United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
PORT MARIGNY, LLC, ET AL.
CITY OF MANDEVILLE, ET AL.
ORDER & REASONS NATURE OF MOTION AND RELIEF
J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc.
6) filed by David Ellis, John Keller, Clay Madden,
Michael Pulaski, and Lauré Sica, in their official
capacities as members of Mandeville City Council
(collectively, the “Councilpersons”). Port
Marigny, LLC and Pittman Assets, LLC (collectively, the
“Plaintiffs”) filed an opposition thereto (Rec.
Doc. 12) and Councilpersons filed a reply (Rec. Doc. 15).
Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record,
and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion
should be GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
litigation involves a Mandeville City Council decision to
deny Plaintiffs' plan to develop a 76-acre tract of land
(the “Site”) into a neighborhood in Mandeville,
Louisiana (commonly known as the “Port Marigny
project”). (Rec. Doc. 1-1.) In short, Plaintiffs allege
that they provided the City with a “tailor-made”
proposal for the Site that complied with the Comprehensive
Land Use Regulations Ordinance
(“CLURO”) as well as “multiple other demands
made by the City.” Despite Plaintiffs' alleged
compliance with the requisite local laws, on March 9, 2017,
four out of five Councilpersons voted to terminate
consideration of the Port Marigny project. Plaintiffs allege
that the “decision to terminate the Port Marigny
project after nearly two years of deliberation and expense
was arbitrary and capricious.”
April 7, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a verified petition in the
22nd Judicial District Court for the Parish of St.
Tammany. Plaintiffs named the City of Mandeville and all five
Councilpersons in their official capacities as Defendants.
Specifically, Plaintiffs seek: judicial review of the
Councilpersons' votes along with a judgment that renders
the votes null and void and approves of Plaintiffs'
proposal; a declaration that the Plaintiffs' proposal
satisfied all requirements of the CLURO; a declaration that
the CLURO is unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous; damages
for violations of federal rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
namely, unconstitutional taking, due process violations for
arbitrary and capricious actions, procedural due process
violations, and equal protection violations; damages for
unconstitutional taking under state law; and attorneys'
fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The City of Mandeville
answered the complaint and Councilpersons filed the instant
motion to dismiss (Rec. Doc. 6). The motion is now before the
Court without oral argument.
their motion to dismiss, Councilpersons present four
arguments. First, Councilpersons argue that all claims
against them in their official capacities are
essentially claims against the City Council. Because the City
Council lacks the procedural capacity to sue or be sued,
Councilpersons argue that they, in their official capacities,
also lack procedural capacity to sue or be sued. Second,
Councilpersons argue that they are entitled to absolute
immunity or, in the alternative, qualified immunity. With
regards to absolute immunity, Councilpersons claim that
Plaintiffs are unable to sue them for any actions that
constitute “legislative duties.” As for qualified
immunity, Councilpersons state that they are immune from
liability for performing what they consider were
discretionary functions. Councilpersons' third argument
is that Louisiana Revised Statute §
9:2798.1 shields them from Plaintiffs' state
law claim because they were performing a discretionary act
related to a legitimate government interest. Finally,
Councilpersons argue that Plaintiffs failed to plead enough
facts to survive a 12(b)(6) motion.
contend that Councilpersons possess the procedural capacity
to be sued in their official capacity even if the City
Council itself does not have such capacity. Second,
Plaintiffs argue that Defendants are not entitled to either
absolute or qualified immunity because they have been named
in their official, rather than individual, capacities. Third,
Plaintiffs contend that Louisiana Revised Statute §
9:2798.1 is inapplicable because Defendants failed to justify
the purposes of the multiple delays and procedural hurdles,
which hindered development of the Port Marigny project.
Finally, Plaintiffs contend that they have plead enough facts
to survive a 12(b)(6) motion.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must “give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.” Dura Pharm., Inc. v.
Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005) (internal citations
omitted). The allegations “must be simple, concise, and
direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1).
Rule 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed when a plaintiff
fails to allege any set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief.” Taylor v. Books
A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002)
(citing McConathy v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corp., 131
F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 1998)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the
plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to “draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. A court must accept
all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S.
Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009);
Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).
The court is not, however, bound to accept as true legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. “[C]onclusory allegations or legal
conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not
suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.”
Taylor, 296 F.3d at 378.
12(b) does not specifically authorize a motion to dismiss
based on a lack of capacity to be sued. However,
“[f]ederal courts . . . traditionally have entertained
certain pre-answer motions that are not expressly provided
for by the rules or by statutes” including motions
raising a lack of capacity to sue or be sued. 5C Charles Alan
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and
Procedure § 1360 (3d ed. 2004). Furthermore,
“[t]he Fifth Circuit has implicitly approved 12(b)
motions arguing the lack of capacity to be sued.”
Angers ex rel. Angers v. Lafayette Consol.
Gov't, 07-0949, 2007 WL 2908805, at *1 (W.D. La.
Oct. 3, 2007) (citing Darby v. Pasadena Police
Dep't, 939 F.2d 311 (5th Cir. 1991) (affirming that
Pasadena Police Department had no jural existence and
therefore was properly dismissed from suit)). Therefore, the
Court will consider Councilpersons' Rule 12(b)(6) motion
based on a lack of capacity to be sued.
Rule of Civil Procedure 17(b)(3) provides, in pertinent part,
that the “capacity to sue or be sued shall be
determined by the law of the state in which the district
court is held.” Under the Louisiana Civil Code, there
are two kinds of persons that are capable of being sued:
natural persons and juridical persons. See La. Civ.
Code art. 24. Article 24 defines a natural person as
“a human being” and a juridical person as
“an entity to which the law attributes personality,
such as a corporation or partnership.” Id.
Natural persons enjoy general legal capacity to have rights
and duties, but juridical persons are “creature[s] of
the law and by definition, [have] no more legal capacity than
the law allows.” Angers ex rel. Angers v. Lafayette
Consol. Gov't., 2007 WL 2908805, at *2 ...