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Reed v. Gautreaux

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 15, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss[1] by Defendant, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux (“Sheriff Gautreaux”). Plaintiff, Lakisha Reed (“Plaintiff”) has filed an Opposition[2] to this motion, to which Sheriff Gautreaux filed a Reply.[3] For the following reasons, the Court finds that Sheriff Gautreaux's motion should be granted, and Plaintiff will have leave to amend her Complaint in accordance with this Ruling.


         Plaintiff alleges that, on November 5, 2017, while standing near Plaintiff's car at the State Fairgrounds, her fourteen year old daughter was illegally seized, handcuffed, drugged, and detained by East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's deputies and workers employed by East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Medical Services, a division of the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge (“EMS”).[4] Plaintiff maintains her daughter was approached by the deputies without cause or reason, and they had no reason to suspect her daughter of committing any crime.[5] Subsequent to her daughter's alleged seizure, Plaintiff alleges her daughter was transported to OLOL Hospital where OLOL staff cut off her daughter's clothes, stripped her naked, and conducted an allegedly illegal body cavity search for drugs via catheterization of the urethral orifice of her daughter's vagina.[6] Plaintiff claims she was never given a reason for the detention or restraint of her daughter.[7]

         Plaintiff originally filed this lawsuit in the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana; however, Sheriff Gautreaux removed this matter to federal district court based on the 28 U.S.C. § 1983 federal constitutional claims asserted by Plaintiff in additional to the Louisiana state law claims.[8] Sheriff Gautreaux now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


         A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         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.'”[9] The Court may consider “the complaint, its proper attachments, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.”[10] “To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”[11] In Twombly, the United States Supreme Court set forth the basic criteria necessary for a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's 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.”[12] A complaint is also insufficient if it merely “tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'”[13] However, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads the factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[14] In order to satisfy the plausibility standard, the plaintiff must show “more than a sheer possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully.”[15] “Furthermore, while the court must accept well-pleaded facts as true, it will not ‘strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiff.'”[16] On a motion to dismiss, courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”[17]

         B. Federal Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         The Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, creates a private right of action for redressing the violation of federal law by those acting under color of state law.[18] It provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured....[19]

         “Section 1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere.'”[20]

         To prevail on a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must prove that a person acting under the color of state law deprived him of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.[21] A Section 1983 complainant must support his claim with specific facts demonstrating a constitutional deprivation and may not simply rely on conclusory allegations.[22]

         C. Federal Claims

         From Plaintiff's Complaint, it appears she has asserted claims against Sheriff Gautreaux in only his official capacity, which is essentially a claim against the municipality. There are no allegations of any acts personally committed by Sheriff Gautreaux, an Plaintiff alleges: “The Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish is liable in his official capacity and his deputies individually liable for their actions … .”[23] Thus, the Court does not construe Plaintiff's Complaint to assert any individual capacity claims against Sheriff Gautreaux.

         In her three-page Opposition to Sheriff Gautreaux's motion, Plaintiff concedes that “[t]he Sheriff is correct that the plaintiff has not adequately pleaded a Section 1983 claim against him[.]”[24] Plaintiff further states: We cannot properly plead the claim, if one exists, without discovery. We ask for leave to conduct discovery and amend the petition to properly state a claim against the responsible parties.”[25]

         Plaintiff's request is contrary to well-settled Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit jurisprudence. Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that, although Rule 8 no longer requires hyper-technical pleading, “it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”[26] Thus, “a plaintiff cannot engage in discovery in an attempt to obtain facts that support a currently baseless claim.”[27]“Discovery is not intended as a fishing expedition permitting the speculative pleading of a case first and then pursuing discovery to support it; the Plaintiff must have some basis in fact for the action.”[28] “The discovery rules are designed to assist a party to prove a claim it reasonably believes to be viable without discovery, not to find out if it has any basis for a claim.”[29]

         As set forth above, Plaintiff did not assert individual capacity claims against Sheriff Gautreaux; thus, the Court need not address Sheriff Gautreaux's assertion of qualified immunity. By Plaintiff's own admission, she has failed to plead facts to state any Section 1983 claim, and the Section 1983 claims brought against Sheriff Gautreaux shall be dismissed.

         Paragraph 39 of Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that all Defendants in this matter engaged in conduct that amounts to a civil conspiracy.[30] However, Plaintiff abandoned any 42 U.S.C. § 1985 civil conspiracy claim against Sheriff Gautreaux by failing to offer any argument in opposition to Sheriff Gautreaux's motion to dismiss this claim. Accordingly, this claim is deemed abandoned.[31] Plaintiff's civil conspiracy claim is also subject to dismissal as a matter of law since Plaintiff failed to plead any elements of a Section 1985 civil conspiracy or argue how those elements are demonstrated by her allegations.

         D. State Law Claims[32]

         Sheriff Gautreaux has also moved to dismiss all state law claims asserted by Plaintiff. Plaintiff brings the following state law claims against the deputies, for which she ostensibly, but not explicitly, alleges Sheriff Gautreaux is vicariously liable: battery/excessive use of force, false arrest ...

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