United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
RENATA SINGLETON ET AL.
LEON CANNIZZARO ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
TRICHE MILAZZO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Defendants' Motion to Confirm a Stay of
Proceedings (Doc. 121) and Plaintiffs' Rule 62.1 Motion
for an Indicative Ruling (Doc. 141). For the following
reasons, the Motions are DENIED.
a civil rights lawsuit brought by victims and witnesses of
crimes against Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon
Cannizzaro and a handful of his assistant district
attorneys. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated
the U.S. Constitution and Louisiana law by fraudulently
compelling them to cooperate in criminal prosecutions.
Plaintiffs seek monetary damages and injunctive relief from
March 1, 2018, Defendants filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs' claims. Defendants argued that they enjoyed
both absolute and qualified immunity from many of
Plaintiffs' claims seeking monetary damages from the
Defendants in their individual capacities. Defendants also
argued that, with respect to many of Plaintiffs' claims,
Plaintiffs had failed to state claims on which relief could
be granted and that many of the same claims were prescribed.
For one reason or another, Defendants argued that all of
Plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed.
February 28, 2019, the Court dismissed some, but not all, of
Plaintiffs' claims. Shortly thereafter, on March 12, 2019,
Defendants filed a Notice of Appeal of this Court's
February 28, 2019 Order and Reasons. Two days after that,
Defendants filed the instant Motion to Confirm a Stay of
these proceedings pending the Fifth Circuit's ruling on
their Motion, Defendants argued that they are entitled to a
stay of the proceedings before this Court while the Fifth
Circuit considers their appeal. Because this Court's
decision depends in part on the issues being appealed, the
Court on April 29, 2019 ordered Defendants to specify the
issues they were appealing. In response, Defendants argued
that “most of the claims in this case are encompassed
within the Defendants' appeal.” Plaintiffs
disagree. It is their position that the appealable issues are
much narrower than Defendants suggest, and that the Fifth
Circuit actually lacks jurisdiction to hear some of the
issues Defendants are trying to appeal.
briefing on Defendants' Motion to Confirm a Stay
eventually led Plaintiffs to file a Rule 62.1 Motion for an
Indicative Ruling. In that Motion, Plaintiffs ultimately seek
a ruling from this Court that it would allow Plaintiffs to
voluntarily dismiss their § 1983 failure to supervise
and failure to intervene claims. Defendants oppose the Motion
as procedurally improper even though they do not oppose the
ultimate dismissal of the claims Plaintiffs seek to
Court will address Defendants' Motion to Confirm a Stay
of these proceedings before turning to Plaintiffs' Rule
62.1 Motion for an Indicative Ruling.
Motion to Confirm a Stay of Proceedings
appeals transfer jurisdiction from the district court to the
appellate court concerning ‘those aspects of the case
involved in the appeal,' the district court is
nonetheless free to adjudicate matters that are not involved
in that appeal.” This is true even when a party
appeals a district court's finding that absolute immunity
does not apply to certain conduct or that qualified immunity
does not apply to certain claims.
point, several aspects of this Court's February 28, 2019
Order and Reasons bear repeating. First, the Court held that
the Defendants enjoyed absolute immunity from some-but not
all-of Plaintiffs' claims. Specifically, the Court held
that “[t]he Individual Defendants are not absolutely
immune for claims seeking damages based on allegations of:
(1) creating or issuing ‘subpoenas' to Plaintiffs
and (2) failures to supervise or intervene in the
aforementioned conduct.” This holding embodies the core
of Defendants' pending appeal.
Court recognizes that Defendants are entitled to an
interlocutory appeal of an order denying them absolute
immunity in some respects. What this Court fails to
recognize, however, is how such an appeal divests the Court
of jurisdiction to proceed regarding Plaintiffs'
contending that “most” of Plaintiffs' claims
in this case are encompassed within their appeal, Defendants
rely heavily on this Court's alleged “denial of
qualified immunity in part.” More specifically,
Defendants argue that this Court denied Defendants
Cannizzaro, Martin, and Pipes qualified immunity from claims
based on their alleged failure to supervise and failure to
intervene in the alleged creation and use of
“subpoenas.” This Court did no such thing. In a
45-page memorandum in support of their Joint Motion to
Dismiss, which appeared to challenge all of Plaintiffs'
numerous claims on one ground or another, Defendants devoted
two paragraphs to Plaintiffs' § 1983 failure to
supervise and failure to intervene claims. The section
reads, in its entirety:
Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Cannizzaro, Mr. Martin, and Mr.
Pipes are liable for the specific alleged violations of the
First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments described above
because they failed to adequately train, supervise, and
discipline the attorneys and agents under his supervision.
Complaint at ¶ 434. The Plaintiffs further allege that
Mr. Martin “directly instructed” the other
Individual Defendants to engage in the conduct that allegedly
violated the Plaintiffs' rights. However, because the
Plaintiffs have not adequately alleged any actionable
violation of their rights, these supervisory-liability claims
Plaintiffs further allege that each of the Individual
Defendants is liable for the wrongdoing of each of the others
because they “knew or should have known that they and
others within the District Attorney's Office were
violating Plaintiffs' constitutional rights” yet
acted with deliberate indifference in failing to intervene.
Id. at ¶¶ 437-438. Again, in the absence
of any underlying actionable constitutional violations, such
secondary claims necessarily fail. Further, such conclusory
allegations lack the factual specificity necessary to
plausibly allege that any of the Individual Defendants acted
with deliberate indifference with respect to alleged
wrongdoing by others within the DA's
extent Defendants raised a qualified immunity defense in
these two paragraphs, this Court failed to recognize it as
such. Defendants' Memorandum in support of their Motion
to Dismiss specifically outlined qualified immunity
challenges to the vast majority of Plaintiffs'
claims. No such challenge appeared in the
paragraphs challenging Plaintiffs' failure to supervise
and failure to intervene claims.
February 28, 2019 Order and Reasons, this Court granted
Defendants qualified immunity from every claim seeking
monetary damages from an individual to the extent that such
an argument was raised.
cannot appeal rulings that this Court did not
issue. Accordingly, this Court does not believe
that any issue involving qualified immunity is currently
pending before the Fifth Circuit.
28 U.S.C. § 1291, federal appellate courts possess
jurisdiction over “all final decision of the district
courts of the United States.” An order denying a motion
to dismiss is not ordinarily a “final decision”
that falls within the appellate court's
jurisdiction. As stated by the Supreme Court and
recently noted by the Fifth Circuit, “interlocutory
appeals-appeals before the end of district court
proceedings-are the exception, not the
Defendants are attempting to turn the collateral order
doctrine into the rule rather than the exception. This Court
is unpersuaded that Defendants' appeal is as far-reaching
as they suggest. Although Defendants could have sought
certification from this Court that its February 28, 2019
Order and Reasons was a final appealable order pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1292(b), they did not do so.
Court believes that even if Defendants receive a favorable
ruling from the Fifth Circuit, most of Plaintiffs' claims
will remain. That is, even if the Fifth Circuit finds that
Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity for the creation
and use of “subpoenas, ” Plaintiffs numerous
claims seeking injunctive relief and seeking damages from
Cannizzaro in his official capacity will remain. This Court
sees no reason to stay litigation that will proceed similarly