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Ruiz v. State

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 13, 2019

JONATHAN MICHAEL RUIZ
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, ET AL.

         SECTION “J” (4)

          ORDER & REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (Rec. Doc. 15). Because Plaintiff has not proved he is entitled to relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), the Court will deny the motion and uphold its Judgment (Rec. Doc. 14) that Plaintiff's claims against the State of Louisiana and Governor Jon Bel Edwards are dismissed with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court assumes the reader's familiarity with this case and provides only a brief account of the relevant facts and procedural history. Plaintiff Jonathon Michael Ruiz is an incarcerated sex offender. In December of 2018, Ruiz filed a § 1983 suit against the State of Louisiana and Governor Edwards alleging unconstitutional ex post facto application of certain sex offender registration and restriction statutes. In March of 2019, Ruiz filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel, for Reasonable Access to Certain Legal Resources, and for Production of Legal Documents held by D.O.C. On March 18, 2019 Honorable Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby denied Ruiz's motion and filed a Report & Recommendations, recommending this Court dismiss Ruiz's claims against John Bel Edwards and the State of Louisiana with prejudice, citing the frivolous nature of his claim. The Court adopted the Magistrate's Report and Recommendations.

         Ruiz's current motion asks the Court to amend the judgment of dismissal with prejudice and allow him to file an amended petition. Ruiz admits there is not legal basis for filing a §1983 claim against the State of Louisiana. He does, however, maintain that he could cure his claims against Governor Edwards by discovering facts proving that Governor Edwards is personally involved in the enforcement of the sex offender statutes against Ruiz. Additionally, Ruiz asks leave to amend his complaint to name dozens of other state officials he claims are personally responsible for the enforcement of the statute. Because the judgment does not affect Ruiz's ability to bring his constitutional claims against those defendants, it will not be considered as a potential reason to amend the judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         Because Rule 59(e) does not contain specific factors to determine whether to amend or alter a judgment, district courts enjoy significant discretion in denying or granting the motion. Edward H. Bohlin Co., Inc. v. Banning Co., Inc., 6 F.3d 350, 355 (5th Cir. 1993). Nonetheless, a grant of relief under 59(e) is an extraordinary remedy that should only be used sparingly. Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 479 (5th Cir. 2004). There are four grounds that support an amending or alteration of a judgment under 59(e):

[f]irst, the movant may demonstrate that the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment is based. Of course, the corollary principle applies and the movant's failure to show any manifest error may result in the motion's denial. Second, the motion may be granted so that the moving party may present newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence. Third, the motion will be granted if necessary to prevent manifest injustice. Serious misconduct of counsel may justify relief under this theory. Fourth, a Rule 59(e) motion may be justified by an intervening change in controlling law.

11 Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure § 2810.1, (3d ed. 2019).

         Plaintiff's motion does not implicate any of the four grounds. First, there was no manifest error of law or fact upon which the judgment is based. The doctrine of sovereign immunity and the requirements for stating a viable §1983 claim are well-established. The Report & Recommendations properly applied them to the Plaintiff's claims.

         Second, Ruiz has not uncovered any new or previously unavailable evidence. Ruiz argues that he will be able to amend his pleading to assert more facts proving of Governor Bel Edwards' personal enforcement of the statutes at issue. (Rec. Doc 15 at 4). However, Ruiz provides no indication in his motion of what these new examples will be. Rather, the only tangible new information Ruiz alleges in his motion is proof that other state officials, not Governor Edwards, are responsible for the actual enforcement of the alleged unconstitutional laws. (Rec. Docs. 12 and 15).

         These new discoveries have no bearing on the decision to dismiss with prejudice Ruiz's claim against Governor Edwards. In fact, it further supports the reasoning in the Report & Recommendations that the claim against Governor Edwards is frivolous for lack of a factual basis. These laws were passed before Governor Edwards was in office, and he is not the official statutorily tasked with enforcing them. See Doe v. Jindal, No. 15-1283, 2015 WL 7300506, at *4-5 (E.D. La. Nov. 18, 2015) (holding that merely being the head of the executive branch does not constitute personal enforcement of laws).

         Third, there is no manifest injustice in refusing to amend or alter the judgment. The judgment only dismisses with prejudice Ruiz's §1983 claims against Louisiana and Governor Bel Edwards. Ruiz's state law claims are left intact for him to file in state court. Furthermore, as Ruiz's underlying constitutional claims were not actually litigated here, he is not precluded from attempting to bring his §1983 claims against other state officials that he can properly allege enforced the laws at issue. Additionally, there is no danger of Ruiz's potential claims being barred by a statute of limitations ...


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