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Bernard v. City of Lafayette

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

February 27, 2018


         SECTION P



         Pro se plaintiffs Timothy and Sheman Bernard, proceeding in forma pauperis, filed the instant civil rights complaint on October 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17. This matter has been 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. For the following reasons it is recommended that the complaint be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as frivolous and for failing to state a claim for which relief may be granted.

         Statement of the Case

         The plaintiffs are not represented by legal counsel. Their suit against Terry Huval, Mike Vidrine, Louis J. Perret, Judge Edward D. Rubin, Judge David M. Smith, Judge Douglas J. Saloom and Edward P. Mouton alleges damage to their family property. While the Complaint does not allege any dates, nor set forth any specific factual allegations, a review of the presumptively reliable published jurisprudence of the State of Louisiana reveals that in October 30, 2008, Louisiana Consolidated Government completed drainage improvements on the Bernards' property, which they allege caused erosion and a hazardous sink hole. According to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in the first suit filed by plaintiffs regarding this issue, the date of the completion of the project is not in dispute. Bernard v. Lafayette City-Parish Consol. Gov't, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-81');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12/7/1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1), 80 So.3d 665, 667.

         The plaintiffs have also filed a previous suit in this Court, Bernard v. Lafayette Consol. Gov't, No. 6:1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13-cv-2339 (W.D. La. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13), naming as defendants the Lafayette Consolidated Government LUS, Public Works Department Lafayette Consolidated Government (“Lafayette”) and J. Alfred Mouton Realty. This Court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, as the plaintiffs did not allege that the parties were diverse in citizenship or that the amount in controversy exceeded the statutory threshold, and the only statute cited in their complaint was a Louisiana Civil Code article pertaining to fraud. Id. at Rec. Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, p. 6; see also Rec. Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, p. 6. Moreover, the Court found that the allegations set forth in the plaintiffs' complaint against Lafayette were “so vague and so lacking in factual underpinnings that the complaint fail[ed] to allow the undersigned to draw the reasonable inference that Lafayette is liable for plaintiffs' claimed damages.” Id. at Rec. Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12. Finally, it found that plaintiffs failed to state a claim against Mouton that was timely. Id. at Rec. Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13.

         In this matter presently before this Court, plaintiffs allegations involve the same damage to their family property alleged in the previous suits, however, their claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act.

         Law and Analysis

         1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1. Screening

         Plaintiffs have been permitted to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15. This complaint is therefore subject to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15(e)(2)(B), which imposes a screening responsibility on the district court when the plaintiff has been granted IFP status. The statute provides in relevant parts a follows:

Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that ... (B) the action or appeal - (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15(e)(2)(B).

Section 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15(e)(2)(B) applies equally to prisoner as well as non-prisoner in forma pauperis cases. See Newsome v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 301');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 227, 231');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-33 (5th Cir.2002) (affirming dismissal of non-prisoner claims for frivolity and failure to state a claim under § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii)); Cieszkowska v. Gray Line New York, 295 F.3d 204, 205-206 (2nd Cir.2002) (affirming dismissal of in forma pauperis non-prisoner case for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15(e)(2)); see also Benson v. O'Brian, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">179 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">101');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">179 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">101');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, (6th Cir.1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1999) (complaints in actions not pursued in forma pauperis are not subject to “screening” under § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15(e)(2)); Bazrowx v. Scott, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">136 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1053');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">136 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1053, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1054 (5th Cir.1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1998) (same).

         Section 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15A(b) provides for sua sponte dismissal of the complaint, or any portion thereof, if the Court finds it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19');">490 U.S. 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19, 325 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to 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); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         2. Defendant ...

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