, v. Michaels Group, LLC, , CV-11-114, Section “J” (2), Ora, Leonard, and Darryl Price asserted claims against Michaels Group, LLC, Michaels Development Company (collectively “Michael's”), Interstate Management Company (“IMC, ” incorrectly named as Interstate Realty Management), Calisha Jolla (“Jolla”), and Connie Abdul (“Abdul”). Defendants IMC, Jolla, and Abdul were represented by James Ryan, III (“Ryan”) of James Ryan III & Associates, LLC (“Ryan & Associates”), Jeffrey A. Clayman (“Clayman”), and Timothy Roniger (“Roniger”). Plaintiffs essentially claimed that they were defamed and were being threatened with wrongful eviction. Rec. Doc. 1. Thereafter, Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and a temporary restraining order. Rec. Doc. 9. On March 10, 2011, Judge Carl Barbier denied the motion after a conference in which it was discovered that Plaintiffs allegedly violated their lease, but no eviction proceedings were currently set; the court further noted that when eviction proceedings were set, “Plaintiffs will have another opportunity to contest those proceedings in state court.” Rec. Doc. 19.

         Defendants IMC, Jolla, and Abdul filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6). Rec. Doc. 24. After a hearing, with a ruling in open court, Judge Barbier granted the motion to dismiss and entered judgment in favor of all of the Defendants and against Plaintiffs. Rec. Docs. 36-37. Plaintiffs appealed. Rec. Doc. 38. On February 23, 2012, the Fifth Circuit affirmed finding that “[a]lthough they allege in general terms that appellees have violated federal law and their constitutional rights, they do not present any facts that would support these claims” and “if and when eviction proceedings actually come to pass in this case, the appellants will have the ‘opportunity to contest those proceedings in state court.'” Rec. Doc. 44 at 3-4.

         C. CIVIL ACTION 12-992

         Less than two months after the Fifth Circuit's judgment, Ora, Leonard, and Darryl Price filed Ora Price, v. Housing Authority of New Orleans, , CV-12-992, Section “B” (2). They asserted claims against HANO, Michael's, IMC, Treasure Village Associates, LP (“Treasure Village”), Jolla, Ryan, Clayman, Roniger, Ryan & Associates, Rhonda Brown, First Choice Security, Kevin Johnson, Joseph C. Hensley, Robin Maxfield, and Judge Veronica Henry (“Judge Henry”). Essentially, they sued the defendants from the earlier suit, those defendants' lawyers, HANO, and the state court judge presiding over their eviction proceedings. They again moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Rec. Docs. 8, 10. This Court denied the motion, noting the “longstanding precedent against federal court interference with the state court system where that system affords available relief on asserted claims and there is a pending writ in the state appellate system to obtain such relief” and that federal district courts “cannot sit as appellate courts in review of state court judgments.” Rec. Doc. 11 at 1-2 (citing Matter of Gober, 100 F.3d 1195, 1206 (5th Cir. 1996)) (quoting De Spain v. Johnston, 731 F.2d 1171, 1176 (5th Cir. 1984); Weekly v. Morrow, 204 F.3d 613, 615 (5th Cir. 2000)). Plaintiffs filed motions for entry of default against Defendants Hensley, Johnson, First Choice Security, Maxfield, Jolla, IMC, Michael's, Treasure Village, and Brown. Rec. Docs. 38-40, 48-53. These motions were either dismissed as moot or denied. Rec. Docs. 65-68. Defendants Ryan, Ryan & Associates, Judge Henry, HANO, IMC, Michael's, Treasure Village, Brown, Maxfield, Roniger, Jolla, and Clayman filed motions to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and (6). Rec. Docs. 12, 31-32, 41, 54, 76.

         The Court first granted the motion to dismiss filed by Ryan and Ryan & Associates, finding that there was “nothing in the record to show that Defendants, as retained counsel for a private entity, acted under color of law with public actors, ” “Plaintiffs have cited no federal law that would allow them, third parties, a cause of action against Defendants, as the retained counsel for [IMC] in filing the Rule to Evict, ” that “[e]ven liberally construed, it is difficult to ascertain any possible federal claim against Defendants that would not facially flow from state law, ” and ultimately that “Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden in showing that federal subject matter jurisdiction exists for this Court.” Rec. Doc. 44 at 5-6.

         The Court then granted the motion to dismiss filed by Judge Henry. Rec. Doc. 58. We found that there was “nothing in the record to show that Defendant's conduct was improper or outside of her judicial role in issuing a ruling in an eviction proceeding, ” that “[e]ven if Plaintiffs were able to state a claim against Defendant, a judge acting within her judicial capacity is immune from suit for actions performed within that judicial capacity, ” “[t]o the extent that any of these claims have already been raised and litigated in state court, they may be considered barred under res judicata, ” and “the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not allow for district courts to entertain collateral attacks on state court judgments, which is precisely what Plaintiffs urge in this case.” Id. at 8-10.

         The Court then granted the motion to dismiss filed by HANO, finding that Plaintiffs merely alleged that HANO revoked their Section 8 voucher, not that it was involved in the eviction. Rec. Doc. 60 at 7-8. Under the law, HANO must revoke such a voucher when a family is evicted for a serious violation of the lease. Id. at 8 (citing 24 C.F.R. § 982.552(b)(2)). “Given the state court findings in the eviction proceeding that Plaintiffs were in violation of several of these obligations, there does not appear to be anything improper about Defendant's action in revoking Plaintiffs' Section 8 voucher.” Id. at 8-9. This Court again noted that “the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not allow for district courts to entertain collateral attacks on state court judgments, which is precisely what Plaintiffs urge in this case.” Id. at 9 (citations omitted).

         Plaintiffs sought to disqualify the undersigned Judge (Rec. Doc. 69), but this motion was dismissed as frivolous (Rec. Doc. 74). Plus, the Fifth Circuit denied Plaintiffs' petition for a writ of mandamus/recusal because they “failed to show the exceptional circumstances necessary to invoke the writ of mandamus.” Rec. Doc. 84 at 2.

         Thereafter, this Court granted the motions to dismiss filed by IMC, Michael's, Treasure Village, Brown, Maxfield, and Roniger (Rec. Doc. 63), by Jolla (Rec. Doc. 73), and by Clayman (Rec. Doc. 86) for the same reasons stated in the previous orders (see Rec. Docs. 44, 58, and 60). Accordingly, the case was dismissed without prejudice. Rec. Doc. 87.

         More than a year later, Plaintiffs hired counsel (Rec. Doc. 91) who moved to reopen the case (Rec. Doc. 90). In denying the motion to reopen, this Court noted that twelve of the original sixteen Defendants were dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, “Plaintiffs repeatedly failed to comply with this Court's orders regarding their attempts at garnering default judgments against the four remaining Defendants, ” the motion to reopen “fail[ed] to follow this Court's rules for citation of authorities, and, as a result, it has proven a ...


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