United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE
the Court are Defendants Lieutenant Jay Long
(“Long”), Sergeant John May (“May”),
and Sheriff Steve Prator's (“Prator”) Motion
for Summary Judgment (Record Document 13) under Rule 56 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking dismissal of all
of Plaintiff James Hayward Lester's
(“Lester”) claims. For the reasons stated in the
instant Memorandum Ruling, Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment is hereby GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
is a resident of Tarrant County, Texas, but for many years
has been active as a commercial contractor in Shreveport.
See Record Document 1 at 1-4. On February 28, 2003,
Lester first filed an application for a Louisiana commercial
contractor's license in Shreveport. See id. at
4, ¶ 13. This application included a statement that
Lester had never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor;
in fact, Lester had previously been convicted of a
misdemeanor in Texas. See id. at 5, ¶ 25;
see also State v. Lester, 49-787 (La.App. 2 Cir.
5/20/15), 165 So.3d 1181. Lester received a Louisiana
commercial contractor license on May 15, 2003. See
Record Document 1 at 4, ¶ 14. He reapplied annually for
such a license and held a renewed license during all times
relevant to this case. See id. at 4, ¶ 15.
Lester's contracting work involved making repairs to
houses of people who applied for grants from the City of
Shreveport's Bureau of Housing and Business Development.
See id. at 4, ¶¶ 16-17. Lester would
submit a bid for the requested work and, if he had the lowest
bid, he would receive the contract to perform the work.
See Id. In October 2007, Lester was awarded the
contract to perform work on Ms. Bessie Lee Broadway's
(“Broadway”) home. See id. On January
14, 2008, a change order for the original contract was
approved, allowing Lester to receive an additional fee of $5,
100 for additional work. See id. at 4, ¶ 21. On
January 24, 2008, Lester, Broadway, and City Inspector Daniel
Lacour (“Lacour”) executed a
“Contractor's Pay-Out Request” to pay Lester
$17, 900 for work that Lester had completed. See id.
at 4, ¶ 20.
March 8, 2008, Lacour and Lester orally agreed to a second
change order which would allow Lester to repair and service
the furnace in the home rather than replace it entirely and
use the money that would have paid for a new furnace to
replace a deteriorated wall. See id. at 4-5, ¶
22. Lacour later admitted that he forgot to complete a
written change order for these changes. See id. On
April 1, 2008, Lester, Broadway, and Lacour executed a second
“Contractor's Pay-Out Request” to pay Lester
$7, 090 for the remainder of the work that Lester had
completed. See id. at 5, ¶ 23.
March 19, 2009, Sergeant Jason Turner (“Turner”)
of the Louisiana State Police and Long and May of the Caddo
Parish Sheriff's Department began an investigation into
Lester's activities as a contractor. See id. at
5, ¶ 24. During the investigation, Turner found
Lester's previous misdemeanor conviction and received
documents related to the repairs Lester completed on
Broadway's house. See id. at 5-6, ¶¶
24-27. On July 15, 2009, Turner obtained a warrant for
Lester's arrest for filing or maintaining false public
records in violation of La. Rev. Stat. § 14:133 by
submitting renewal applications for his contractor's
license without correcting the statement that he had not been
convicted of a previous misdemeanor. See id. at 6,
Long, and May continued their investigation of Lester by
inspecting Broadway's property with another inspector,
Timothy Weaver (“Weaver”). See id. at 6,
¶ 29. Weaver later sent a letter to Turner stating that
he found that Lester had failed to install as much insulation
in Broadway's attic as the contract specified. See
id. at 7, ¶ 30. On August 29, Turner obtained an
arrest warrant for Lester and Lacour's arrests for home
improvement fraud in violation of La. Rev. Stat. §
14:202.1. See id. at 7 ¶ 31. In interviews with
the officers after the arrest warrants were issued but prior
to his actual arrest, Lacour admitted that he had failed to
complete a second change order for Broadway's house, and
he stated that if the officers had found something wrong with
the repairs to the house, “its my fault, nobody elses .
. . I should've did my job right (sic).” See
id. at 8, ¶ 32.
August 31, 2009, Lester and six other African American
contractors and inspectors, including Lacour, were arrested.
