United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
LASHAWN JONES, ET AL.
MARLIN N. GUSMAN, ET AL.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
the Court is the Motion to Clarify Stipulated Order filed by
the Independent Jail Compliance Director
(“Director”), Darnley R. Hodge, Sr. (Rec. doc.
1170). The motion seeks to have the Court
“clarify” the Stipulated Order and find that the
Director shares the “absolute judicial immunity of the
Court.” (Id.). The motion is opposed by the
Plaintiff Class and the United States Department of Justice
(“DOJ”). (Rec. docs. 1178, 1180). Neither the
City of New Orleans nor the Sheriff's Office filed an
opposition or response.
District Judge referred the motion to me for issuance of a
Report and Recommendation pursuant to Section A.7 of the
Stipulated Order, which provides that “[i]ssues
regarding the interpretation or implementation of this
agreement shall be referred to the United States Magistrate
Judge assigned to the case for resolution. Any Party or the
Compliance Director may seek review of the Magistrate
Judge's determination by the District Judge.” (Rec.
doc. 1082 at p. 4).
Relevant Procedural Background
litigation was filed in April 2012 as a putative class action
against Defendants, Sheriff Marlin Gusman (the
“Sheriff”), and other prison officials by
prisoners housed in the Orleans Parish Jail
(“Plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs alleged that they and
other putative class members were subjected to various
unconstitutional conditions of confinement and sought
injunctive relief to remedy those alleged conditions. (Rec
doc. 1). The DOJ intervened pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1997, similarly alleging constitutional and statutory
violations and seeking injunctive relief. (Rec. doc. 70). The
City of New Orleans (the “City”) was brought into
the case via third-party complaints filed by the Sheriff.
(Rec. docs. 75, 76).
Plaintiffs, the DOJ, and Sheriff Gusman ultimately resolved
the underlying litigation by entering into an agreement that
was adopted by this Court as a consent judgment (the
“Consent Judgment”), which sets forth extensive
procedures and protocols to be followed by the Orleans Parish
Sheriff's Office (“OPSO”) in operating the
Orleans Parish Jail, for the purpose of redressing the
alleged unconstitutional conditions. (Rec. doc. 466). The
District Judge approved the Consent Judgment on June 6, 2013.
(Rec. doc. 465).
with the pace of reform under the Consent Judgment, on April
25, 2016, the Plaintiffs and the DOJ filed a Motion for an
Order to Show Cause and for Appointment of a Receiver to
Implement Consent Judgment (rec. doc. 1009), requesting that
the Court appoint “a receiver with full authority to
administer operations of the Orleans Parish Jail, including
the ability to discipline, reassign, terminate, and promote
Jail employees; develop and implement policies and
procedures; allocate Jail budget funds; and enter into
contracts for Jail services.” (Rec. doc. 1009-11, pp.
to the conclusion of a lengthy evidentiary hearing held on
that motion, the parties (including the City) engaged in
extensive settlement negotiations, in which the undersigned
was actively involved. The parties ultimately entered into an
agreement “to avoid continued litigation and
appeals.” (Rec. doc. 1083). The District Judge approved
the agreement as a “Stipulated Order.” (Rec. doc.
The Positions of the Parties
Director seeks to have the Court “clarify” the
Stipulated Order to make clear that the Compliance Director
is “entitled to absolute judicial or quasi-judicial
immunity for actions taken within the scope of his
court-granted authority.” (Rec. doc. 1170-1 at p. 5).
The essential basis for the Director's position is the
notion that he or she is “functionally equivalent to a
court-appointed receiver and entitled to the same
immunity” as such a receiver. (Id. at p.
7)(citing Plata v. Schwarzenegger, No. 01-CV-1351,
2005 WL 2932253 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 3, 2005) and Forrester v.
White, 484 U.S. 219, 108 S.Ct. 538 (1988)).
Plaintiffs disagree, arguing that the Parties did not agree
that the Compliance Director would enjoy any sort of immunity
and that this Court cannot determine whether the Director is
immune in other lawsuits. Plaintiffs also take
serious issue with the Director's position that his
office and position are “analogous to a court-appointed
receiver.” (Rec. doc. 1178 at p. 2). The DOJ's
“Opposition” merely seeks referral of the matter
to the undersigned pursuant to section A.7 of the Stipulated
Order and expresses a willingness to discuss whether the
agreement between the parties “contemplated a grant of
absolute immunity to the Compliance Director. . . .”
(Rec. doc. 1180 at p. 4).
relief sought by the Director is effectively distilled in
this statement in his reply brief (rec. doc. 1184):
Mr. Hodge does not seek a binding declaration from this Court
that he is absolutely immune from every suit that has been,
or ever will be, brought against him-nor would such a thing
be possible. He merely seeks a ruling from this Court
confirming that the Compliance Director is an officer of ...