United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KATHLEEN KAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the court is a Motion for Entry of Judgment Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) [doc. 68], filed by
defendant Joshua Stanford (“Stanford”) in the
civil rights and tort action brought by Courtney Senegal
and as administrator of the estate of Eric Senegal
(“decedent”). Senegal has filed no opposition to
either motion and her time for doing so has passed.
Accordingly, the motion is regarded as unopposed. This matter
has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and
recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
action arises from the decedent's death during the
execution of a no-knock search warrant at the decedent's
home in Ragley, Louisiana, allegedly committed by members of
the Beauregard Parish Narcotics Task Force
(“NTF”) and Beauregard Parish SWAT Team on the
night of January 4, 2016. Doc. 49, pp. 4-10. The warrant was
allegedly obtained by members of the NTF based on
uncorroborated and unreliable sources, and without a risk
assessment performed by any member of the NTF to determine
the need for applying for a “no-knock” warrant.
Id. at 5-6. The plaintiff asserts that defendants
are therefore liable for forcibly entering the decedent's
home on the night of January 4, 2016, and firing numerous
shots, which fatally wounded the decedent and his dog.
Id. at 6-7.
plaintiff, who is the surviving spouse of the decedent, filed
suit in this court against several defendants, including
DeRidder Police Officer Joshua Stanford. See doc. 1.
In her second amended complaint, she seeks to hold Stanford
personally liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort
law based on Stanford's alleged presence during the
execution of the warrant and involvement in the NTF, which
plaintiff maintains had a policy of requesting
“no-knock” warrants without making necessary
constitutional inquiry. Doc. 49, pp. 4-16. Stanford filed an
unopposed motion for summary judgment [doc. 58], which the
undersigned recommended be granted based on Senegal's
inability to show Stanford's personal involvement in the
planning or execution of the warrant. Doc. 64. The court
adopted that report and recommendation on May 23, 2018, and
dismissed all claims against Stanford. Doc. 65.
remain against several other defendants, all of whom have
made appearances in this matter. Stanford now brings the
instant Motion for Entry of Judgment under Rule 54(b),
seeking to have the court's judgment of May 23, 2018,
designated as final and immediately appealable pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Doc. 68.
appellate jurisdiction of the United States Courts of Appeals
is limited, except where otherwise provided by statute, to
final judgments of the district courts. See 28
U.S.C. § 1291. Rule 54(b) handles the finality of
judgments in cases involving multiple claims and/or parties,
and allows that the court handling such an action “may
direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer
than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly
determines that there is no just reason for the delay.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Otherwise, the rule continues, “any
order . . . that adjudicates fewer than all the claims . . .
does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties
and may be revised at any time” before entry of a
judgment on all claims and all parties' rights and
weighing a request for entry of final judgment under Rule
54(b), the court should conduct a two-step inquiry.
Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Electric Co., 100
S.Ct. 1460, 1464- 65 (1980) (citing Sears, Roebuck &
Co. v. Mackey, 76 S.Ct. 895 (1956)). First, it should
determine whether it is dealing with a final judgment - i.e.,
a “judgment” in the sense that it is a decision
upon a cognizable claim for relief, and one that is
“final” in the sense that it is “an
ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the
course of a multiple claims action.” Id. at
1464 (internal quotations omitted).
motion deals with a final judgment, the court determines
“whether there is any just reason for delay.”
Id. at 1464-65. In this sense the district court
must act as “dispatcher” in order to determine
when each final decision in a multi-claim action is ready for
review, and should make such determinations “in the
interest of sound judicial administration” as well as
out of concern for the equities involved. Id. at
1465. Though Rule 54(b) requests should not be granted
routinely, the decision is left to the district court's
“sound judicial discretion.” Brown v. Miss.
Valley State Univ., 311 F.3d 328, 332 (5th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Curtiss-Wright Corp., 100 S.Ct. at 1465).
the court's order of May 23, 2018, was evidently a final
judgment because it disposed of the claims raised against
Stanford. Accordingly, the only remaining question is whether
there is any reason to delay finalization of that judgment
until the remaining claims have been disposed of. The courts
have long recognized “the historic federal policy
against piecemeal appeals.” Curtiss-Wright
Corp., 100 S.Ct. at 1465 (quoting Mackey, 76
S.Ct. at 901)). Where, however, the unresolved claims shared
factual and legal issues with the dismissed claims but
involved different parties, the Fifth Circuit determined that
entry of Rule 54(b) certification over the dismissed claims
“was neither unreasonable nor an abuse of
discretion.” Ackerman v. F.D.I.C., 973 F.2d
1221, 1225 (5th Cir. 1992).
matter, claims against other defendants share factual and
legal issues with the claims brought against Stanford.
However, none of those defendants has yet sought summary
judgment and trial in this matter has not even been
scheduled, making the extent of piecemeal appeals unknowable
while the likely delay until final judgment on all claims
appears significant. As Stanford points out, absent a Rule
54(b) certification he would have await final resolution of
the remaining defendants' claims in order to learn
whether plaintiff will appeal the order dismissing the claims
against him, in which case he could be brought back into this
suit years later to continue ...