United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court are two motions by Louisiana Department of Safety
& Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc and employee Ashely
Jones: (1) Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss;
and (2) motion to stay discovery. For the reasons that
follow, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED
in part; and the motion to stay discovery is DENIED as moot.
civil rights lawsuit arises from Johnny Traweek's claim
that bureaucratic incompetence delayed the processing of his
“time-served” judgment, causing him to be
unlawfully imprisoned in Orleans Parish Prison almost three
weeks beyond his court-ordered release date.
October 2, 2017, Johnny Traweek was arrested on suspicion of
aggravated battery and detained in Orleans Parish
Sherriff's Office custody at Orleans Parish Prison. He
could not make bail. Seven months later, on Wednesday, May 2,
2018, Mr. Traweek appeared in state court, pled guilty to
aggravated battery, and was sentenced to seven months in the
custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff, with credit for time
served. But Mr. Traweek was not immediately
released. The next day, Mr. Traweek remained in
custody; Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office created a Letter
of Credit showing that Mr. Traweek had served his entire
Mr. Traweek remained in custody a week later, on May 9, 2018,
Mr. Traweek's attorney, Stas Moroz, emailed Monique
Filmore and Blake Arcuri at the Orleans Parish Sheriff's
Office asking why Mr. Traweek had not been released. Ms.
Filmore responded defiantly: “First of all Johnny
Traweek was just sentenced on 5/2/18 so his paperwork has not
went up yet.” On Monday, May 14, 2018, Mr. Moroz again
wrote to Ms. Filmore and Mr. Arcuri: “Mr. Traweek is
still in jail. Could you please ensure that he is released? I
understand that the paperwork has to be send (sic) to [the
Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections, or
DOC], but he has now been detained 12 days past his full term
date.” Mr. Arcuri unhelpfully responded that the
Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office could not release Mr.
Traweek since he was a Louisiana Department of Safety &
Corrections, or “DOC” inmate. Still defiant,
Ms. Filmore replied: “He can't get released until
DOC sends him a release. The whole process takes about 2
weeks. He has to wait!!!!”
16, 2018, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety &
Corrections (DPSC or DOC) confirmed that the Orleans Parish
Sheriff's Office had not even begun the process of
transferring Mr. Traweek. It was not until May 17, 2018 that the
DOC received Mr. Traweek's release paperwork from the
Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.
Mr. Traweek's paperwork “arrived” at the DOC
on Thursday, May 17, four days passed before DOC began to
process his release. On Monday, May 21, 2018, DOC employee
Ashley Jones started working on Mr. Traweek's paperwork.
It is alleged that she began computing Mr. Traweek's
credit for time-served and she performed other searches
relevant to his release. But she did not finish Mr.
Traweek's paperwork that day. The next day, on May 22,
Mr. Moroz filed a writ of habeas corpus and motion for
immediate release on behalf of Mr. Traweek. Later that same
day, Ms. Jones created Mr. Traweek's certificate of
release and, at about 3:30 p.m., Mr. Traweek was released
from custody. Twenty days after he was sentenced to
time-served and eligible for release from custody.
February 14, 2019, Mr. Traweek filed this civil rights
lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, followed by an amended
complaint on May 16, 2019, naming as defendants, in their
individual and official capacities, Marlin Gusman (as
Sheriff) and Monique Filmore (as an employee) of the Orleans
Parish Sheriff's Office as well as James LeBlanc (as
Secretary) and Ashley Jones (as an employee) of the Louisiana
Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Mr. Traweek seeks
to recover for a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause
constitutional violation underlying his § 1983 claims;
he also asserts Monell/Hinojosa failure to
train/supervise liability against Gusman and LeBlanc, as well
as various state constitutional and state law claims
including false imprisonment (against Gusman, Filmore, Jones,
and Does 1-10), negligence and failure to intervene (as to
all defendants), and respondeat superior (against Gusman). He
seeks declaratory relief, compensatory damages, special
damages, attorney's fees, and a permanent injunction, as
well as “indemnification” (as to Gusman
Traweek alleges that, for years, the Orleans Parish
Sheriff's Office and the Louisiana Department of Safety and
Corrections have held prisoners indefinitely beyond their
release date, releasing prisoners only after their attorneys
file habeas corpus petitions. Mr. Traweek alleges that these
widespread over detention practices violate his civil rights
and confer municipal liability and supervisory liability. The
State Defendants (LDSC Secretary LeBlanc and employee Jones)
now move to dismiss the plaintiff's claims against them,
invoking Eleventh Amendment immunity, Heck v.
