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August v. Brinkhaus

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

October 10, 2018

SHANE PAUL AUGUST
v.
TRISHA BRINKHAUS ET AL.

          UNASSIGNED DISTRICT JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PATRICK J. HANNA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the court is the motion to dismiss, which was filed on behalf of defendant Special Assistant District Attorney Shane Mouton. (Rec. Doc. 42). The motion was referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of this Court. The deadline for filing a response to the motion elapsed without an opposition brief having been filed; accordingly, the motion is unopposed. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, this Court recommends that the motion be GRANTED and that the claims asserted by the plaintiff against Mr. Mouton be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         Background

         This lawsuit, which was brought under 42 U.C.C. § 1983, apparently arose out of the pro se plaintiff's experience in Louisiana state court. He asserted claims against Mr. Mouton and others, contending that they violated his Constitutional rights, including his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process. He sued Mr. Mouton in his individual and official capacities, and alleged that Mr. Mouton issued warrants for his arrest that allegedly resulted in his being incarcerated, losing his job, and having child support payments deducted from his pay checks. He seeks to recover damages from Mr. Mouton in the amount of $75, 000 in compensatory damages and $75, 000 in punitive damages.

         The plaintiff attached to his complaint numerous documents indicating that Mr. Mouton was a special assistant district attorney in the 15th Judicial District Court for Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, who prosecuted the plaintiff in connection with his child support obligations. Those documents include a letter from Mr. Mouton to the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court requesting the service of a subpoena duces tecum on the plaintiff in connection with a hearing set for November 18, 2013 (Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 11) and a rule for increase in child support that was filed on March 19, 2013 and signed by Mr. Mouton (Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 12).

         Mr. Mouton responded to the plaintiff's complaint by filing the instant motion to dismiss. He contends that he was not properly or timely served with the plaintiff's complaint, that he is immune from liability to the plaintiff, that the court lacks jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims against Mouton, and that the plaintiff failed to state a valid Section 1983 claim against him. Thus, Mr. Mouton argued that the claims asserted against him by the plaintiff in this lawsuit should be dismissed.

         Analysis

         A. Mouton is Immune from Liability in his Individual Capacity

         Prosecutors are absolutely immune from Section 1983 suits in their individual capacities for actions that are within the scope of their prosecutorial duties.[1]Although absolute immunity does not extend to a prosecutor's administrative or investigatory functions, [2] the traditional functions of a prosecutor are to decide which suits to bring and to conduct them in court.[3] Therefore, the decision to file or not file criminal charges is protected by prosecutorial immunity.[4] A prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity when he acts in that capacity even if he acts maliciously, wantonly, or negligently.[5]

         In this case, the plaintiff is suing Mr. Mouton for prosecuting him with regard to child support obligations. The alleged wrongful acts apparently concern Mr. Mouton's decisions to seek an increase in child support payments, to seek the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum directed to the plaintiff in connection with his child support obligations, and to seek arrest warrants when the plaintiff failed to comply with court orders. Such decisions clearly fall within the scope of a prosecutor's traditional prosecutorial duties. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against Mr. Mouton, in his individual capacity, is barred by absolute immunity.

         B. The Court Does Not Lack Jurisdiction over the Official Capacity Claim

         A suit against a governmental official in his or her official capacity is really a suit against the office or the government. Official capacity suits generally represent another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent. Therefore, the plaintiffs' claim against Mr. Mouton in his official capacity is actually a claim against the governmental entity by which he is employed. Mr. Mouton argued that, as an assistant district attorney, he is an official of the State of Louisiana and protected from prosecution under the Eleventh Amendment.

         However, previous rulings have found that “a Louisiana district attorney, sued in his or her official capacity, is a local government official who is not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity.”[6] Accordingly, this argument lacks merit.

         C. Mouton was Not Properly or Timely Served

         Mr. Mouton seeks dismissal of the claims asserted against him under Rule 5(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows a defense based on insufficient service of process. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(5) challenges the mode of delivery or lack of delivery of the summons and complaint and turns on the legal sufficiency of the service of process. Once the validity of service of process has been contested, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing its validity.[7] A district court has broad discretion to dismiss an action under Rule 12(b)(5).[8]

         Rule 4(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that the plaintiff is responsible for having the summons and complaint served on the defendant within the time allowed for service in Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 4(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that, ...


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