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Thomas v. Louisiana State Police

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 6, 2019


         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS


         Before the Court is an unopposed motion to dismiss[1] filed by defendants, the Louisiana State Police and State Trooper Russell E. Sibley (“Sibley”) (together, “defendants”). Defendants move the court to dismiss plaintiff Darvie Thomas's (“Thomas”) claims pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


         Thomas claims that on October 30, 2017, he was driving in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, when Sibley pulled him over.[2] Thomas was allegedly driving 83 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone, and Sibley ordered Thomas out of the vehicle, having determined that Thomas had been driving under the influence of alcohol.[3] Thomas was arrested for DWI after Sibley noticed an open beer bottle in the vehicle and then conducted a field sobriety test.[4] Thomas alleges that he informed Sibley that he was unable to walk in a straight line because of a prior ankle surgery, but that Sibley nevertheless ordered Thomas to the rear of his vehicle.[5]

         Thomas alleges that Sibley tased him several times, and that the tasing caused severe burns to his torso.[6] Thomas asserts that all of the acts committed by Sibley were committed with actual malice and willful and wanton indifference to Thomas's constitutional rights, as Thomas complied with all of Sibley's orders.[7]

         Thomas asserts excessive force claims against the Louisiana State Police as well as Sibley in his official and individual capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Thomas also asserts unspecified state law claims against defendants.


         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a] case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). “The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). When applying Rule 12(b)(1), a court may dismiss an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “on any one of three separate bases: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Spotts v. United States, 613 F.3d 559, 565-66 (5th Cir. 2010).

         Rule 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “provides for dismissal of a claim if service of process was not timely made in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 or was not properly served in the appropriate manner.” Worley v. Louisiana, No. 10-3313, 2012 WL 218992, at *2 (E.D. La. Jan. 25, 2012) (Africk, J.) (quoting Wallace v. St. Charles Sch. Bd., No. 04-1376, 2005 WL 1155770, at *1 (E.D. La. May 5, 2005)). “In the absence of valid service of process, proceedings against a party are void.” Id. (quoting Aetna Bus. Credit, Inc. v. Universal Décor & Interior Design, 635 F.2d 434, 435 (5th Cir. 1981)). “When service of process is challenged, the party on whose behalf it is made must bear the burden of establishing its validity.” Id. (quoting Aetna, 635 F.2d at 435).


         “When a state agency is the named defendant, the Eleventh Amendment bars suit for both money damages and injunctive relief, unless the state has waived its immunity.” Mathai v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. Univ. & Agricultural & Mech. Coll., 959 F.Supp.2d 951, 957 (E.D. La. 2013) (Vance, J.) (citing Cozzo v. Tangipahoa Parish Council-President Gov't, 279 F.3d 273, 281 (5th Cir. 2002)). “By statute, Louisiana has refused to waive its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity against suits in federal courts.” Id.; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13:5106(A)). Furthermore, Congress has not expressly abrogated sovereign immunity for § 1983 claims. Richardson v. So. Univ., 118 F.3d 450, 453. Therefore, Thomas's claim for relief pursuant to § 1983 is “subject to the Eleventh Amendment bar.” Id.

         The Louisiana State Police is an agency of the State of Louisiana. Francis v. Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office, No. 08-4972, 2009 WL 4730707, at *2 (E.D. La. Dec. 9, 2009) (citing La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1301; Michalik v. Hermann, No. 99-3496, 2000 WL 159440, at *1 (E.D. La. Oct. 24, 2000); Jenkins v. Lee, No. 98-2367, 1999 WL 97931, at *2 (E.D. La. Feb. 17, 1999)). Furthermore, as a state agency, the Louisiana State Police is not a “person” capable of being sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Francis, 2009 WL 4730707, at *2 (citing Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989); Hyatt v. Sewell, 197 Fed.Appx. 370 (5th Cir. 2006) (per curiam)).

         As for Sibley, a lawsuit “against a state official in his official capacity constitutes a suit against the state itself, which is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.” Mathai, 959 F.Supp.2d at 957 (citing Will, 491 U.S. at 71). Thomas has sued Sibley in his official capacity, and he only requests monetary damages, rather than prospective or injunctive relief, in his ...

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