Humphrey, and qualified immunity; they also move to stay
discovery pending the Court's ruling on their motion to
filed under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure allow a party to challenge a federal district
court's subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and
Corrections challenges this Court's subject matter
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), invoking the Eleventh
Amendment's doctrine of sovereign immunity with respect
to the plaintiff's § 1983 claims seeking monetary
damages against LeBlanc and Jones in their official
capacities. The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to
dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction. Choice
Inc. of Texas v. Greenstein, 627 F.3d 710, 714 (5th Cir.
2010)(citations omitted). The Court may find a plausible set
of facts to support subject matter jurisdiction by
considering any of the following: “(1) the complaint
alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts
evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by
undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed
facts.” Barrera-Montenegro v. United States,
74 F.3d 657, 659 (5th Cir. 1996).
other ground for dismissal advanced by the defendant is
dismissal for failure to state a claim, under Rule 12(b)(6).
The standard of review applicable to motions to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(1) is similar to that applicable to motions to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Such a motion
is rarely granted because it is viewed with disfavor. See
Lowrey v. Tex. A & M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247
(5th Cir. 1997) (quoting Kaiser Aluminum & Chem.
Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045,
1050 (5th Cir. 1982)).
Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678-79 (2009)(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8). "[T]he pleading
standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed
factual allegations,' but it demands more than an
unadorned, the- defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation." Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
in considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court
“accepts ‘all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing
them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.'” See Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v.
Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464 (5th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th
Cir. 1999)). But, in deciding whether dismissal is warranted,
the Court will not accept conclusory allegations in the
complaint as true. Kaiser, 677 F.2d at 1050. Indeed,
the Court must first identify allegations that are conclusory
and, thus, not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). A
corollary: legal conclusions “must be supported by
factual allegations.” Id. at 678. Assuming the
veracity of the well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court
must then determine “whether they plausibly give rise
to an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 679.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir.
2009)(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678)(internal
quotation marks omitted). “Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the
complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(citations and footnote omitted). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“The plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”).
Secretary LeBlanc and DOC employee Jones advance three
grounds for the dismissal of Mr. Traweek's § 1983
claims. First, LeBlanc and Jones invoke
sovereign immunity insofar as Mr. Traweek asserts claims
against them in their official capacities. Second, LeBlanc
and Jones submit that Heck v. Humphrey's
favorable termination rule procedurally bars Mr.
Traweek's § 1983 claims. Finally, LeBlanc and Jones
invoke qualified immunity insofar as Mr. Traweek seeks money
damages from them in their individual capacities. The Court
takes up sovereign immunity first.
and Jones submit that the plaintiff's claims against them
in their official capacities as Secretary and employee of the
Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections must
be dismissed because the DOC enjoys sovereign immunity from
suit. The plaintiff concedes that dismissal of his official
capacity claims against LeBlanc and Jones is required. The
immunity is the privilege of the sovereign not to be sued
without its consent." Va. Office for Prot. &
Advocacy v. Stewart, 131 S.Ct. 1632, 1637 (2011);
Frew ex rel. Frew v. Hawkins, 540 U.S. 431, 437
(2004)(citing Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517
U.S. 44, 54 (1996)). A federal district court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction where the named defendant is protected by
Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Wagstaff v. U.S.
Dep't of Educ., 509 F.3d 661, 664 (5th Cir.
2007)(per curiam). This jurisdictional bar applies regardless
of the nature of the relief sought and extends to a
state's agencies and departments with identities
sufficiently aligned with the state. Pennhurst State
School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100-01
(1984), superseded by statute on other
grounds, 28 U.S.C. § 1367; Regents of the Univ.
of California v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997); Vogt
v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Orleans Levee Dist., 294 F.3d
684, 688-89 (5th Cir. 2002)(“Even in cases where the
State itself is not named a defendant, the State's
Eleventh Amendment immunity will extend to any state agency
or other political entity that is deemed the ‘alter
ego' or ‘arm' of the
State.”). Not only does the Eleventh Amendment
preclude individuals from suing a state in federal court for
money damages, it also bars injunctive and declaratory suits
against the state, unless the state consents to suit, or its
immunity is otherwise overcome by application of waiver,
abrogation, or Ex parte Young doctrines. See
Halderman, 465 U.S. at 100-01; see also Cory v.
White, 457 U.S. 85, 91 (1982).
Eleventh Amendment bar to suits by private citizens against a
state in federal court extends to protect state actors who
are acting in their official capacities. K.P. v.
