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Rouse v. Ard

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 8, 2020




         This matter comes before the Court on two motions. The first is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 20) filed by Defendants Jason Ard, Sheriff of Livingston Parish, (“Sheriff Ard”) and Deputy Christian Williams (“Williams”) (collectively, “Defendants”) (the motion is referred to as “Defendants' MSJ”). Plaintiff John Rouse (“Plaintiff” or “Rouse”) opposes the motion (Doc. 22), and Defendants have filed a reply (Doc. 23). The second motion is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 24) filed by Rouse (“Plaintiff's MPSJ”). Defendants oppose the motion (Doc. 28), and Plaintiff has filed a reply (Doc. 29). Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, the facts in the record, and the arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule.

         For the following reasons Defendants' MSJ is granted in part and denied in part. First, in the Fifth Circuit, there is no independently cognizable claim under § 1983 for malicious prosecution. Even if the Court were to construe this claim as one for false arrest, the claim would be barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). Thus, Plaintiff's § 1983 claim for malicious prosecution is dismissed.

         Second, Plaintiff does not oppose the dismissal of the following claims: (1) his § 1983 claim for supervisory liability; (2) his § 1983 Monell claim; and (3) his claim to declare La. Rev.Stat. Ann. § 14:122 unconstitutional and enjoin its enforcement. Accordingly, these claims are also dismissed.

         Third, because the Court has dismissed all claims over which it had original jurisdiction, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims for malicious prosecution and vicarious liability.

         For the same reason, Plaintiff's MPSJ is denied without prejudice. This issue can be decided by the state court, should Plaintiff choose to refile there.

         I. Relevant Factual Background

         Plaintiff John Rouse is a contractor in the business of restoring and remediating damage from water, fire, mold, sewage, and flood, in residential and commercial properties. (Decl. of John Rouse ¶ 5, Doc. 22-1; Compl. ¶ 6, Doc. 22-1, Doc. 22-1 at 3.) Defendant Christian Williams is a Deputy with the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office (“LPSO”), and Defendant Jason Ard is the Sheriff of Livingston Parish. (Rouse Decl. ¶ 5; Compl. ¶ 1.)

         On May 26, 2017, while Rouse was shopping in Denham Springs, Louisiana, Deputy Williams arrested Rouse, seized him, and took him to jail. (Rouse Decl. ¶ 5; Compl. ¶ 8; Local Rule 56(a) Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“SUMF”) ¶ 1, Doc. 20-1; Statement of Genuinely Disputed Material Facts that Preclude Summary Judgment (“SGDMF”), Doc. 22-4).)[1] Plaintiff asserts that Williams charged him with the crime of Public Intimidation and Retaliation in violation of La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:122, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison at hard labor. (Rouse Decl. ¶ 5; Compl. ¶ 9.) According to Plaintiff, Williams alleged that Plaintiff had committed this crime by speaking words that allegedly threatened Williams's job and allegedly threatened to make complaints against Williams and to sue him. (Rouse Decl. ¶ 5; Compl. ¶ 10.)

         A bill of information was filed by the Livingston Parish District Attorney arising out of the May 26, 2017, arrest in State of Louisiana v. John Joseph Thomas Rouse, Docket No. 114513, Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Parish of Livingston, State of Louisiana, charging Plaintiff only with violations of La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:103.A(2) (“Disturbing the Peace”) and La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:108 (“Resisting an Officer”). (SUMF ¶ 2, Doc. 20-1; SGDMF, Doc. 22-4.) After a trial on the merits, Plaintiff was duly convicted on both of the charges arising from his May 26, 2017, arrest (“Disturbing the Peace” and “Resisting an Officer”). (SUMF ¶ 5, Doc. 20-1; SGDMF, Doc. 22-4.)

         No bill of information or indictment was ever filed charging Plaintiff with violating La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:122 (“Public Intimidation”). (SUMF ¶ 3, Doc. 20-1; SGDMF, Doc. 22-4.) Plaintiff was never prosecuted for violating this statute. (SUMF ¶ 4, Doc. 20-1; SGDMF, Doc. 22-4; Rouse Decl. ¶ 4, Doc. 22-1.) The district attorney refused the charge. (Rouse Decl. ¶ 4, Doc. 22-1; Williams Dep. 9, Doc. 22-3 at 2.)

         Additionally, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that, “insofar as it criminalizes ‘threats,' Section 14:122 is unconstitutionally overbroad.” (SUMF ¶ 6, Doc. 20-1 (citing Seals v. McBee, 88 F.3d 587 (5th Cir. 2018)); SGDMF, Doc. 22-4).) The time period for the State of Louisiana to seek review of the Fifth Circuit's decision by the Fifth Circuit has expired, so the judgment rendered in Seals is now final. (SUMF ¶ 6, Doc. 20-1; SGDMF, Doc. 22-4.)

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If the mover bears his burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of fact, “its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . [T]he nonmoving party must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' ” See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986) (internal citations omitted). The non-mover's burden is not satisfied by “conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a ‘scintilla' of evidence.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citations and internal quotations omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.' ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. Further:

In resolving the motion, the court may not undertake to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes; so long as the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party could arrive at a verdict in that party's favor, the court must deny the motion.

International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991).

         III. Defendants' MSJ (Doc. 20)

         A. Parties Arguments

         1. Defendants' Original Memorandum (Doc. 20-2)

         Defendants have three main grounds for attack: (1) Plaintiff's claims are barred by Heck; (2) Plaintiff fails to establish a malicious prosecution claim because he was convicted on every charge for which he was prosecuted; and (3) Plaintiff lacks standing to obtain declaratory or injunctive relief on the constitutionality of La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:122, as these claims are moot.

         Defendants begin by arguing that there is no freestanding federal claim for malicious prosecution. Defendants cite to numerous Fifth Circuit cases for this position. Plaintiff tries to argue that the malicious prosecution claim was accompanied by a Fourth Amendment seizure of Plaintiff, but he cannot prove a Fourth Amendment violation because he was arrested for and eventually found guilty of disturbing the peace and resisting an officer. Any Fourth Amendment claim is thus barred by Heck, and there are numerous Fifth Circuit cases to support this. Further, it is clear that, if there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for any crime, he has no viable Fourth Amendment claim. Defendants cite to Fifth Circuit case law for this position as well.

         Plaintiff's claim for supervisory liability also fails because he has failed to demonstrate a constitutional violation. Even putting this aside, the claims against Sheriff Ard are conclusory and fail. There is no allegation of personal involvement by Sheriff Ard, and there are no allegations of a pattern of similar incidents. Lastly, Sheriff Ard is entitled to qualified immunity.

         Plaintiff's state law malicious prosecution claim cannot survive summary judgment, as Plaintiff does not demonstrate that he was actually charged with and prosecuted for the crime of Public Intimidation. He was never indicted or billed for this offense. Cases from this district and others confirm that Plaintiff has no claim for malicious prosecution in these circumstances. Further, the recent Supreme Court case of Lemoine v. Wolfe is not controlling; there were no proceedings instituted, so the “bona fide” termination element is irrelevant.

         Plaintiff's state law claims for vicarious liability against Sheriff Ard also fails, as there are no remaining claims against Deputy Williams.

         Lastly, Plaintiff's claim for injunctive and declaratory relief are moot because the Fifth Circuit has already ruled the Public Intimidation statute unconstitutional. There is no remaining case or controversy. Plaintiff cannot make a showing of real or immediate threat of being wronged again by this statute because it cannot be enforced. Plaintiff also cannot complain of the threat of prosecution. First, these Defendants do not have the power to prosecute, as that belongs solely to the Livingston ...

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