See id. at 9, ¶ 34. That day, a press
conference “featuring Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator
and Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott” was
held on the steps of the Caddo Parish courthouse. See
Id. at 9, ¶ 35. At the press conference, Prator
announced a $1.5 million scandal involving the arrestees to
defraud the City of Shreveport, a statement that Lester
alleges was made “falsely and with the full intention
to mislead the public.” See id. at 9, ¶
35. On November 18, 2009, Assistant District Attorney Lea
Hall, Jr. (“Hall”) filed the first Bill of
Information against Lester, charging him with home
improvement fraud and filing or maintaining false public
records. See id. at 10, ¶ 36.
25, 2010, the trial of one of the other contractors, James
Alex III (“Alex”), resulted in a mistrial.
See id. at 10, ¶ 37. According to Hall's
statements to a reporter after the trial, the parties had
made a joint motion for mistrial after they discovered that
the jury instructions did not reflect the fact that Alex was
charged with home improvement fraud that allegedly occurred
under an old statute and an amended statute. See id.
at 10, ¶ 37. On July 8, 2010, Lester filed a Motion to
Quash the Information in his case on the basis of statutory
affirmative defenses to home improvement fraud. See
id. at 11, ¶ 38. The trial judge held a hearing on
the motion, but reserved a ruling until after trial. See
id. at 11, ¶ 39. On September 28, 2011, Lester
provided the State with photographic evidence that allegedly
proved that he was innocent of the home improvement fraud
charge. See id. at 11-12, ¶ 40. On February 14,
2012, a second Bill of Information was filed against Lester
which dropped the home improvement fraud charge and included
only the filing or maintaining false public records charge.
See id. at 12, ¶ 41.
April 9, 2014, Lester filed a Motion to Quash the Amended
Information, which the trial court granted. See id.
at 12, ¶¶ 42-43. On July 4, 2014, Sheriff Prator
gave an interview to the editor of a local newspaper, The
Inquisitor, in which he stated that he was frustrated
with the fact that Lester had not been prosecuted for home
improvement fraud and stating that Lester had committed theft
and abuse of Broadway. See id. at 12-13, ¶ 44.
That same day, acting District Attorney Dale
(“Cox”) sent an email to the editor of The
Inquisitor stating why the home improvement fraud charge
against Lester was dropped and that the State would be
appealing the trial court's decision to quash the filing
or maintaining false public records charge against Lester.
See id. at 13, ¶ 45. On May 20, 2015, the
Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the trial
court's decision to quash the filing or maintaining false
public records charge against Lester on the basis of
prescription. See id. at 14-15, ¶ 51; see
also State v. Lester, 49-787 (La.App. 2 Cir. 5/20/15),
165 So.3d 1181. Lester filed this suit against Hall, Scott,
Cox, Turner, Long, May, and Prator on July 2, 2015.
See Record Document 1. On October 29, 2015, Long,
May, and Prator filed the instant Rule 56 Motion for Summary
Judgment. See Record Document 13. Lester filed his
Memorandum in Opposition to the instant Motion on November
24, 2015. See Record Document 28. On November 25,
2015, Lester filed a Motion to Amend his Original Complaint
in which he sought to clarify that Long, May, and Prator are
being sued in both their official and individual capacities.
See Record Document 29. On December 1, 2016, the
Court granted this Motion. See Record Document 32.
December 1, 2015, Lester filed an Amended Complaint adding
Caddo Parish as a defendant. See Record Document 33.
On December 8, 2015, Lester filed another Motion to Amend his
Complaint, along with seventeen numbered exhibits.
See Record Document 40. The Court granted this
Motion, allowing Lester to file this Amended Complaint but
stating that no further amendments will be allowed.
See Record Documents 41, 42, and 42-1. This most
recent Amended Complaint adds somewhat more specific
allegations against some Defendants and cites to the attached
exhibits as proof of these allegations. See Record
Documents 42 and 42-1.
September 29, 2016, the Court granted the Rule 12(b)(6)
Motions to Dismiss filed by Hall and Scott, dismissing all
claims against them with prejudice. See Lester v. Caddo
Parish, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136192 (W.D. La. 2016). On
October 26, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in
part a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss by Cox, dismissing
most claims against him with prejudice but allowing the
defamation claims under federal and state law to proceed past
the Motion to Dismiss stage. See Lester v. Caddo
Parish, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148414 (W.D. La. 2016). On
March 30, 2017, the Court granted the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion by
Caddo Parish, dismissing all claims against Caddo Parish with
prejudice. See Lester v. Caddo Parish, 2017 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 48031 (W.D. La. 2017). On October 12, 2017, the
Court granted the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion by Turner, dismissing
all claims against Turner with prejudice. See Lester v.
