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Meyer v. New Orleans City

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 30, 2018


          SECTION “L” (1)



         Pending before the Court is Defendant City of New Orleans' motion requesting (1) judgment on the pleadings and (2) dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Rec. Doc. 45. Plaintiffs have not filed an opposition, and the submission date has passed. On May 23, 2018, the Court held a conference regarding the status of the case, in which Plaintiffs represented that they do not contest Defendant's motion regarding jurisdiction. Having considered the City's motion, the record, and the applicable laws, the Court now issues this Order and Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action generally arises out of a dispute among private Louisiana citizens over a boat slip. Plaintiffs, nevertheless, have filed this action in federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, arguing that the City of New Orleans (“City”) and New Orleans Police Department (“NOPD”) are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for its on-scene officers' conduct of allegedly depriving Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights to “due process, equal protection, and against illegal seizures, illegal arrest, false imprisonment, and cruel and unusual punishment.” Rec. Doc. 1, ¶ 26.

         The incident happened on July 2, 2014 at the marina in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rec. Doc. 45-1 at 1. Plaintiffs Joseph and Coquette Meyer claim that at the time of the incident, they had entered into a valid lease with pro se Defendant Troy Williams, who manages a store and restaurant adjacent to the marina. Rec. Doc. 43 at 6. Plaintiffs aver their lease granted them access to and possession of a boat slip for docking their houseboat and other vessels, as well as electrical utilities. Rec. Doc. 43 at 6. On July 2, 2014, as the Meyers were preparing their vessels to depart from the leased slip, Defendants Williams, Paul McIntyre, and others allegedly approached the Meyers' vessels, ordered the Meyers to remove their vessels and equipment from the leased slip to clear the slip for Mr. McIntyre's vessels, and physically pushed Meyers' vessels away from the shore, causing the Meyers' vessels to drift into pilings. Rec. Doc. 43 at 7.

         Soon thereafter, NOPD Officers Micheleen Scott and Terrance Hilliard-who are not named as defendants in this action-responded to a service call in response to the altercation. According to Plaintiffs, Defendant Williams, using his influence as a former NOPD officer, had several armed, uniformed NOPD officers threaten and assault Mr. Meyer. Rec. Doc. 43 at 7. The NOPD officers purportedly threatened and intimidated the Meyers, warning Plaintiffs not to interfere with the launching of Mr. McIntyre's vessel. Rec. Doc. 43 at 7. Mr. Meyer was eventually released from arrest and received a citation for disturbance of peace. See Rec. Doc. 1 at 6; Rec. Doc. 43 at 8. Williams, McIntyre, and the officers then allegedly instructed Plaintiffs to vacate the premises, along with their vessels. Rec. Doc. 43 at 8. Plaintiffs claim that they have sustained property damages, damages to Mr. Meyer's business enterprise, as well as violation of Plaintiffs' civil rights. Rec. Doc. 43 at 8; Rec. Doc. 45-1 at 2.

         After the incident, Plaintiffs filed the instant litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of New Orleans, alleging the City deprived them of their civil rights and claiming NOPD officers acted under color of state law; as well as claiming other Defendants breached the lease agreement with Plaintiffs for the boat slip and engaged in certain tortious conducts. Rec. Doc. 45-1 at 2.

         Three years after the commencement of this lawsuit, the City has now filed the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings and for lack of jurisdiction. This opinion addresses the City's arguments.


         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c)

         Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” When analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion, the pleadings should be construed liberally, and a judgment on the pleadings is appropriate only if there are no material facts in dispute and questions of law are all that remain. Brittan Commc'ns Int'l Corp. v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., 313 F.3d 899, 904 (5th Cir. 2002); Voest-Alpine Trading USA Corp. v. Bank of China, 142 F.3d 887, 891 (5th Cir. 1998); Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Props., Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990) (citing 5A Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1367).

         A motion brought pursuant to Rule 12(c) is designed to dispose of cases when a judgment on the merits can be rendered by looking to the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts. Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 313 (5th Cir. 2000). In determining whether to grant a Rule 12(c) motion, a court “must look only to the pleadings and accept all allegations in them as true.” St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Convalescent Servs., Inc., 193 F.3d 340, 342 (5th Cir. 1999). However, when no evidence outside the pleadings is presented, the allegations in the answer are accepted as true only to the extent that they are not denied or do not conflict with the allegations in the complaint. Stanton v. Larsh, 239 F.2d 104, 106 (5th Cir. 1957). “[T]he central issue is whether, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid claim for relief.” Brittan, 313 F.3d at 904 (internal quotations omitted). When a party moves for judgment on the pleadings on the ground that the non-moving party has failed to state a claim, the standard for analyzing the pleadings is substantially the same as that which governs a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). See Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999); Boswell v. Honorable Governor of Texas, 138 F.Supp.2d 782, 784-85 (N.D. Tex. 2000).

         “[A] plaintiff must plead specific facts, not mere conclusory allegations. . . .” Guidry v. Bank of LaPlace, 954 F.2d 278, 281 (5th Cir. 1992). Additionally, “‘legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.'” Blackburn, 42 F.3d at 931 (quoting Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993)). “[T]he complaint must contain either direct allegations on every material point necessary to sustain a recovery . . . or contain allegations from which an inference fairly may be drawn that evidence on ...

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