United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ADRIAN CALISTE AND BRAIN GISCLAIR, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED
HARRY E. CANTRELL, MAGISTRATE JUDGE OF ORLEANS PARISH CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT
ORDER & REASONS
the Court is Defendant's 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. R.
Doc. 65. Plaintiff opposes the motion. R. Doc. 74. Having
considered the parties' arguments, submissions, and the
applicable law, the Court now issues this Order and Reasons.
27, 2017, a group of Plaintiffs filed suit against Magistrate
Judge Harry Cantrell. This case arises from Defendant
Magistrate Judge Cantrell's allegedly unlawful practice
of imposing unreasonably expensive secured financial
conditions of release upon arrestees without inquiring about
their ability to pay. R. Doc. 1 at 1. Plaintiffs are two
criminal defendants currently in the custody of the Orleans
Parish Sheriff's Office. R. Doc. 1 at 2-3. Defendant
Harry Cantrell is the Magistrate Judge for Orleans Parish
Criminal District Court, where he is responsible for setting
bail upon arrest, and has a role in managing the expenditures
of the Judicial Expense Fund. R. Doc. 1 at 3.
representing a class of similar people,  allege that
Defendant routinely sets a $2, 500 minimum secured money
bond. Plaintiffs contend Judge Cantrell sets bond without
considering the facts of the case to determine whether a
lower bond amount or an alternative condition of release
might be appropriate. R. Doc. 1 at 6. Plaintiffs further aver
that Defendant requires the use of a for-profit bail bond and
does not allow arrestees to post cash bail. R. Doc. 1 at 2.
Plaintiffs contend that this policy involves a conflict of
interest because under Louisiana law, 1.8% of a bond amount
collected from a commercial surety (but not from any other
type of bond) is allocated directly to the Court for its
discretionary use. R. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiffs argue that this
policy of refusing to consider a criminal defendant's
ability to pay, alternative conditions of release, or a lower
bond, as well as the resulting institutional financial
conflict, violates the Due Process and Equal Protection
clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. R. Doc. 1. Thus,
Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgement that Defendant's
bond policy, which results in the creation of a modern
“debtor's prison, ” is a violation of
Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, and a declaration that
Defendant's financial conflict of interest violates the
Due Process rights of criminal defendants. R. Doc. 1 at 26.
November 7, 2017, Defendant Cantrell answered Plaintiffs'
complaint. R. Doc. 66. Defendant generally denies
Plaintiffs' allegations. R. Doc. 66 at 1. Defendant also
alleges twenty-eight affirmative defenses including: failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, failure to
join a party, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, absolute
and qualified immunity, and non-justiciable political
question. R. Doc. 66. Defendant requests a jury trial. R.
Doc. 66 at 10.
has filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
R. Doc. 65. Defendant argues that some of Plaintiffs'
claims assert that La. R.S. 22:822 and La. R.S. 13:1381.5 are
unconstitutional. R. Doc. 65-1 at 2. Therefore, Defendant
argues that Defendant Cantrell is not the proper party to be
sued. R. Doc. 65-1 at 3. Accordingly, Defendant moves the
Court to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims relating to the
unconstitutionality of these statutes. R. Doc. 65-1 at 4.
respond in opposition arguing that when a judge allegedly
commits constitutional violations they are the proper party
to be sued under § 1983. R. Doc. 74. First, Plaintiffs
argue that § 1983 provides for declaratory relief
against judges when they violate the constitutional rights of
parties who appear before them in court. R. Doc. 74 at 5.
Second, Plaintiffs aver that they have standing to seek
declaratory relief because of the alleged constitutional
violations committed during their first appearance hearings
before Defendant Cantrell. R. Doc. 74 at 6.
Plaintiffs argue that Defendant Cantrell was not merely a
neutral arbiter during these hearings. R. Doc. 74 at 7.
Rather, Plaintiffs argue, Defendant Cantrell was the actor in
the alleged violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional
rights and it is his conduct that is being challenged as
unconstitutional. R. Doc. 74 at 9-11. Fourth, Plaintiffs
reiterate that they are not making a facial challenge to the
constitutionality of any statute. R. Doc. 74 at 12.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Standard
Defendant failed to raise a 12(b)(6) defense in his first
motion to the Court. Therefore, this motion will be
considered as a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings. A party may move for judgment on the pleadings
after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The
purpose of Rule 12(c) is to dispose of cases where the
material facts are not in dispute and a judgment on the
merits can be rendered by looking to the substance of the
pleadings and any judicially noticed facts. Great Plains
Trust. Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313
F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2002). In deciding a 12(c) motion,
the Court “accepts all well-pleaded facts as true,
viewing them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” In re Katrina Canal Breaches
Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). To avoid
dismissal, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where there
are no disputed issues of material fact and only questions of
law remain. Stewart v. Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc.,
2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148603, at *6 (E.D. La. Dec. 23, 2011)
general rule, in considering a Rule 12(c) motion, a district
court must limit itself to the facts stated in the complaint.
Hughes v. Tobacco Inst., Inc., 278 F.3d 417, 420
(5th Cir. 2001). This Court recognizes that the Fifth Circuit
has made exceptions to this limitation. See Herbert
Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Props., Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76
(5th Cir. 1990) (holding that a district court may look to
the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed
facts); see also Voest-Alpine Trading USA Corp. v. Bank
of China, 142 F.3d 887 (5th Cir. 1998) (holding that the
district court could consider documents attached to the
complaint); Great Plains Trust, 313 F.3d. at 311-13
(affirming district court's Rule 12(c) dismissal where
the court considered documents that were referred to in the
complaint even though they were not physically attached to
the complaint). ...