Prator, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 169259 (W.D. La. 2017).
The Summary Judgment Standard
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary
judgment. This rule provides that the court "shall grant
summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Also,
"a party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the motion by citing to particular
parts of materials in the record." Fed R. Civ. P.
56(c)(1)(A). "If a party fails to properly support an
assertion of fact or fails to properly address another
party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the
court may . . . grant summary judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P.
summary judgment motion, "a party seeking summary
judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of the pleadings . . . [and]
affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553
(1986) (internal quotations and citations omitted). If the
movant meets this initial burden, then the non-movant has the
burden of going beyond the pleadings and designating specific
facts that prove that a genuine issue of material fact
exists. See id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. at 2554; see
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir.
1994). A non-movant, however, cannot meet the burden of
proving that a genuine issue of material fact exists by
providing only "some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated
assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence."
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. Additionally, in deciding a
summary judgment motion, courts "resolve factual
controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only when
there is an actual controversy, that is when both parties
have submitted evidence of contradictory facts."
Id. Courts "do not, however, in the absence of
any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would
prove the necessary facts." Id.
states that “a party asserting that a fact . . . is
genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to
particular materials in the record, including depositions,
documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations, . . . admissions, interrogatory
answers, or other materials.” Once the party seeking to
establish that there is a genuine dispute as to a material
fact has cited to such materials, the opposing party
“may object that the material cited to support or
dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be
admissible in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. “At the
summary judgment stage, materials cited to support or dispute
a fact need only be capable of being presented in a
form that would be admissible in evidence.” LSR
Consulting, LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 835 F.3d 530,
534 (5th Cir. 2016) (emphasis in original). However, once a
party has challenged the admissibility of the evidence relied
upon to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact, the
proponent of that evidence must show that the evidence is
capable of being presented in a form that would be admissible
in evidence. See id. at 534.
Qualified Immunity in 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims
1983 authorizes the assertion of a claim for relief against a
person who, acting under the color of state law, allegedly
violated the claimant's rights under federal law.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 actions are
often brought against persons acting under the color of state
law in their individual capacities, but these persons are
often protected from liability by qualified immunity.
“The basic thrust of the qualified-immunity doctrine is
to free officials from the concerns of litigation.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 685, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1953 (2009) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). In fact, a qualified immunity defense is truly
“an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to
liability.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223,
231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 815 (2009).
the defendant raises a qualified immunity defense, the
plaintiff carries the burden of demonstrating the
inapplicability of qualified immunity. See Floyd v. City
of Kenner, 351 Fed.Appx. 890, 893 (5th Cir. 2009).
First, the court must determine whether the plaintiff
demonstrated a genuine dispute of material fact as to a
violation of a constitutional right. See Pearson,
555 U.S. at 232, 129 S.Ct. at 816. Second, the court must
determine whether the constitutional right at issue was
“clearly established” at the time of the
defendant's alleged misconduct. Id. at 232, 129
S.Ct. at 816. A defendant who can validly raise a qualified
immunity defense will enjoy its protection so long as the
allegedly violated constitutional right was not clearly
established at the time of the violation. See id. In
other words, the defendant can only be held liable if he
violates a right that is clearly established at the time of
when the plaintiff seeks to impose supervisory liability on a
defendant public official in his individual capacity,
“the plaintiff must show that: (1) the supervisor
either failed to supervise or train the subordinate official;
(2) a causal link exists between the failure to train or
supervise and the violation of the plaintiff's rights;
and (3) the failure to train or supervise amounts to
deliberate indifference." Estate of Davis v. City of
N. Richland Hills, 406 F.3d 375, 381 (5th Cir. 2005).
Thus, in a supervisory liability case, a plaintiff must
demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact as to each of
these elements once the defendant has asserted a qualified
immunity defense to survive a motion for summary judgment.
Section 1983/ Monell Claims against ...