United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
R. SUMMERHAYS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State
a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted [Doc. No. 4] filed
by Defendant Robert McGee, Former Chief of Police of the Town
of Mamou. Plaintiff Emerette Harris has filed an Opposition,
[Doc. No. 10] to which Defendant McGee has filed a Reply.
[Doc. No. 15] For the following reasons, the motion is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
civil rights action arises out of Harris' arrest on or
about February 8, 2015, for aggravated assault with a firearm
outside the Mamou Superette. Harris was quickly released on
bond pending his arraignment and trial. The trial never
occurred because the complainant filed an affidavit of
non-prosecution and the charges against Harris were dismissed
on August 9, 2017.
August 9, 2018, Plaintiff Emerette Harris filed this lawsuit
against the Mamou Police Department (hereafter
"MPD"), and former Mamou Chief of Police Robert
McGee, in his individual capacity. Harris' Complaint does
not clearly set forth the claims he is asserting. Reading the
Complaint liberally, Harris asserts claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for violation of his rights granted by the Fifth,
Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. [Doc. No. 1, ¶ 21] Plaintiff also
appears to assert claims for wrongful arrest and wrongful
detention under the Fourth Amendment and state law, and
malicious prosecution under federal and state law. According
to the allegations set forth in the Complaint, Harris was
unlawfully "arrested and/or detained on or about
February 7, 2015 for the crime of Aggravated Assault with a
Firearm." [Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 1, 19, 23]
Although Harris's charges were dismissed on August 9,
2017, his Complaint alleges that "the delay from the
time these alleged crimes were supposedly committed until
date" caused him to suffer damages in the form of
"mental and psychological anguish." Id. at
¶¶ 1-2. The Complaint further alleges that
Defendants "wrongfully abused the judicial
process," and that Defendants have a "policy,
practice and custom of engaging in faulty investigations,
false arrests and false imprisonment." Id. at
¶¶ 3, 15. In light of these allegations, Plaintiff
seeks an award of "compensatory damages in the amount of
$100, 000.00, and attorney's fees, along with punitive
damages, ... and court costs...." Id. at 6.
Defendant McGee then filed two motions to dismiss: (1) a
Motion to Dismiss Penalty, Punitive, or Exemplary Damages
[Doc. No. 6] and (2) the present Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted.
[Doc. No. 4] The Court previously granted Defendant's
motion to dismiss Plaintiffs claim for punitive damages.
[Doc. No. 16]
to dismiss for failure to state a claim are appropriate when
a defendant attacks the complaint because it fails to state a
legally cognizable clam. Ramming v. United States,
281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir.2001). In other words,
a motion to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim
"admits the facts alleged in the complaint, but
challenges plaintiffs rights to relief based upon those
facts." Id. at 161-62. When deciding a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "[t]he court accepts all
well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff." In re Katrina Canal
Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir.
2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). "While a
complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does
not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs
obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to
relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do [.]" Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167
L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)(citations, quotation marks, and brackets
omitted). The tenet that a court must accept as true all of
the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to
legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct.1955). Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id. In
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, a district court generally "must limit
itself to the contents of the pleadings, including
attachments thereto." Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean
Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir.2000).
However, "the court may permissibly refer to matters of
public record." Cinel v. Connick, 15 F.3d 1338,
1343 n.6 (5th Cir.1994); see also Test Masters
Educational Services, Inc. v. Singh, 428 F.3d 559, 570
n.2 (5th Cir.2005).
PRESCRIPTION OF FALSE ARREST AND FALSE IMPRISONMENT
contends that Plaintiffs state and federal claims for false
arrest and imprisonment have prescribed. [Doc. No. 4-1 at 4,
8] While federal law governs accrual of claims under §
1983, state law governs the limitations period and tolling
rules for these claims. The parties do not dispute that the
applicable limitations period in Louisiana is one year. [Doc.
No. 4 at 4-5, 6-8; Doc. No. 4-1 at 12-15; Doc. No. 10 at 1]
However, the parties disagree on when Plaintiffs claims
accrued. Defendant argues that Plaintiff s federal
law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment
accrued, respectively, on the date of arrest and the date of
release from imprisonment. [Doc. No. 4 at 5; Doc. No. 4-1 at
12; Doc. No. 15 at 4] Defendant argues that Plaintiffs
state law claims for false arrest and imprisonment
both accrued on the date of arrest and imprisonment. [Doc.
No. 4 at 4] Plaintiff appears to argue that his state and
federal claims for false arrest and imprisonment, as well as
his state law claim for malicious prosecution, accrued on the
date his criminal charges were dismissed. [Doc. No. 10 at
1-2] Plaintiff further contends that his false imprisonment
continued beyond the time he was released from detention
because he remained subject to his conditions of bond. [Doc.
No. 10 at 2]
prescriptive period for a § 1983 claim for false arrest
or imprisonment brought in Louisiana is one year. White
v. Gusman, 347 Fed.Appx. 66, 67 (5th Cir. 2009). A claim
seeking damages under § 1983 for false arrest, when the
arrest is followed by criminal proceedings, accrues at the
time the claimant is detained pursuant to legal process.
Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 397, 127 S.Ct. 1091,
1100, 166 L.Ed.2d 973 (2007). A claim seeking damages under
§ 1983 for false imprisonment accrues when the alleged
false imprisonment ends. Id. at 389. An alleged
false imprisonment ends when the legal process commences,
such as by arraignment or appearance before a magistrate.
however, argues that a different accrual date applies to his
claims. In that regard, he cites Manuel v. City of
Joliet, 137 S.Ct. 911 (2017) to support his argument
that his false arrest and false imprisonment claims accrued
when the charges against him were dismissed on August 9,
2017. Manuel, however, is inapposite here because
that case involved a plaintiff subject to detention after
legal process had commenced and, according to the court, was
grounded on a wrongful arrest and false imprisonment claim
that was more like a malicious prosecution claim. The Fifth
Circuit has never recognized an independent federal claim for
malicious prosecution. See Castlellano v. Fragazo,
352 F.3d 939, 942 (5th Cir. 2003) (holding that
"malicious prosecution standing alone is no violation of
the United States Constitution."). The Fifth Circuit and
the Supreme Court, however, have recognized that a false
imprisonment claim that involves "detention
accompanied.. .by wrongful institution of legal process"
is more akin to a malicious prosecution claim and should,
therefore, accrue only when the prosecution ends in the
plaintiff s favor. Winfrey v. Rogers, 901 F.3d 483,
491 (5th Cir. 2018) (quoting Wallace, 549 U.S. at
390) (emphasis added). Here, there was no detention
accompanied by wrongful institution of legal process because
Harris was released from custody prior to arraignment and the
commencement of the legal process. Accordingly, the Manuel
rule for accrual does not apply.
to the allegations of the complaint, Plaintiff was arrested
on or about February 8, 2015, was detained for an unspecified
amount of time, and was then "released until his
arraignment and trial," suggesting that Plaintiff was
released prior to his arraignment and was never detained
again. [Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 18-21] Therefore, on the
basis of the Complaint alone, Plaintiffs Fourth Amendment
claim for false arrest accrued on February 8, 2015.
Determining when the false imprisonment claim accrued is more
challenging because Harris' Complaint omits key facts,
such as the date he was released from detention and the date
of his arraignment. Nevertheless, the Complaint is clear that
the release was prior to the arraignment, which in turn was
prior to the dismissal of the criminal charges on August 9,
Therefore, Harris' federal false imprisonment claim
accrued before August 9, 2017. The record reflects that the
Complaint was filed on August 9, 2018, more than one year
after these federal claims accrued, and therefore each claim
had prescribed by the date of filing. Consequently,
Defendant's motion is granted as to Harris' federal
claims for false arrest and imprisonment.
law claims for false arrest and imprisonment accrue on the
date of arrest and imprisonment. Eaglin v. Eunice Police
Dep't, 2017-1875 (La. 6/27/18), 2018 WL 3154744. As
stated above, Harris alleges that his arrest and imprisonment
began on or about February 8, 2015. Accordingly, each of
those state law claims prescribed before the date the
Complaint was filed. Defendant's motion is therefore
granted with respect to Plaintiffs state law claims for false
arrest and imprisonment.
CLAIMS UNDER THE FIFTH, EIGHTH, NINTH, AND FOURTEENTH
also seeks dismissal of Plaintiff s claims under the Fifth,
Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. With respect to the
Fifth Amendment claims, Defendant argues that the Fifth
Amendment does not provide for relief against him because he
was never a federal actor during the time period covered by
the Complaint. [Doc. No. 4-1 at 8-9] As to the Eighth
Amendment, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff fails to plead
any facts showing a violation of the Eighth Amendment, given
that Harris was released from custody prior to the
commencement of legal process. Defendant contends that Harris
only makes the conclusory assertion that his Eighth Amendment
rights were violated. [Doc. No. 4-1 at 9] Defendant further
argues that the Ninth Amendment does not grant substantive
rights that can be enforced through § 1983. Id.
As to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, Defendant contends that
Harris has alleged no facts showing that Defendant
intentionally acted in a manner that was arbitrary or
shocking to the conscience. [Doc. No. 4-1 at 10-12] Plaintiff
does not rebut these claims, but rather asserts that he will
seek leave to amend the Complaint to plead these claims with
specificity. [Doc. No. 10 at 4] Defendant argues in reply
that Plaintiff "cannot plead any facts sufficient to
establish" claims under these Amendments, and therefore
leave to amend should be denied as futile. [Doc. No. 15 at
the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
enumerates several rights, Harris fails to specifically
identify which of those rights was or were allegedly
violated. [Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 9] The Court construes
Plaintiffs statement as a claim that his right against
self-incrimination or his right to due process under the
Fifth Amendment was violated. Either claim must be dismissed.
Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment applies only to federal
actors. Ristow v. Hansen, 719 Fed.Appx. 359, 364
(5th Cir. 2018) (citing Jones v. City of Jackson,
203 F.3d 875, 880 (5th Cir. 2000)). Harris' Complaint
makes no allegation that Defendant is or was a federal actor
at any relevant time. Therefore, Defendant's motion as to
Plaintiffs Fifth Amendment Due Process claim must be granted.
right against self-incrimination applies to state actors by
way of the Fourteenth Amendment. Malloy v. Hogan,
378 U.S. 1, 6, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 1492, 12 L.Ed.2d 653 (1964).
Plaintiff alleges no facts showing that he was compelled to
be a witness against himself in a criminal case. Therefore,
to the extent that Harris' Fifth Amendment claim is
grounded on his right against self-incrimination,
Defendant's motion must be granted and this claim
Eighth Amendment prohibits "excessive bail...excessive
fines...[and] cruel and unusual punishments." U.S.
Const, amend. VIII. Plaintiffs Complaint makes no factual
allegation challenging his bail or that any fines were
imposed. Nor does Harris allege that Defendant imposed cruel
or unusual punishment with respect to confinement, or that he
withheld medical treatment. Moreover, the Eighth
Amendment's cruel and unusual punishment prong applies to
convicted persons, not pre-trial detainees. See Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). As noted above, the
charges against Harris were dismissed before trial.
Therefore, Defendant's motion to dismiss as to
Harris' Eighth Amendment claim is granted.