Francois et al v. Gretna City et al
ORDER AND REASONS denying 34 Motion to Lift Stay. Signed by Judge Helen G. Berrigan on 10/16/2014. (kac)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
OBIDIAH FRANCOIS, ET AL
CITY OF GRETNA, ET AL
SECTION: “C” (3)
ORDER & REASONS
Before this Court is a Motion to Lift Stay filed by Plaintiff, Matthias Francois (“Plaintiff”
or “Mr. Francois”). Rec. Doc. 34. Defendant, City of Gretna (“Defendant” or “Gretna”) opposes
the motion. Rec Doc. 36. The motion is before the court on briefs, without oral argument.
Having considered the memoranda of counsel, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds
that the Motion to Lift Stay is DENIED.
The plaintiffs were arrested on October 24, 2012 and charged with violations of
La. R.S. 14:59A(5) (Criminal Mischief - Filing a False Police Report) and La. R.S. 14:285A
(Harassing Phone Calls). Rec. Docs. 25 and 25-1. On May 7, 2013, the defendants filed a 42
U.S.C. §1983 complaint against Gretna alleging a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights
when Gretna arrested them and seized their cell phones. Rec. Doc. 4. On June 24, 2013, Gretna
filed a Motion to Stay Proceedings pending the resolution of the underlying criminal
proceedings. Rec. Doc. 10. The Motion to Stay was granted by this Court on July 30, 2013. Rec.
On or about May 23, 2014 the La. R.S. 14:59 charge against Mr. Francois was formally
dismissed without prejudice. Rec. Doc. 36-1 at 1. However, on May 22, 2014 a grand jury in the
24th Judicial District Court for the parish of Jefferson formally indicted Mr. Francois on three
additional counts arising from the October 24, 2012 arrest, specifically, violations of La. R.S.
14:122 (Public Intimidation- two counts) and La. R.S. 14:126.1 (False Swearing for Purposes of
Violating Public Health and Safety). Rec. Doc. 26-1 at 10. These charges are open and pending
against the plaintiffs. Id.
The decision to stay a case lies within the sound discretion of the District Court.
Campbell v. Eastland, 307 F.2d 478, 487 (5th Cir. 1962). Mr. Francois argues that the Motion to
Lift Stay should be granted because the criminal proceedings against him have been dismissed.
Rec. Doc. 34. Mr. Francois's Motion only addressed the dismissal of charges under La. R.S.
14:59. Id. As "Exhibit B" to Gretna's Opposition shows however, new charges stemming from
the same arrest were brought against Mr. Francois and are still currently pending in state court.
Rec. Doc. 36-1 at 10. A stay is appropriate if a state criminal defendant brings a federal civil
rights lawsuit while his state criminal trial is pending. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 49 (1971).
State criminal charges are still pending against Mr. Francois. Abstention is therefore appropriate
here because criminal proceedings are still ongoing in state court. Accordingly, the Motion to
Lift Stay is denied.
For the reasons set forth above,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Lift the Stay is DENIED.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 16th day of October, 2014.
HELEN G. BERRIGAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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