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Leleux v. Hassan

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

December 4, 2017




         Currently pending is the motion to dismiss, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), which was filed by the defendant, Lutfe Hassan. (Rec. Doc. 6). The motion is opposed. The motion was referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the court. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, it is recommended that the motion be denied.


         In her complaint, plaintiff Barbara Leleux alleged that her constitutional rights were violated when the defendant, Lutfe Hassan, failed to provide her with sufficient notice before garnishing her wages. According to the complaint, Mrs. Leleux is employed by the St. Mary Parish School Board as a teacher, and is married to Calvin Leleux. Mr. Hassan allegedly secured a money judgment against Mr. Leleux and others in a lawsuit in which Mrs. Leleux was not a party. After registering the judgment in this court, by means of an action separate from this one, in which Mrs. Leleux again was not a party, Mr. Hassan instituted a proceeding under Louisiana law, by which Mrs. Leleux's wages are being garnished to satisfy the judgment in favor of Mr. Hassan and against Mr. Leleux. Mrs. Leleux alleged that she was not served with any notice of the garnishment proceeding before her wages were seized. She further alleged that this was a violation of the due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Mrs. Leleux brought her lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and she seeks to recover her lost wages, damages for her emotional pain, suffering, and distress (including damages attributable to her allegedly injured reputation); and punitive damages.

         The defendant responded to Mrs. Leleux's complaint with the instant motion to dismiss. In support of the motion, the defendant argued that Mrs. Leleux's salary constitutes community property; that under Louisiana law community property can be seized to satisfy the debts of either spouse; that Louisiana's garnishment law requires notice only to the judgment debtor; that due process does not require service of notice of garnishment proceedings on both spouses; and that Mrs. Leleux had actual notice of the garnishment.

         Law and Analysis

         I. The Standard for Evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is properly granted when a defendant attacks the complaint because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim.[1] When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a district court must limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including any attachments thereto.[2] The court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and it must view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.[3] However, conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not accepted as true, [4] and courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”[5]

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[6] The allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ”[7] and “the pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.”[8] “While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”[9] If the plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to “nudge[ ][his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his] complaint must be dismissed.”[10]

         A claim meets the test for facial plausibility “when the plaintiff pleads the factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[11] “[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”[12]Therefore, “[t]he complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual matter (taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or expectation (4) that discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of a claim.”[13]

         II. The Standard for Evaluating a Section 1983 Claim

         In her complaint, the plaintiff articulated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides a cause of action against anyone who “under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State” violates another person's constitutional rights. Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights; it merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere.[14] To state a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must: (1) allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) demonstrate that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.[15]

         In this case, the plaintiff's complaint expressly stated that the plaintiff's claims are premised on alleged violations of her Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights. Therefore, the first criterion is satisfied.

         With regard to the second criterion, “a private party's participation with state officials in the seizure of disputed property based on that party's ex parte application is sufficient to characterize the party as a ‘state actor' for purposes of the ...

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