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Lee v. Denoux

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 27, 2019


         SECTION: “G” (1)




         Before the Court is the Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint filed by plaintiff Jacob Daniel Lee. (Rec. Doc. 51). For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.


         Mr. Lee filed this lawsuit more than two and-a-half years ago on November 3, 2016, alleging that he was attacked by police officers on November 4, 2015; that a 1986 Nissan Maxima was illegally seized on November 5, 2015; that on November 6, 2015, he was wrongfully arrested and held for 76 days, and that a bill of information was not filed until 67 days after his arrest. (Rec. Doc. 1). He named Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office deputies Chase Denoux, Devin Dominic, Mark Monson, and Shane Rivolo as defendants. Id. Mr. Lee was, and is, proceeding pro se.

         Once defendants appeared, the scheduling order was issued on June 27, 2017. It did not set a deadline for amending pleadings, but noted that “[p]leadings have been completed.”

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment, on February 6, 2018. They averred that Mr. Lee violently resisted arrest on November 5, 2015, when he was apprehended as a suspect in narcotics, firearm, and burglary activity. They averred that Mr. Lee was arrested on November 6, 2015, for illegal possession of LSD, marijuana, and oxycodone; illegal possession of a firearm; battery on a police officer; resisting arrest by force or violence; possession of a firearm while in possession of narcotics; and possession of stolen goods. Defendants further averred that Mr. Lee pleaded guilty to an amended charge of misdemeanor resisting arrest on May 22, 2017. The court dismissed Mr. Lee's false arrest and excessive force claims as barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), finding that both claims would necessarily imply the invalidity of his arrest and conviction for resisting arrest when he had not shown the conviction was reversed on direct appeal, expunged, or declared invalid. Construing Mr. Lee's pleadings liberally, the court denied the defendants' motion as to Mr. Lee's possible due process claim arising out of the 67-day period of incarceration before the bill of information was filed, but noted that Mr. Lee had failed to name a party responsible for this delay as a defendant. The court granted Mr. Lee leave to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies, noting that Mr. Lee's failure to do so would result in dismissal upon defendants' motion. Because the defendants had not addressed it, the court also denied their motion as to Mr. Lee's claim for illegal search and seizure of the vehicle, noting that supplemental briefing would be required regarding the potential application of qualified immunity.

         Mr. Lee filed an amended complaint on June 13, 2018, and again on July 12, 2018. He added additional factual allegations concerning his alleged false arrest, the alleged use of excessive force, the search and seizure of the vehicle, and added allegations that the police officers and prison officials violated his rights while he was incarcerated and that excessive bail had been imposed. He did not name any new parties. A new scheduling order was issued setting trial for January 14, 2019. On December 12, 2018, defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. The defendants also moved to continue the trial, which was granted, and on February 1, 2019, the district court issued a new scheduling order setting trial to begin on July 8, 2019. Mr. Lee filed an untimely opposition to defendants' motion to dismiss on February 21, 2019.

         On June 6, 2019, Mr. Lee filed the present motion for leave to amend. On June 14, 2019, the district court granted the defendants' pending motion to dismiss Mr. Lee's existing complaint. The court reiterated that Mr. Lee's unlawful arrest and excessive force claims were barred by Heck. Applying the doctrine of qualified immunity, the court dismissed Mr. Lee's claim for illegal search and seizure of the Nissan Maxima. The court also dismissed Mr. Lee's claim for due process violations because Mr. Lee had not named a party responsible for those alleged violations even after the court's instruction that he do so. The court further dismissed Mr. Lee's claims related to alleged constitutional violations while he was incarcerated because Mr. Lee had failed to bring any allegations against the named defendants related to his treatment while he was incarcerated and although he had alleged that Sheriff Newell Normand was responsible for conditions of the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility, he had not named Sheriff Normand as a defendant.

