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Association of Under Represented Citizens of Lincoln v. Lincoln Parish Police Jury

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

March 13, 2018

THE ASSOCIATION OF UNDER-REPRESENTED CITIZENS OF LINCOLN
v.
LINCOLN PARISH POLICE JURY and JODY BACKUS

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE United Sates District Judge.

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss, filed by Defendant Lincoln Parish Police Jury (the “Police Jury”). [Record Document 5]. In this motion, the Police Jury seeks to dismiss the claims filed against it by the Plaintiff, the Association of Under-Represented Citizens of Lincoln (the “Association”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Association opposes the motion. [Record Documents 7 & 11]. For the reasons that follow, the Police Jury's motion to dismiss shall be GRANTED, and the Association's claims against the Police Jury are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         1. FACTUAL BACKGROUND.

         The Association is “an incorporated association of citizens, each of whom resides in and pays taxes to the benefit of Lincoln Parish, Louisiana . . . .” Record Document 1-1, p.

         2. The Association filed suit against the Police Jury and its President, Defendant Jody Backus (“Backus”), alleging that police jurors from majority African-American districts were precluded from participating in tax allocation decisions made by the Police Jury.

         According to the petition, Lincoln Parish has twelve districts, each of which elects a police juror. Of the twelve districts, the following five are majority African-American: 1, 2, 9, 10, and 11. Record Document 1-1, p. 4. The President of the Police Jury is elected by the twelve police jurors. The petition states that

The President of the Police Jury has the power and authority under the current governing rules to open sessions when the jury convenes, call meetings to order, announce the business before the jury, recognize members entitled to the floor, put to vote all questions, announce the results of votes, assist in expediting and authenticating, by his signature, all the acts, orders, and proceedings of the Police Jury.

Id. at 1-1, p. 3.

         The Police Jury has various committees, which the Plaintiff groups into two categories- standing committees and special committees.[1] The members of each committee are selected by the President and Vice-President. The Association represents that the “standing committees submit agenda items to the President that have a direct and significant impact on the Parish budget, ” and they “assume responsibility for certain activities and projects that affect the financial burden imposed on the residents of Lincoln Parish.” Id. More specifically, after taxes are collected, the Police Jury appropriates the tax revenue “according to the budget priorities the committees have brought to the attention” of the President and the other jurors. Id. The Association avers that only “standing committees determine the appropriation of tax dollars.” Id. at p. 4. The standing committees are “all-important” because they determine the allocation of tax revenue, while the special committees “perform far less important functions, if any.” Record Document 7, pp. 3-4.

         Under Backus's leadership as President, the Association contends that jurors from districts 1 and 10 have been prevented from participating in the standing committees which determine tax revenue allocation. Id. The Association submits these jurors, and thus the individuals in the districts they represent, have been barred from deciding how public funds are spent. The Association contends that the Police Jury and Backus have “engaged in the unlawful appropriation and expenditure of public funds in a manner that has, and continues, to deliberately exclude members of Plaintiff Association from the decision-making process . . . .” Id. at 5. Plaintiff brought this Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause challenge, alleging that the Defendants have interfered with Plaintiff's right to “full and effective participation in state governmental processes.” Id. at 6. Further, the petition asserts the Defendants have “willfully precluded Plaintiff's constituent members from exercising their constitutional rights by restricting them from participating in the political process through their duly elected representatives, and has otherwise infringed on their guaranteed right to equal protection under the law.” Id.

         Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that this action should be dismissed because the Association has failed to state a cause of action. Defendant contends, among other things, that the Association has failed to show that the police jurors representing majority African-American districts are being systematically excluded from committees that handle tax allocation matters and that the Association has failed to show any racial motivation in the Police Jury's decision to appoint certain jurors to standing committees. The Court agrees and finds that the Plaintiff has failed to allege an unlawful exclusion from standing committees, as it concedes that three of five jurors from majority African-American districts do, in fact, participate on the standing committees. Furthermore, Plaintiff has not alleged a discriminatory intent or motivation by the Police Jury, which is critical to an Equal Protection Clause challenge.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. 12(b)(6) Standard.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief. A complaint is not required to contain detailed factual allegations, however, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)(internal marks and citations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2008) (internal marks omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct ...


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