LeBlanc, 627 F.3d 115, 124 (5th Cir. 2010)(citing
Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 700 (1978)); Will
v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 21, 25
(1991)(A suit against a state official in an official
capacity for monetary damages is treated as a suit against
the state and is therefore barred by the Eleventh
is a narrow exception to this immunity from suit: the Ex
parte Young exception, which “is based on the
legal fiction that a sovereign state cannot act
unconstitutionally[; t]hus, where a state actor
enforces an unconstitutional law, he is stripped of
his official clothing and becomes a private person subject to
suit.” See K.P. v. LeBlanc, 627 F.3d at 124
(emphasis added)(citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123
(1908)); see also Will v. Michigan Dep't of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 n.10 (1989)(noting “[o]f
course a state official in his or her official capacity, when
sued for injunctive relief, would be a person under §
1983 because ‘official-capacity actions for prospective
relief are not treated as actions against the
parte Young thus limits the plaintiff to prospective
relief and bars money damages. Verizon Md. Inc. v. Pub.
Serv. Comm'n of Md., 535 U.S. 635, 645 (2002). To
determine whether Ex parte Young's mandate is
satisfied, "a court need only conduct a straightforward
inquiry into whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing
violation of federal law and seeks relief properly
characterized as prospective." See id.
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted)(alteration
in original); see also Delaughter v. Woodall, 909
F.3d 130, 137 (5th Cir. 2018).
it is undisputed that the plaintiff seeks only money damages
against LeBlanc and Jones in their official capacities as
Secretary and employee of the State Department of Public
Safety and Corrections; LeBlanc and Jones have thus
permissibly invoked sovereign immunity and Ex parte
Young is not implicated. Mr. Traweeks's claims
against LeBlanc and Jones in their official capacities must
be dismissed as barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
and Jones next contend that plaintiff's individual
capacity § 1983 claims are procedurally barred by
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and its
progeny. In Heck, the United States Supreme Court
held that a convicted person cannot collect damages for
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment under § 1983
unless “the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal . . ., or called into question by a
federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus.” 512 U.S. at 486-87. The complaint must be
dismissed if a “judgment in favor of the plaintiff
would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence.” Id. at 487. By seeking to impose
the Heck procedural bar to Mr. Traweek's claims,
the defendants emphasize form over substance, begin from a
faulty assumption, and ignore a critical component of
Heck that is absent here. If Mr. Traweek succeeds on
the merits, neither his underlying conviction for aggravated
battery nor his seven-month sentence will be impliedly
invalidated. See id. at 486 (the favorable
termination rule does not bar a § 1983 suit when
“the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will
not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding
criminal judgment against the plaintiff.”). Here, Mr.
Traweek challenges neither his conviction nor his sentence.
He accepts both. Therefore, the reasoning underlying
Heck's favorable termination prerequisite is
simply not implicated: it would be illogical to require Mr.
Traweek to first seek to invalidate his conviction or
sentence in order to proceed in this lawsuit. The
constitutional violation he advances here is that he was
imprisoned 20 days past his release date; he does not take
issue with his criminal judgment of conviction or the
sentence rendered, but, rather, challenges the
constitutionality of the administration of his release
after he had served his sentence. Mr. Traweek
alleges that his jailers failed to timely release him once
the legal basis to incarcerate him had expired by court
order. The only conduct the factfinder will probe is that
performed by jail officials in administering his release
after his release date.
Section of this Court has rejected Secretary LeBlanc's
attempt to invoke Heck in a factually-similar
overdetention context, Grant v. Gusman, 17-cv-02797,
R. Doc. 46 (E.D. La. March 27, 2018)(Brown, C.J.). There, the
plaintiff, who had served seven years in state custody, was
arrested upon his release based on a warrant issued years
earlier for a different crime predating the one for which he
served the seven-year prison term. The plaintiff pled guilty
and the state court sentenced him to “a one year
sentence, with credit for time served for the seven years he
had just served.” Id. at 3. Like Mr. Traweek,
an administrative logjam between OPSO and DOC caused the
plaintiff to be detained an additional 27 days after his
sentencing, notwithstanding the state trial court's order
(and the judge's email directly to OPSO's attorney
directing) that Grant's release be expedited.
Id. at 3-5. In moving to dismiss Grant's §
1983 claims, Secretary LeBlanc also invoked Heck.
Chief Judge Brown rejected the argument, noting
“[p]laintiff does not argue that his conviction or
sentence were invalid. . . . [H]e contends that DOC
Defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to
release him from prison. Therefore, Heck v. Humphrey
is not applicable to this case.” Id. at 32.
This reasoning applies equally to Mr. Traweek, who, like
Grant, challenges neither his conviction nor the length of
his court-ordered sentence; he simply alleges that the
overdetention by his jailers' failure to timely process
his release following his court-ordered time-served judgment
exceeds constitutional bounds.
Traweek's lawsuit, if successful, will not
demonstrate or imply the invalidity of any criminal judgment
or court-imposed sentence. He simply alleges that the
procedures and action (or inaction) that caused him to be
incarcerated for 20 days longer than his criminal judgment
permitted unconstitutionally ...