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Drew v. Town of Church Point

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

February 26, 2018




         Before the court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by defendants Town of Church Point ("TCP"), Church Point Police Chief Albert Venable, and Church Point Police Officers Dale Thibodeaux and Ronald Carriere. Doc. 5. Plaintiff, Bronston Drew ("Drew"), filed an opposition to the motion. Doc. 7. The motion has been referred to the undersigned for Report and Recommendation. After considering the findings and arguments of the parties, the applicable law, and for the reasons set out herein, it is recommended that the motion be GRANTED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On or about November 30, 2015, Drew was issued a citation by Officer Carriere for violation of Article III, Section 5-43 of the Church Point Municipal Code which prohibits the keeping of two or more dogs penned up within fifty feet of any residence in the corporate limits of the town. Doc. 1, p. 3; doc. 5, art. 1, p. 1. It appears that Drew had two dogs penned up when he was issued the citation. Id. On or about March 22, 2016, Drew pleaded guilty to the violation and was ordered to pay a fine and court courts.[1] Doc. 1, p. 3. Drew was also ordered to remedy the violation within thirty days of the order. Id.

         On March 30, 2016, Officers Carriere and Thibodeaux responded to another complaint about the dogs penned up at Drew's residence. Doc. 5, att. 3, p. 3. According to the Affidavit for Warrant of Arrest ("Affidavit") [doc, 5, att. 3, p. 4] sworn to by Officer Carriere, the officers observed five dogs penned up at the residence. Id. The officers were told by Drew's son that Drew was in the house. Id. However, Drew did not come to the door despite the officers' request that he do so. Id., Thereafter, Officer Carriere executed the Affidavit, and Magistrate Brad Andrus made a finding of probable cause for Drew's arrest. Id. An arrest warrant ("Warrant") was then issued. Doc. 5, att. 3, p. 5. Officers Carriere and Thibodeaux arrested Drew, who posted the $500.00 bond. Doc. 1, p. 4. It appears that Drew pleaded not guilty to the charges on May 16, 2016. Doc. 5, att. 2, p. 16. The charges against him were dropped on or about June 21, 2016. Doc. 1, p. 4. The defendants state that the charges were dropped "because the arresting officer was not present" at the hearing. Doc. 5, att. 2, p. 16.

         This litigation arises out of the events surrounding Drew's March 30, 2016 arrest. Drew filed this civil rights suit on March 30, 2017, claiming that the Warrant was issued without being signed by a judge. Doc. 1, p. 4. As such, he claims that Officers Carriere and Thibodeaux violated (1) his rights of privacy and security of his person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) his due process rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and (3) his rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Id. He further alleges that Officers Carriere and Thibodeaux violated his rights under Article 1, Sections 2 and 15 of the Louisiana Constitution. Id. Drew maintains that Officers Carriere and Thibodeaux are also liable to him under Louisiana law for malicious prosecution, wrongful arrest, and defamation. Id. at 5.

         In regard to TCP, Drew contends that same is "vicariously liable, under the doctrine of respondent superior, for the tortious actions or inactions" of Officers Carriere and Thibodeaux committed in the course and scope of their employment with TCP. Id. He also claims that TCP and Chief Venable are liable to him for the negligent hiring, training, and supervision of Officers Carriere and Thibodeaux. Id.

         As relief for the above, Drew seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, costs of suit, and declaratory relief. Id. at 6.


         Applicable Law and Analysis

         In the Motion for Summary Judgment, the defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because: (1) Drew's arrest was made pursuant to a validly issued warrant based on probable cause; (2) they are entitled to qualified immunity from suit under § 1983; (3) the valid arrest warrant defeats Drew's federal and state constitutional claims; and (4) the invalidity of Drew's constitutional and tortious claims against Officers Carrier and Thibodeaux necessarily remove all support for his claims against the TCP and Chief Venable.

         In response to the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Drew contends that there is a genuine dispute as to the following material facts: (1) whether, as part of his March 22, 2016 sentencing, he had until April 19, 2016, to become compliant with the city ordinance that he violated; and (2) whether the arrest warrant was invalid at the time it was executed on March 30, 2016, as it did not contain the signature of a judge. Doc. 7, att. 2, p. 4. He also argues that the Motion for Summary Judgment is premature as it was filed prior to the commencement of formal discovery. Id. at 6.

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the applicable substantive law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Minter v. Great American Ins. Co. of New York, 3 F.3d 460');">423 F.3d 460, 465 (5th Cir. 2005). A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could render a verdict for the non-moving party. Brumfield v. Rollins, 3d 322');">551 F.3d 322, 326 (5th Cir. 2008), citing Anderson, 477l U.S. at 252.

         The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those parts of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Washburn v. Harvey,3d 505');">504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007), citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477l U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of a material fact. Id. All facts and justifiable inferences are construed in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Brumfield, 551 F.3d at 326; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by pointing out that there is insufficient proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. Norwegian Bulk Transport A/S v. Int'lMarine Terminals P'ship,3d 409');">520 F.3d 409, 412 (5th Cir. 2008), citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. The motion should be granted if the non-moving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element of its claim. Condrey v. SunTrust Bank of Georgia,31 F.3d 191');">431 F.3d 191, 197 (5th Cir. 2005). Where no such showing is ...

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