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Seals v. McBee

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 31, 2017

TRAVIS SEALS ET AL.
v.
BRANDON MCBEE ET AL.

         SECTION: “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 25). For the foregoing reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         After an altercation with his neighbor, Plaintiff Travis Seals alleges that he was arrested at his home by deputies from the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office. During the arrest, Seals objected to the deputies' conduct, including the use of pepper spray, and threatened to make a lawful complaint regarding their conduct. Seals was charged with, among other things, public intimidation and retaliation in violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14:122 for that threat. Section 14:122 makes it a crime to threaten a public official “with the intent to influence his conduct in relation to his position, employment, or duty.” The charge was ultimately dismissed or refused.

         Plaintiffs[1] argue that, on its face, § 14:122 makes it criminal to “threaten” to take lawful actions, such as oppose or challenge police action, write a letter to the newspaper, or to file a lawsuit. They argue that such statements are protected speech, and § 14:122 is therefore unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. The Attorney General has intervened to defend this allegation of unconstitutionality. In the instant motion, Plaintiffs move for partial summary judgment on their claim that § 14:122 is an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of speech, and they seek an injunction prohibiting further enforcement of the statute. The Attorney General has opposed this Motion and seeks summary judgment in its favor pursuant to Fed. Rule Civ. Pro. 56(f).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[2] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[3]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[4] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[5] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[6] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[7] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[8] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[9]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         In this Motion, Plaintiffs seek a ruling that Louisiana's public intimidation law, § 14:122, is unconstitutional and an injunction preventing Defendants from further enforcement of the statute. The Attorney General opposes this Motion and seeks summary judgment in its favor pursuant to Fed. Rule Civ. Pro. 56(f).

         In its totality, Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14:122 states that:

         A. Public intimidation is the use of violence, force, or threats upon any of the following persons, with the intent to influence his conduct in relation to his position, employment, or duty:

(1) Public officer or public employee.
(2) Grand or petit juror.
(3) Witness, or person about to be called as a witness upon a trial or other proceeding before any court, board or officer authorized to hear evidence or to take testimony.
(4) Voter or election official at any general, primary, or special election.
(5) School bus operator.

         B. Retaliation against an elected official is the use of violence, force, or threats upon a person who is elected to public office, where:

(1) The violence, force, or threat is related to the duties of the elected official.
(2) Is in retaliation or retribution for actions taken by the elected official as part of his official duties.

         C. Whoever commits the crime of public intimidation or retaliation against an elected official shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than five years, or both.

         Plaintiffs' arguments primarily center on the constitutionality of the statute's prohibition on threats made with the ...


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