         The court now turns to Mr. Lee's proposed pleading. Mr. Lee seeks to name as additional defendants the Jefferson Parish District Attorney (“DA”), an unnamed Assistant District Attorney for the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office (“ADA”), and the Jefferson Parish sheriff in his official capacity. Mr. Lee asserts a new claim arising out of an alleged incident on July 10, 2016, when defendants Monson and Denoux pulled Mr. Lee over for a traffic stop and wrote him a citation for possession of marijuana. Mr. Lee alleges there was no probable cause for the officers to pull him over, that they conducted an illegal search of his vehicle, that they harassed his girlfriend, and that they told him that he needed to plead guilty to the charges related to the November 2015 incident. He alleges the officers were trying to coerce him into pleading guilty. Mr. Lee realleges his excessive force claim arising out of the November 4, 2015 incident, and his false arrest and false imprisonment claims arising out of the November 6, 2015, arrest. Mr. Lee alleges that the defendants fabricated lies to “trump up” the charges against him so that his bail would be excessive. He alleges a claim for slander, libel, and defamation of character arising out of statements by Sheriff Normand to the media on November 5, 2015, allegedly portraying Mr. Lee as an armed, dangerous, drug-abusing criminal. Mr. Lee also adds a claim for conspiracy to interfere with civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and 1986, all concerning his November 6, 2015, arrest and the issuance of the bill of information 67-days later. Mr. Lee's proposed pleading also contains additional allegations concerning the conditions during his incarceration.

         Defendants oppose the proposed amendment. They argue that the proposed pleading should not be allowed because of Mr. Lee's undue delay in filing it. They point out that the incident in question occurred almost four years ago and that Mr. Lee has had two prior opportunities to amend. They say Mr. Lee has stated no reason for his delay or why the new parties and claims could not have been added earlier. Defendants further argue that Mr. Lee's amendment would be futile. They say that all of his claims arising out of his arrest and the alleged use of excessive force have already been found barred by Heck. They say this same rule applies to Mr. Lee's new claims for conspiracy and for excessive bail. Further, they argue that Mr. Lee's claims against the new defendants are prescribed. They say that when a new defendant is added after the limitations period, the claims only relate back to the original date of filing if the new defendant received adequate notice of the original lawsuit and where the new defendant knew that, but for a mistake concerning identity, the new defendant would have been named originally. They argue relation back is inapplicable here because there was no mistake in the identity of the newly added parties.

         Law and Analysis

         1. Standard to Amend Pleadings

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), when the time period for amending a pleading as a matter of course has passed, a party may amend its pleadings by consent of the parties or by leave of court. “The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 15(a)(2). Thus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit instructs that the “district court must possess a ‘substantial reason' to deny a request for leave to amend.” Smith v. EMC Corp., 393 F.3d 590, 595 (5th Cir. 2004). Nonetheless, “that generous standard is tempered by the necessary power of a district court to manage a case.” Yumilicious Franchise, L.L.C. v. Barrie, 819 F.3d 170, 177 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 566 (5th Cir. 2003)). The court may consider numerous factors when deciding whether to grant a motion for leave to amend, including “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failures to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, and futility of the amendment.” Schiller, 342 F.3d at 566.

         The Fifth Circuit has also explained that courts “more carefully scrutinize a party's attempt to raise new theories of recovery by amendment when the opposing party has filed a motion for summary judgment.” Parish v. Frazier, 195 F.3d 761, 764 (5th Cir. 1999). In Parish, for example, the district court denied leave to amend where the plaintiff filed her motion for leave to amend on the same day as defendants' motion for summary judgment and her amendment would likely require additional discovery and another motion for summary judgment. Id. at 764. The court held that the amendment “would unduly prejudice the defendants and raise concerns about seriatim presentation of facts and issues.” Id. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court had not abused its discretion. Id.

         Similarly, in Little v. Liquid Air Corp., the plaintiffs sought leave to amend and raise an entirely new factual basis for their claims, which “would have required that the parties reopen discovery and alter their trial strategies.” 952 F.2d 841, 846 (5th Cir. 1992), on reh'g en banc, 37 F.3d 1069 (5th Cir. 1994). In affirming the district's court's order denying leave to amend, the Fifth Circuit concluded:

There is little question that the delay in this case was particularly egregious. First, the plaintiffs did not propose their amendment until well over a year after they had instituted their actions and several months after discovery on the actions had effectively terminated. Second, by the time the plaintiffs proposed their amendment, [the defendant] had already moved for summary judgment. Despite the apparent delay, however, the plaintiffs did not attempt to satisfy their burden: they offered no evidence that their delay in filing the motions for leave to amend was excusable or a result of mere oversight.


         Where the court ordered deadline for amending pleadings has passed, that schedule “may be modified” to allow for additional amendments “only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 16(b)(4); see S&W Enterprises, L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Alabama, NA, 315 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2003) (“We take this opportunity to make clear that Rule 16(b) governs amendment of pleadings after a scheduling order deadline has expired.”). When determining whether the movant has shown good cause, the Court considers “(1) the explanation for the failure to [timely move for leave to amend]; (2) the importance of the [amendment]; (3) potential prejudice in allowing the [amendment]; and (4) the availability of a ...

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