Beard v. Wolf et al
ORDER granting 53 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Party Pat Dunn (in his official capacity as the Assistant District Attorney of the Parish of Tangipahoa) and Scott Perrilloux (in his official capacity as the District Attorney of the Parish of Tangipahoa) dismissed. Rule 54(b) judgment to be entered as to Dunn and Perrilloux. Signed by Judge Jay C. Zainey on 7/22/14. (jrc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CRANE PAUL WOLF, ET AL.
SECTION: "A" (5)
The following motion is before the Court: Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 53) filed
by defendants Pat Dunn and Scott Perrilloux. Plaintiff Janice Beard opposes the motion. The
motion, noticed for submission on July 16, 2014, is before the Court on the briefs without
oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
Plaintiff Janice Beard brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
defendants Deputy Crane Paul Wolf, Sheriff Daniel Edwards, Scott Perrilloux in his official
capacity as the District Attorney for the Parish of Tangipahoa, and Pat Dunn in his official
capacity as Assistant District Attorney for the Parish of Tangipahoa.1
This action arises out of plaintiff Janice Beard's arrest on February 22, 2013. Beard
was a passenger in a vehicle that was attempting to exit a parking spot at a bar located in
Hammond, Louisiana. (Comp. ¶ 6). The vehicle made contact with another vehicle and
someone called 911. Defendant Wolf responded to the call. Beard contends that Wolf was
belligerent and for no apparent reason pulled her from the vehicle, maced her, and threw her
to the ground. (Id. ¶ 10). Beard contends that she was then arrested without probable cause
Plaintiff's Fourth Amended complaint expressly states that the district attorney
defendants are sued in their official capacities. (Rec. Doc. 45, Fourth Amended Complaint ¶¶ 3E
& 3F). In contrast, the pleadings naming Crane Paul Wolf are express in that he is being sued
both individually and in his official capacity. (Rec. Doc. 1, Comp. ¶¶ 3A, 33; Rec. Doc. 3, First
Amended Comp. ¶ 3A).
and subjected to excessive force in the process. (Id. ¶¶ 11-2).
Beard alleges that she was denied timely medical treatment and food service while
being held at the jail, and deprived of her personal belongings because she lacked the cash
fee to obtain them. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14, 18). The complaint against Wolf and the official capacity
claims against Sheriff Daniel Edwards are brought pursuant to § 1983 and state law.
Plaintiff was charged with resisting an officer, battery of a police officer, and
disturbing the peace. (Rec. Doc. 45, Fourth Amended Complaint ¶ 80). Those charges were
nolle prossed on April 28, 2014. Plaintiff amended her complaint to join claims against
Perrilloux and Dunn (referred to at times collectively as "the District Attorney Defendants")
for malicious prosecution. Beard contends that the District Attorney Defendants failed to
properly investigate the case before charging her and failed to properly weigh all of the
exculpatory evidence in her favor that ultimately led to the dismissal of all charges. (Id. ¶
82). Beard contends there was no probable cause to support the charges against her. (Id. ¶
A jury trial in this matter is scheduled to commence on February 9, 2015. (Rec. Doc.
The District Attorney Defendants now move to dismiss all claims. They argue that the
allegations fail to support a claim against them in their official capacities and that any
derivative state law claims are barred by absolute immunity.
In the context of a motion to dismiss the Court must accept all factual allegations in
the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. Lormand v.
US Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues &
Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308 (2007); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Lovick v.
Ritemoney, Ltd., 378 F.3d 433, 437 (5th Cir. 2004)). However, the foregoing tenet is
inapplicable to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice. Id. (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550, U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
The central issue in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is whether, in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid claim for relief. Gentilello v. Rege, 627
F.3d 540, 544 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir.
2008)). To avoid dismissal, a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to “state a claim for relief
that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). “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.” Id. The Court
does not accept as true “conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal
conclusions.” Id. (quoting Plotkin v. IP Axess, Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005)). Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950).
The Court begins its analysis by noting that the District Attorney Defendants
reasonably devoted their briefing to the issue of whether the claims against them in their
official capacities are viable.2 This course of action was reasonable because according to her
own pleadings Beard only sued the District Attorney Defendants in their official capacities,
see note 1, supra, and the pleadings cannot be expanded via an opposition memorandum.
For completeness, and because the District Attorney Defendants did discuss absolute
immunity, which does not apply to official capacity claims, the Court nonetheless will
address the allegations in the context of both capacities.
The Court makes this observation because Beard's opening salvo in her opposition is the
suggestion (made with emphasis) that the District Attorney Defendants simply overlooked that
they were sued in their official and individual capacities. (Rec. Doc. 59, Opposition at 1).
