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Sandifer v. Hopkins

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 9, 2018


         SECTION "F"



         Before the Court is Fred Hopkins's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.


         This litigation arises from allegations that the defendant perpetrated a hate crime against the plaintiff by beating him with a stick, smashing the back windshield of the plaintiff's car, and threatening to kill the plaintiff with a shotgun.[1] All allegedly motivated by the Black Lives Matter movement.

         At 7:30 a.m. on July 9, 2016, Ellis Lee Sandifer, Jr. drove to the house of his cousin, David Brady, on General Pershing Street in New Orleans. Sandifer and Brady had planned to go car shopping for Sandifer's daughter. When he arrived at Brady's house, Sandifer honked his car's horn and decided to smoke a cigarette while he waited. Meanwhile, Brady's neighbor, Frank Hopkins, walked across the street from his house; he approached Sandifer with a stick in his hand, while screaming at Sandifer about the Black Lives Matter movement and the murders of the Dallas police officers. Thinking Hopkins (a white male) was joking, Sandifer (a black male) laughed. But Hopkins was not joking. Hopkins yelled at Sandifer: “You can't do what you want around here. Turn your music down.” Sandifer leaned into his car, retrieved his pack of cigarettes, and went inside Brady's house.

         Five minutes later, Sandifer returned to and got into his car. Hopkins also returned to Sandifer's car, still carrying a stick, and yelled at Sandifer about the Dallas and Baton Rouge police shootings. Sandifer told Hopkins that he did not want to hear about that. Hopkins poked Sandifer's car with the stick. Sandifer told Hopkins “it is too early for all that and no one have time for this.” Hopkins then hit Sandifer's car with the stick he was carrying. Sandifer exited his car and asked Hopkins, “what's your problem?” Hopkins responded by walking to the back of Sandifer's car and with the stick, hitting the back windshield so hard it shattered.

         Before Sandifer could react, Hopkins then began swinging the stick at Sandifer's face. As Sandifer raised his left arm to block his head and face from the stick, the stick struck his left arm three or four times, ultimately causing his arm to break. After Hopkins stopped hitting Sandifer with the stick, he walked across the street to his garage and retrieved a shotgun. Hopkins screamed about black people generally and also threatened Sandifer, “I'll kill you!” Sandifer yelled back, “It's not that serious. What's your problem?” Hopkins continued to yell about the Black Lives Matter movement and police shootings. Hopkins then went inside his house. When he emerged, he got into his truck, backed up and hit the car parked behind him, and sped off.

         Sandifer reported the incident to New Orleans Police Department officers, who arrived on scene along with an ambulance, which transported Sandifer to the Ochsner Baptist Hospital. When x-rays revealed that surgery was necessary to repair his broken arm, Sandifer was admitted to the hospital. The next day, he underwent surgery. Unable to work as a United States Postal Service mail carrier during his recovery, Sandifer was not accumulating the hours he needed to maintain insurance coverage.

         On July 10, 2017, Sandifer, pro se, sued Hopkins, seeking to recover compensatory damages.[2] He alleges that he and Hopkins are both Louisiana residents, and that the Court has federal question subject matter jurisdiction based on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 18 U.S.C. § 249. Hopkins now seeks to dismiss Sandifer's complaint on the ground that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.



         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only the authority granted by the United States Constitution and conferred by the United States Congress. Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). Indeed, "[i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, " the Supreme Court has observed, "and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardina Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)(citations omitted). If the Court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate a claim, the claim must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Home Builders Ass'n of Mississippi, Inc. v. City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). A dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction “is not a determination of the merits and [therefore] does not prevent the plaintiff from pursuing a claim in a court that [has] proper jurisdiction.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).

         Motions filed under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a party to challenge the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction. King v. U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 728 F.3d 410, 416 (5th Cir. 2013); Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161. To meet that burden, the party asserting jurisdiction “must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the court has jurisdiction based on the complaint and evidence.” King, 728 F.3d at 413. The Court may find a plausible set of facts to support subject matter jurisdiction by considering any of the following: “(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts ...

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