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Angelle v. Town of Duson

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

August 6, 2018

Angelle et al
Town of Duson et al

          Unassigned District Judge



         Before the Court on assignment by the district judge is a Motion To Dismiss For Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendants, Town of Duson (“Duson”); Chief Kip Anthony Judice (“Chief Judice”), Individually; Officer Timothy Clyde Cannon, Individually; Officer Calvin Joseph Francis, Jr., Individually; and Officer Brian Thomas Poirot, Individually [Rec. Doc. 31], Plaintiffs, Lionello Paul Angelle and Carla Anne Siner's, Memorandum in Opposition [Rec. Doc. 35] and Defendants' Reply [Rec. Doc. 38]. For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that the Motion be Granted in part and Denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of the May 9, 2017 arrests of Plaintiffs and the search of their property by Officers Francis and Chief Judice with the Duson Police Department and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office. Plaintiffs were originally arrested on a charge of armed robbery of a casino in Duson, Louisiana. After viewing the casino's security camera video of the armed robbery, Officer Cannon prepared affidavits and search warrants for the search of Angelle's automobile and Siner's residence were signed by Commissioner Frederick to allow for a search of items believed to be owned, used and/or obtained in the armed robbery. Instead of finding items related to the armed robbery, the officers located illegal drugs, a handgun, and a counterfeit $100 bill.

         Shortly after plaintiffs' arrest, another casino in St. Landry Parish was robbed on May 10, 2017 under very similar circumstances. Leads developed quickly and the robbers for the St. Landry Parish robbery were identified. The armed robbery charges against plaintiffs were dismissed on May 11, 2017. R. 1-5. In light of the drugs found during the search of the residence pursuant to the search warrants, however, plaintiffs were again arrested on drug and weapons charges.

         In October 2017, Plaintiffs attended a probable cause determination, as well as a hearing on their Motion to Suppress. The probable cause determination was held first, and Louisiana State District Judge Jules Edwards determined that there was probable cause for plaintiffs' arrests. In a hearing on the Motion to Suppress, upon viewing the video used by the defendant officers in applying for the warrants Judge Edwards reached a different conclusion than the officers, ruling that he personally did not perceive similarities in the gait of the female suspect walking on the date of the robbery, and that the male suspect did not have a distinct potbelly as Mr. Angelle. R. 31-3, October 18, 2017 hearing transcript. Because Judge Edwards did not view the various characteristics described in the search warrants as described by Officer Cannon, he ruled to suppress the evidence, finding that the search warrants were flawed. Since the drugs, gun and counterfeit $100 bill were the only physical evidence against plaintiffs, the District Attorney's office dismissed the charges.

         Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on March 5, 2018, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Louisiana state law against the Defendants for their arrest and subsequent prosecution. R. 1. Plaintiffs asserted a claim for Plaintiffs' “racially motivated” arrests under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, Id., a claim for “unreasonable search and seizure” under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and various state law claims. On May 9, 2018, Plaintiffs amended their complaint in response to Defendants' first Motion to Dismiss, R. 18, adding a claim for excessive force as to Plaintiff Siner, a malicious prosecution claim in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and a Monell claim against Duson and Chief Judice. R. 26. The Court will refer to the Amended Complaint as “the complaint”.


         Defendants argue in their motion that Plaintiffs' fail to state a § 1983 claim (1) under Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) against Duson and Chief Judice, R. 26, ¶¶ 64-73, because Plaintiffs' customs and practices and inadequate training and/or supervision claims are vague and fail to state any particularized facts, Id. at ¶¶ 21, 22; (2) Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claims should be dismissed, R. 26, ¶¶ 29, 32, 48, 50, 64(b)(c) and (d), as they are related to the arrests and properly brought under the Fourth Amendment; (3) the search warrants were based on probable cause and Defendants are protected by qualified immunity; (4) no such claim for malicious prosecution under § 1983 exists; (5) conspiracy between the Officers as employees of the Duson Police Department cannot exist; (6) against “Defendants” without specifically designating which Defendant committed which constitutional tort; and, (7) there is no right under the Fourteenth Amendment to an “investigation” Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim under § 1981 as they do not allege that Defendants' action were based on Plaintiffs' race.

         Plaintiffs contend (1) they have stated a Monell claim because Chief Judice “was the final decision maker with respect to law enforcement in Duson” and “the alleged unconstitutional acts arose in connection with [his] law enforcement authority” and this case constitutes a “rare circumstance” in which a single unconstitutional action is sufficient to impose municipal liability; (2) their Fourteenth Amendment “substantive due process” claims should not be dismissed because they “seek redress for government acts that violate personal immunities that are fundamental;” (3) because the court found that the search warrants were based on affidavits which set forth a false and unsupported statement, they were not based on probable cause and Defendants' are not entitled to qualified immunity; (4) the Fourth Amendment admittedly consumes their malicious prosecution claims under § 1983; (5) the Defendants should be considered conspirators under the “collective knowledge” or “fellow officer” rule; (6) the false information in the affidavits should be imputed to all Officers to satisfy their conspiracy claim; (7) they have a constitutional right to an investigation under the Fourteenth Amendment because the affidavit at issue included false information. As to their § 1981 claim, Plaintiffs assert it is the same as their claims under § 1983.


         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is properly granted when a defendant attacks the complaint because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim. Ramming v. U.S., 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a district court must limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including any attachments thereto. Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). The court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and it must view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). However, conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not accepted as true, Collins at 498, and courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. The allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” Id. at 555. and “the pleading must contain something more ... than ... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id. (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004)). “While a complaint ... 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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If the plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to “nudge[ ][his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his] complaint must be dismissed.” Id. at 570.

         A claim meets the test for 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief ... [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Therefore, “[t]he complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual matter (taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or expectation (4) that discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of a claim.” Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009).


         “Section 1983 confers no substantive rights, but merely provides a remedy for the violation [by a person acting under color of state law, ] of rights secured under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Southwestern Bell Telephone, LP v. City of Houston, 529 F.3d 257, 260 (5th Cir.2008). Therefore, an underlying constitutional or statutory violation is a predicate to any theory of liability under § 1983. Johnston v. Harris County Flood Control Dist., 869 F.2d 1565, 1573 (5th Cir.1989). The plaintiff must establish in a § 1983 action that there has been: (1) a violation of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, (2) that was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Southwestern Bell Telephone at 260.

         V. ANALYSIS

         A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 CLAIMS

         1. Monell Claims

         Defendants assert that Plaintiff's Third Claim for Relief attempts to assert a Monell claim against Duson and Chief Judice, individually, for failure to adequately or properly train or supervise officers with the Duson Police Department. R. 26, ¶¶ 64-73. They contend that because Plaintiffs' complaints put forth no statement of particularized facts of any “custom” or “policy” of Chief Judice or Duson nor any allegations as to the type of training and/or supervision that should have been conducted to avoid the alleged violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, Plaintiffs' Monell claims should be dismissed.

         a. Policy Liability

         Plaintiffs allege that Chief Judice and Duson “created a policy and custom that permits officers to violate citizens' civil rights” R. 26, ¶ 21. They further allege that Chief Judice and Duson “created an atmosphere and practice of allowing the officers of the Duson Police Department to have unlimited authority, to make decisions on arresting citizens without conducting proper investigations, and to submit speculative basis for search and arrest warrants…. exposing the citizens of the 15th Judicial District of Louisiana and the Plaintiffs to the dangers of law enforcement officers acting unlawfully in concert without any authority.” Id. They allege that these Defendants' developed and ...

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