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Ayo v. Dunn

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 4, 2018

HENRY AYO, and KAIASHA WHITE on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated
v.
CLEVE DUNN Sr., REHABILITATION HOME INCARCERATION, SID J.

          RULING

          SHELLY D. DICK, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss[1] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“FRCP 12(b)(6)”) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted filed by Defendant, Sid J. Gautreaux, III, in his official capacity as Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish (“Defendant” or “Sheriff”). Plaintiffs, Henry Ayo and Kaiasha White, (“Plaintiffs”) filed an Opposition,[2] and Movant has filed a Reply.[3] For the reasons stated herein, the Motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiffs, Henry Ayo (“Ayo”) and Kaiasha White (“White”), bring claims on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), against Sid J. Gautreaux, in his official capacity as Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish. Plaintiffs also assert claims against Cleve Dunn, Sr. (“Dunn”) and Rehabilitation Home Incarceration (“RHI”), under Federal and State Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Acts (“RICO”), the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act (“LUTPA”), and state tort claims for conversion and unjust enrichment.[4]

         According to the Amended Complaint,[5] Plaintiffs were arrested in East Baton Rouge Parish and taken to the East Baton Rouge prison (“prison”).[6] The Plaintiffs appeared before 19th Judicial District Court (“JDC”) Judge Trudy White (“Judge White”) “for a hearing to determine probable cause for detention and to set bond”[7] on the day following their respective arrests. Ayo, who was arrested on a charge of Simple Burglary of an Inhabited Dwelling and related offenses, alleges that “Judge White set his bond at $8,000, informed him of the charges, and assigned him to RHI supervision. White informed him that someone from RHI would visit him at the Prison to explain the process.”[8] The Amended Complaint incorporates Ayo’s Bond Order entered by Judge White.[9] The Bond Order directs the Sherriff to release Ayo “upon a good and solvent bond conditioned as the law directs in the total sum of $8,000.”[10] The Order further provides: “You shall be under the supervision of RHI-Cleve Dunn @ 364-7753 for a period of 90 days to ensure compliance with this order upon release on bond.”[11] Finally, the Order directs that “You shall not be released on bond without first meeting with your bond supervisor.”[12] Plaintiff White alleges that, following an “arrest on charges of simple and aggravated battery…Judge White set her bond at $4,000 and informed her that she would also have to report to RHI.”[13]

         Plaintiffs claim that the Sheriff violated their constitutional rights secured under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs allege that the Sherriff is the final policy maker responsible for the detention and release of prisoners in East Baton Rouge Parish and that, “[t]hrough an agreement with RHI,” the Sherriff “created and enforce[d] a policy that the Prison will not release arrestees from the Prison until it receives permission from RHI-permission that comes only after RHI is satisfied with the initial payment made.”[14] Plaintiffs allege that continued detention until an arrestee can “pay the initial RHI fee and be release from the Prison” violates their fundamental liberty interests secured by the Fourteenth Amendment[15] and constitutes an unconstitutional seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.[16]

         Urging dismissal for failure to state a claim under FRCP 12(b)(6), the Sherriff argues that, “[e]ven if the Sheriff created and enforced a policy that the Prison will not release arrestees ‘until it receives permission from RHI-permission that comes only after RHI is satisfied with the initial payment made,’ Plaintiffs have not alleged that the policy is the moving force behind the violation of their constitutional right and have failed to show a direct causal link between the alleged policy and the violation.”[17]

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “[t]he ‘court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.’”[18] The Court may consider “the complaint, its proper attachments, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.”[19] “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.’”[20] In Twombly, the United States Supreme Court set forth the basic criteria necessary for a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”[21] A complaint is also insufficient if it merely “tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’”[22] However, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads the factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[23] In order to satisfy the plausibility standard, the plaintiff must show “more than a sheer possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully.”[24] “Furthermore, while the court must accept well-pleaded facts as true, it will not ‘strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiff.’”[25] On a motion to dismiss, courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”[26]

         B. Section 1983 Claims against the Sheriff

         A suit against a government official in his official capacity is the equivalent of filing suit against the government agency of which the official is an agent.[27] Accordingly, the claims against the Sheriff in his official capacity are, in effect, claims against the municipal entity he represents, which is East Baton Rouge Parish.[28]

         To determine whether a public official is liable in his official capacity, the Court looks to the jurisprudence addressing municipality or local government liability under Section 1983.[29] Municipal liability under Section 1983 requires proof of three elements: 1) an official policy or custom, of which, 2) a policymaker can be charged with actual or constructive knowledge, and 3) a violation of constitutional rights whose “moving force” is the policy or custom.[30]

         In order for a municipality to be held liable under Section 1983, the plaintiff must identify an unconstitutional municipal policy or custom that caused his/her injury.[31]

         It is not enough for a Section 1983 plaintiff to identify conduct properly attributable to the municipality. The plaintiff must also demonstrate that, through deliberate conduct, the municipality was a ‘moving force’ behind the injury alleged. That is, a plaintiff must show that the municipal action was taken with the requisite degree of culpability and must demonstrate a direct causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of federal rights.[32]

         Movant urges dismissal arguing that Plaintiffs fail to plead plausible allegations that the Sheriff’s detention and release policies and/or practices were the “moving force” behind the constitutional violation. The following are the entirety of the allegations against the Sheriff:

1.
This scheme is arranged by Cleve Dunn, Sr. (“Dunn”), RHI’s Chief Executive Officer, and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Office officials operating the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (the “Prison”), who, at RHI’s direction, refuse to release individuals ordered to RHI supervision until they pay the initial fee.
15.
Defendant Sid J. Gautreaux, III is the Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish. He is sued in his official capacity.
26.
Individuals arrested for criminal offenses in East Baton Rouge Parish are initially taken to the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (the “Prison”), which is staffed and operated by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff, Defendant Gautreaux.
35.
Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux III has authority over, and responsibility for, operating the Prison. LSA-R.S. § 13:5539(C) (“Each sheriff shall be the keeper of the public jail of his parish . . .”). Gautreaux and Prison Warden Dennis Grimes (“Grimes”) have final policymaking ...

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