In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976), the Supreme Court held that a state
prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from § 1983 suits for the initiation and pursuit of a
criminal prosecution. In the aftermath of Imbler, the Court has expounded upon the
contours of absolute immunity by clarifying that the application of absolute prosecutorial
immunity follows a functional approach based on the specific activities that give rise to the
cause of action. See Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259 (1993); Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S.
478 (1991). That is, the actions of a prosecutor are not absolutely immune merely because
they are preformed by a prosecutor. Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273. Qualified immunity is the
norm and it will replace absolute immunity when the prosecutor engages in certain functions
outside the scope of his prosecutorial role such as providing legal advice to law enforcement,
Burns, 500 U.S. at 495-96, or making statements to the press, Buckley, 509 U.S. at 277. But
the crux of Imbler and it progeny is that acts undertaken by a prosecutor in preparing for the
initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an
advocate for the state, are entitled to the protections of absolute immunity. Buckley, 509 U.S.
at 273. The acts involved need not take place in the courtroom. Id. at 272. And perhaps even
more importantly, when the activities giving rise to the cause of action do occur in the
prosecutor's role as an advocate for the state, his motivations and intentions are irrelevant to
whether absolute immunity applies, as are allegations of maliciousness, recklessness,
dishonesty, or just plain negligence. Imbler, 424 U.S. at 427. In other words, once the
functional test is satisfied, the immunity is unconditional.
Beard's complaint is that the District Attorney Defendants charged her in the absence
of probable cause either because they were remiss in conducting a proper investigation of
their own or because they were negligent in evaluating the Sheriff's evidence against her.
These allegations fall squarely within the contours of absolute prosecutorial immunity. As
the Court suggested in Imbler, the protection of absolute prosecutorial immunity is at its
zenith when charging decisions are involved. See Imbler, 454 U.S. at 421. And because the
immunity is unconditional, Beard's unpleaded allegation of collusion, i.e., that the District
Attorney Defendants charged her at the Sheriff's behest in order to give the Sheriff leverage
in this civil suit, is irrelevant to the immunity analysis.
Beard relies on this Court's recent ruling denying a motion to dismiss in a malicious
prosecution case. (Rec. Doc. 59, Opposition at 4-5 (citing James v. Woods, No. 14-216, 2014
WL 1896760 E.D. La. May 12, 2014)). Beard's reliance on the James ruling is woefully
misplaced. The defendants in the James case are all private, non-state actors so the causes of
action are not brought under § 1983. Therefore, neither absolute nor qualified immunity was
at issue in that case.
In sum, Beard's claims against the District Attorney Defendants individually are
barred by absolute immunity. The action is therefore DISMISSED as to these defendants in
their individual capacities.
The official capacity claims against the District Attorney Defendants are governed by
the municipality liability principles derived from Monell v. New York City Department of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), and its progeny. See Connick v. Thompson, 131 S. Ct.
1350, 1359 (2011). A local governmental entity may be liable under § 1983 if the entity itself
causes a person to be subjected to a deprivation of his rights. Connick, 131 S. Ct. at 1359
(quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 692). The entity will not be vicariously liable for the
constitutional torts of its employees. Id. A plaintiff who seeks to impose liability on a
municipality must prove that the acts that deprived her of her rights were taken pursuant to
a municipal policy, as promulgated by the final policymaker for the municipality. See id.
Although the complaint contains no allegations to this effect, the Court assumes that
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux is the final policymaker for his office. Nonetheless, the
Fourth Amended Complaint contains no allegations whatsoever that pertain to a municipal
policy of any kind as being the moving force behind the alleged deprivation of Beard's federal
In sum, the complaint fails to state a federal claim against the District Attorney
Defendants in their official capacities. The action is therefore DISMISSED as to these
defendants in their official capacities.
The District Attorney Defendants have made immunity arguments grounded in state
law. To the extent that Beard has alleged any supplemental state law claims against the
District Attorney Defendants, the Court, having dismissed all federal claims, declines to
exercise jurisdiction over those state claims, and they will be DISMISSED but without
prejudice. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
Accordingly, and for the foregoing reasons;
IT IS ORDERED that the Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 53) filed by defendants
Pat Dunn and Scott Perrilloux is GRANTED. All federal claims against them are
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. All state claims are DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE. Further, the Court determines that there is no just reason to delay entry of a
judgment so a final judgment in favor of defendants Dunn and Perrilloux will be entered in
accordance with Rule 54(b).
July 22, 2014
JAY C. ZAINEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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