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Jenkins v. City of Ruston

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

September 19, 2019

CHELSEA DANIELLE JENKINS, ET AL.
v.
CITY OF RUSTON, ET AL.

          HAYES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Rule 12(b)(1) Motion, Rule 12(c) Motion, and Rule 56 Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 26) filed by Defendants, the City of Ruston and the Ruston City Police Department. Plaintiffs Chelsea and Brittany Jenkins oppose the motion. See Record Document 30. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs’ claims against the Ruston City Police Department are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE, as the police department is not a legal entity capable of being sued. Additionally, Defendants’ Rule 12(b)(1) motion is GRANTED, as this Court finds that it lacks federal question subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs’ claims against the City of Ruston are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         BACKGROUND

         On the night of July 28, 2016, the Jenkinses – who are sisters - planned a party at their apartment home at 3100 Courtney Avenue in Ruston, Louisiana. See Record Document 1 at ¶ 5. The party was scheduled to begin at 10:00 p.m. See Record Document 26-10 (Deposition of Chelsea Jenkins) at 93. Guests began arriving around 10:30 p.m. See id. at 111. Chelsea Jenkins estimated that anywhere from 50 to 100 people were at the party. See id. at 93-95. Guests at the party were both inside and outside the Jenkins’ residence. See id. at 93-96. There was a disc jockey at the party and two speakers were placed inside the residence. See id. at 107-110. Chelsea Jenkins stated in her deposition that the party reached its peak attendance around 11:30 p.m. See id. at 111. Chelsea Jenkins admitted that the sound from the party could probably be heard across the street. See id. at 114.

         On July 28, 2016, at approximately 11:50 p.m., the Ruston Police Department received a call from a woman who identified herself as Keisha Perry (“Perry”). Perry complained of a “loud, obnoxious party” that was keeping her child awake. Record Document 26-5 (Ruston Police Department Audio Recordings). Perry was standing at 3029 Courtney Avenue when she called and knew the party was “somewhere down from 3029 Courtney.” Id. She also stated that “parking is everywhere.” Id.

         Officer Haskell “Trey” Tull (“Officer Tull”), Officer Cindy Abbott (“Officer Abbott”), and Officer Hannah Laborde (“Officer Laborde”) were dispatched to Courtney Avenue in response to Perry’s call. See id.; see also Record Document 26-7 (Officer Tull Deposition), Record Document 26-8 (Officer Laborde Deposition), Record Document 26-12 (Ruston Police Department Incident Detail Report), & Record Document 26-13 (CAD Response Report). Upon arrival at Courtney Avenue, the officers noticed “a lot of people grouped up at an apartment” and “in front of the same apartment.” Record Document 26-8 at 14-16, 21. The roadway was also blocked with cars. See id. at 24 The officers began searching for the person who was responsible for the party and eventually Chelsea Jenkins advised that she was hosting the party at her residence at 3100 Courtney Avenue. See id. at 14-16 & 20. As evidenced by the officers’ Motor Vehicle Recording System (“MVR”), specifically Officer Laborde’s MVR, Chelsea Jenkins was informed that she got one warning, the vehicles had to be moved, and that if the officers returned, then she would be taken to jail. See Record Document 26-6 (MVR Recordings); Record Document 26-6(a) (Officer Laborde MVR at approximately 00:02:20-00:02:40). Chelsea Jenkins responded, “okay.” See id. The officers left Courtney Avenue. See Record Document 26-8 at 24-27; Record Document 26-6.

         On July 29, 2016, at approximately 12:29 a.m., the Ruston Police Department received another call regarding a loud party on Courtney Avenue. See Record Document 26-5. This call was received after the officers had already left Courtney Avenue. See Id . More officers responded to the second noise complaint. See Record Document 26-6; Record Document 26-7; Record Document 26-9 (Officer Cindy Abbott Deposition). In addition to Officers Tull, Laborde, and Abbott, Sergeant Justin Brown (“Sergeant Brown”), Lieutenant Thomas Evans (“Lieutenant Evans”), and Officer Tyler Book dispatched to Courtney Avenue in response to the second noise complaint. See id. According to Officer Laborde, upon her arrival, there were still people gathered and cars blocking the roadway. See Record Document 26-8 at 26-27. Officer Laborde placed Chelsea Jenkins under arrest for disturbing the peace in violation of Ruston City Ordinance § 11-103.1 (Noise-producing instruments; sound amplification). See Record Document 26-6(c) (Officer Laborde MVR); Record Document 26-8 at 28-31; Record Document 26-12. Chelsea Jenkins was transported to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center. See Record Document 26-6(c).

         In order to clear the parked cars, the officers remained on scene after Chelsea Jenkins was transported to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center. See Record Document 26-7 at 30; Record Document 26-9 at 17; Record Document 26-6. According to the officers, it was during this time that Brittany Jenkins approached Lieutenant Evans and Sergeant Brown and started yelling at them. See Record Document 26-7; Record Document 26-9. They maintain that she balled her hand into a fist and lunged at them. See id. They admit that no contact was made. See id. The officers contend that Brittany Jenkins got into a vehicle for a very short period of time, then opened the door and started yelling at them again. See Record Document 26-9 at 17-21. Brittany Jenkins can be heard yelling on Sergeant Brown’s MVR. See Record Document 26-6(d) (Sergeant Brown MVR at approximately 00:43:15-00:45:00). The officers warn Brittany Jenkins not to get any closer and ask her friends to “get her out of here.” Id. Notwithstanding, Brittany Jenkins denies yelling or having any contact with the officers. See Record Document 30-9 at 9-10. Officer Tull ultimately arrested Brittany Jenkins for violating Ruston City Ordinance § 11-103.3 (Music; yelling; animals). See Record Document 26-7; Record Document 26-12.

         In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the police officers “illegally, unlawfully, willingly, wrongfully, maliciously, and intentionally shut down [their] party and placed them under arrest for Disturbing the Peace by Excessive Sound or Noise.” Record Document 1 at ¶ 5. They further allege that the police officers “willfully and maliciously” threatened them and “forcefully and violently seized [them] against their will and without any cause or justification, putting [them] in mortal fear.” Id. at ¶ 7. In addition to this “trespass, assault, and battery, ” Plaintiffs allege that the police officers detained and imprisoned them against their will without any warrant or authority of law. Id. at ¶ 8.

         Plaintiffs sued the City of Ruston and the Ruston City Police Department under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for assault, battery, false arrest/false imprisonment, and trespass, all based on the actions of individual police officers. See id. Defendants now seek dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Rule 12(c), and Rule 56. See Record Document 26.[1]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a party may assert lack of subject matter jurisdiction as a defense by motion. See F.R.C.P. 12(b)(1). “Subject matter jurisdiction, because it involves a court’s power to hear a case, can never be forfeited or waived.” Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 1244 (2006). Federal courts have limited jurisdiction and possess only that power authorized by the Constitution and federal statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1675 (1994). Subject matter jurisdiction “is not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Id. In fact, “it is to be ...


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