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Strickland v. Cochran

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

May 28, 2019

CAMERON STRICKLAND
v.
STEPHANIE COCHRAN, ET AL.

          WALTER MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KATHLEEN KAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court are Motions to Dismiss [docs. 5, 8, 14] filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) by defendants in this matter. The motions relate to the civil rights suit filed pro se by plaintiff Cameron Strickland. Doc. 1. They have been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636.

         I.

         Background

         Strickland brings this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Stephanie Cochran, a hearing officer for the Fourteenth Judicial District Court, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana; the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office (“CPSO”); the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”); and Richard Michels, an attorney employed by DCFS. He challenges child support obligations imposed on and enforced against him by the defendants under a judgment issued by the Fourteenth Judicial District Court. See doc. 1, att. 1. He seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief in the form of a request that his record of arrears be stricken. Doc. 1.

         The defendants now move for dismissal of the claims against them under three motions. CPSO asserts that Strickland's claims must be dismissed because it is not a juridical entity and because Strickland fails to allege a particular constitutional violation on its part. Doc. 5, att. 1. Cochran asserts that she is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity in any claims against her in a personal capacity, and that the court lacks jurisdiction over any claims against her in an official capacity. Doc. 8, att. 1. Michels and his employer, DCFS, assert that the court lacks jurisdiction over any claims against Michels in his official capacity and that the court should abstain from hearing any other claims under either the Rooker-Feldman doctrine or the domestic relations exception. Doc. 14, att. 2. They also assert that Strickland fails to allege a constitutional violation and that his claims have prescribed. Id. Strickland did not respond to any of the above motions and his time for doing so has passed.

         II.

         Law & Application

         Generally, the court should consider any jurisdictional attack before addressing the merits of the case. See Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001) (court should address 12(b)(1) motion before 12(b)(6)). “This requirement prevents a court without jurisdiction from prematurely dismissing a case on the merits.” Id. Accordingly, the court first addresses jurisdictional grounds for dismissal and then, if necessary, the remaining arguments raised under Rule 12(b)(6) regarding Strickland's failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

         A. Motion to Dismiss Standards

         1. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(1) attacks the court's jurisdiction to hear and decide the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The burden lies with the party seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction. Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be found based on: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts. Id. On a facial attack to subject matter jurisdiction, which is based on the sufficiency of the complaint, court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and construes those allegations in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Garcia v. Copenhaver, Bell & Associates, M.D.'s, P.A., 104 F.3d 1256, 1260-61 (11th Cir. 1997); Pike v. Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control of the La. Dep't of Rev., 157 F.Supp.3d 523, 533 (M.D. La. 2015).

         The court is not required to show such deference when resolving factual attacks, however. “On a factual attack of subject matter jurisdiction, a court's power to make findings of fact and to weigh the evidence depends on whether the . . . attack . . . also implicates the merits of plaintiff's cause of action.” Taylor v. Dam, 244 F.Supp.2d 747, 753 (S.D. Tex. 2003) (quoting Garcia, 104 F.3d at 1261). Where the facts necessary to sustain jurisdiction do not implicate the merits of the plaintiff's case, “the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case, ” ...


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