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Williams v. State

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

February 28, 2019

JONAS WILLIAMS
v.
THE STATE OF LOUISIANA AND THE BOARD OF PAROLE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter comes before the Court on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 39) filed by Defendants, Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc (“Leblanc”), Department of Public Safety and Corrections Deputy Secretary Col. Kevin Reeves (“Reeves”), and Louisiana Board of Parole Chairman Sheryl Rantaza (“Rantaza”) (collectively referred to as “State Defendants”). Plaintiff Jonas Williams (“Plaintiff” or “Williams”) has filed an Opposition. (Doc. 41.) Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, facts in the record, and arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, the Defendants' motion is granted.

         I. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background

         This removed action arises out of the Defendants' alleged denial of Plaintiff's due process rights by automatically revoking his parole without providing him a hearing beforehand. (See Doc. 38 “Second Amended Petition.”)[1] Plaintiff claims that the Defendants, including the State of Louisiana and the Board of Parole of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (“DPSC”), “are jointly, severally, and solidarily indebted unto [him] for all just and equitable relief, including but not limited to damages[.]” (Doc. 38, ¶5.)

         The facts alleged by Williams indicate that he was arrested on November 3, 2008 in Texas on a charge of “Evade Arrest w/Motor Vehicle, ” to which he subsequently plead guilty and was sentenced to one year in jail. (Doc. 38, ¶6.) Although Williams' sentence was discharged on April 3, 2009, he remained in custody in Texas pending his transfer back to Louisiana. (Doc. 38, ¶7.) On October 8, 2009, Williams was returned to the custody of DPSC “based on a parole violation.” (Doc. 38, ¶8.) Williams alleges he did not receive a final parole revocation hearing from the DPSC, to which he appealed to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal. (Doc. 38, ¶9.) On appeal the First Circuit “held that the record did not support a finding that plaintiff's parole was properly revoked pursuant to La. R.S. 15:574.10, a final parole revocation hearing [was] required and remanded the case for further proceedings.” (Doc. 38, ¶9.) On remand, the 19th Judicial District Court “found that plaintiff's revocation proceedings did not afford petitioner due process and reversed petitioner's parole revocation decision.” (Doc. 38, ¶10.) Subsequently, on May 3, 2012, “the Louisiana Parole Board voted to discharge plaintiff, ” and Williams was released on May 29, 2012. (Doc. 38, ¶11.)

         On April 29, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Petition in the 19th Judicial District Court against the State of Louisiana and the DPSC, Office of Probation and Parole. (Doc. 1-2.) Williams sought to recover damages from the Defendants for loss of income in the amount of $156, 384.20 pursuant to La. R.S. § 15:574.10 due to the revocation of his parole. (Doc. 1-2, ¶¶13-14.)[2] On June 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed his First Supplemental and Amending Petition in this Court in which he deleted his request for damages under La. R.S. § 15:574.10 and asserted a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 due process claim for damages against the State and the DPSC, Office of Probation and Parole. (Doc. 1-3, ¶¶ IV-V.)

         On July 14, 2017, the State of Louisiana, through the DPSC, Office of Probation and Parole, removed Plaintiff's lawsuit to federal court. (Doc. 1.) Shortly thereafter, the State of Louisiana through the DPSC, Office of Probation and Parole, filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 6.) On October 18, 2017, the Court granted the Motion, resulting in the dismissal of said claims with prejudice, but gave Williams the opportunity to “amend his petitions to assert a claim against these Defendants or others, if he can do so.” (Doc. 11 “Ruling and Order.”) In response to the Court's directive, Williams filed a Second Amended Petition in which he has asserted 42 U.S.C. § 1983 due process claims, state law tort claims (La. Civ. Code arts. 2315 and 2320), and state law constitutional claims (Article I §§ 2 and 20) against the State of Louisiana; DPSC, Office of Probation and Parole; James M. LeBlanc, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the Louisiana DPSC; Colonel Kevin W. Reeves, in his official capacity Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana DPSC; and Sheryl M. Rantaza, Chairman of the Committee on Parole, in her official and individual capacities. (Doc. 38.)[3] Williams seeks to recover compensatory damages under both federal and state law. (Doc. 38, ¶¶13-15.) Plaintiff further contends that the Defendants are not entitled to Eleventh Amendment Immunity because the State removed the matter to federal court. (Doc. 38, ¶¶ 14-15.)

         In response to Plaintiff's Second Amended Petition, Defendants Leblanc, Reeves, and Rantaza filed a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Williams' state law claims asserting Defendants have absolute immunity. (Doc. 33.) This Court granted and dismissed with prejudice all state law claims against Rantaza in her individual capacity but denied Defendants' Motion as it pertains to the state law claims in Defendants' official capacity. (Doc. 42.)

         The instant Motion was filed by State Defendants on May 21, 2018 and seeks dismissal of the claims against Defendants' for two reasons. (Doc. 39.) First, Defendants' allege the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against them in their official capacity must be dismissed because the State is not a “person” under § 1983. (Doc. 39-1 at 5.) Second, Defendants' contend that Rantaza, in her individual capacity, is entitled to both qualified and absolute immunity. (Doc. 39-1 at 5-9.) In response, Williams contends that the claims against Defendants' in their official capacity are not barred by Eleventh Amendment Immunity because Defendants waived their sovereign immunity by removing the case to federal court. (Doc. 41 at 3-4.) Further, Williams argues that Rantaza cannot demonstrate she is entitled to absolute immunity, and therefore, Defendants' Motion should be denied in its entirety. (Doc. 41 at 7-9.)

         II. Rule 12(b)(6) Legal Standard

         In Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 135 S.Ct. 346 (2014), the Supreme Court explained “Federal pleading rules call for a ‘short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); they do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” 135 S.Ct. at 346-47 (citation omitted).

         Interpreting Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Fifth Circuit has explained:

The 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. “Asking for [such] plausible grounds to infer [the element of a claim] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal [that the elements of the claim existed].”

Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. ...


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