Buisson Creative Strategies, L.L.C. et al v. Roberts et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting 167 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and 169 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' Motions are GRANTED. Plaintiffs' claims are DISMISSED. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo on 6/21/2017. (cg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
BUISSON CREATIVE STRATEGIES, LLC,
CHRISTOPHER ROBERTS, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court are Defendant Jefferson Parish’s Alternative Motion
for Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(1) for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Rule
12(b)(6) for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted, and/or
Rule 56 for Summary Judgment (Doc. 167) and Defendant Chris Roberts’s
Motion to Dismiss and/or Motion for Summary Judgment for Lack of Subject
Matter Jurisdiction (Doc. 169). For the following reasons, these Motions are
Plaintiffs Buisson Creative Strategies (“BCS”) and Gregory Buisson
bring this action against Christopher Roberts and Jefferson Parish alleging
numerous constitutional violations. Plaintiff BCS is a business that provides
public relations, advertising, marketing, event management, graphic design,
and consulting services. Prior to November 4, 2015, it had numerous contracts
with Jefferson Parish including providing services to the Jefferson Parish
Convention and Visitors Bureau, event management services for Lafreniere
Park, and event management services associated with the review stands for
Jefferson Parish’s East Bank Mardi Gras parades.
During the fall 2015
primary election for the Jefferson Parish Council, Plaintiffs provided
consulting services to Louis Congemi in his race for Parish Council against
commercials for the Congemi campaign alleging that Roberts was unqualified
for office because of, inter alia, his alleged failure to file income tax returns.
Roberts ultimately won re-election. According to the Complaint, he was
intent on retaliating against Plaintiffs for their role in creating the Congemi
attack ads. Plaintiffs aver that Roberts impermissibly used his legislative
authority to enact Ordinance 25045 (the “Ordinance”), which had the alleged
effect of terminating BCS’s contracts with the Parish and its entities. The
ordinance provides that any person or firm who has received compensation for
the management or consulting of political campaigns for a candidate for the
council or for Jefferson Parish President during an “election cycle” cannot be
awarded contracts with the Parish regardless of whether a candidate wins or
loses. It also purported to terminate such individual’s existing contracts with
the Parish. Plaintiffs aver that this ordinance is narrowly tailored to target
them and only them. They allege that the ordinance violates the contracts
clause, the First Amendment, equal protection, due process, and the
prohibition on bills of attainder.
They seek an injunction prohibiting
enforcement of the ordinance and damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
If, at any time, the court determines that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.1 “A case is properly dismissed
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate the case.”2 As a prerequisite to jurisdiction
the U.S. Constitution requires, at a minimum, that a case present an actual
“case or controversy” as defined by article III.3 Standing is an element of the
constitutional requirement of “case or controversy,”4 and lack of standing
deprives the court of subject matter jurisdiction.5 The party seeking to invoke
federal jurisdiction has the burden of establishing standing.6
LAW AND ANALYSIS
At the Court’s behest, Defendants filed the instant Motions challenging
Plaintiffs’ standing to bring this suit. Defendants cite primarily to the fact that
Plaintiffs have lost no parish contracts since the enactment of the Ordinance
and that the subject Ordinance has been suspended by the Parish Council
pending the resolution of this litigation.
The justiciability doctrines of
standing, mootness, political question, and ripeness all stem from the case or
controversy requirement set forth in Article III of the United States
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
Krim v. pcOrder.com, Inc., 402 F.3d 489, 494 (5th Cir. 2005) (quoting Home Builders
Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998)).
3 See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2; Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94–95 (1968).
4 Lang v. French, 154 F.3d 217, 222 n.28 (5th Cir.1998).
5 Dynasty Oil & Gas, LLC v. Citizens Bank (In re United Operating, LLC), 540 F.3d
351, 354–55 n. 1 (5th Cir. 2008).
6 See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560–61(1992); Grant v. Gilbert, 324
F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2003).
Constitution.7 The basic requirements of standing, as set forth by the Supreme
Court, are as follows:
First, the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact”—an
invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and
particularized, and (b) “actual or imminent, not ‘conjectural’ or
‘hypothetical,’ ” Second, there must be a causal connection between
the injury and the conduct complained of—the injury has to be
“fairly ... trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and
not ... th[e] result [of] the independent action of some third party
not before the court.” Third, it must be “likely,” as opposed to
merely “speculative,” that the injury will be “redressed by a
Similar to standing, the ripeness doctrine requires dismissal of cases that are
merely abstract or hypothetical.9 “[E]ven where an issue presents purely legal
questions, the plaintiff must show some hardship in order to establish
ripeness.”10 The rationale behind this rule is “to prevent the courts, through
avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling themselves in abstract
The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing
standing.12 “Since they are not mere pleading requirements but rather an
indispensable part of the plaintiff’s case, each element must be supported in
the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of
proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive
stages of the litigation.”13 Defendants have each filed Motions challenging
Choice Inc. of Texas v. Greenstein, 691 F.3d 710, 715 (5th Cir. 2012).
Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560–61 (1992) (internal citations omitted).
9 Greenstein, 691 F.3d at 715.
10 Roark & Hardee LP v. City of Austin, 522 F.3d 533, 545 (5th Cir. 2008).
11 Greenstein, 691 F.3d at 715
12 Roark & Hardee, 522 F.3d at 545.
Plaintiffs’ standing in this action, pointing to their lack of damages and the
suspension of the Ordinance at issue.
Plaintiffs respond in opposition to Defendants’ Motions, arguing (1) that
they have established standing on their request for injunctive relief based on
their First Amendment Claims, (2) that they have similarly established
standing on their request for injunctive relief on their Equal Protection claims,
and (3) that they have sustained sufficient damages to establish standing on
their remaining claims. The Court will address these arguments in turn.
I. First Amendment Claims
In the context of constitutional claims, particularly First Amendment
claims, the standing requirements are somewhat relaxed. “It follows from
Lujan that if a plaintiff is an object of a government regulation, then that
plaintiff ordinarily has standing to challenge that regulation.”14
Amendment pre-enforcement challenges, chilling a plaintiff’s speech is a
constitutional harm adequate to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement.”15 To
establish standing, however, “a claimant must present an injury that is
concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent; fairly traceable to the
defendant’s challenged behavior; and likely to be redressed by a favorable
ruling.”16 Additionally, “[t]o prove an injury in fact sufficient ‘to raise a First
Amendment facial challenge, however, a plaintiff must produce evidence of an
intention to engage in a course of conduct arguably affected with a
constitutional interest, but proscribed by statute.’”17
Duarte ex rel. Duarte v. City of Lewisville, Tex., 759 F.3d 514, 518 (5th Cir. 2014)
Justice v. Hosemann, 771 F.3d 285, 291 (5th Cir. 2014).
16 Nat'l Fed'n of the Blind of Texas, Inc. v. Abbott, 647 F.3d 202, 208–09 (5th Cir. 2011)
(internal citations omitted).
17 Id. (internal citations omitted).
The Court finds instructive the case of Choice Inc. of Texas v.
Greenstein.18 There, the court considered whether an outpatient abortion clinic
in Louisiana had standing to bring a pre-enforcement challenge to amended
provisions of Louisiana law which changed the standard for license denial,
revocation, and suspension.19 The court found that the claims were not ripe
for adjudication, as the law at issue had not yet been enforced in the manner
feared by the plaintiffs.20 Plaintiffs had, therefore, suffered no hardship as
required to render the claims ripe for adjudication.21 Similarly, in this matter,
it is undisputed that the Parish has taken no steps to cancel any of Plaintiffs’
contracts in reliance on the Ordinance. In fact, quite the contrary, during the
pendency of this litigation the Parish has awarded new contracts to Plaintiffs
Accordingly, because Plaintiffs can establish no imminent
injury or present hardship, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
these claims. As the Greenstein court noted, should Plaintiffs suffer their
feared injury and be deprived of any Parish contracts in reliance on the
Ordinance, they may return to this court and apply for injunctive relief. Until
such time, however, relief of this type is premature.22
II. Equal Protection
Plaintiffs next aver that they have suffered an equal protection violation
because Defendants have imposed a discriminatory classification that
prevented them from bidding on future contracts. “The ‘injury in fact’ in an
equal protection case of this variety is the denial of equal treatment resulting
from the imposition of the barrier, not the ultimate inability to obtain the
Greenstein, 691 F.3d at 713.
20 Id. at 117.
benefit.”23 To establish standing with regard to public contracts, a party “need
only demonstrate that it is able and ready to bid on contracts and that a
discriminatory policy prevents it from doing so on an equal basis.”24 Again,
however, the undisputed facts in this matter indicate that Plaintiffs lack
standing to pursue their claims. No discriminatory policy currently exists, as
evidenced by the fact that Plaintiffs have been awarded Parish contracts
during the pendency of this litigation.25 Accordingly, because Plaintiff cannot
establish “injury in fact,” their claims fail.
III. Remaining Claims
Plaintiffs aver that they have standing to pursue their remaining claims
because the Ordinance has caused them to suffer actual damages. Specifically,
Plaintiffs aver that they have lost contracts with Siemens, New Orleans
Distillers, a political candidate for statewide office, and the Jefferson Parish
Chamber of Commerce. They further aver that they have suffered a significant
reduction in revenue. Plaintiffs have, however, provided no evidence showing
that this damage is “fairly traceable” to Defendants’ actions in enacting the
The Ordinance imposes no prohibition on the contractual
relationships between Plaintiffs and third parties, as it only provides that “[n]o
person or firm [affected by the Ordinance] shall be awarded a contract with
Jefferson Parish.”26 Plaintiffs would have this Court inquire into the subjective
Ne. Florida Chapter of Associated Gen. Contractors of Am. v. City of Jacksonville,
Fla., 508 U.S. 656, 666 (1993).
25 In support of standing, Plaintiffs cite to a series of entities that it avers “have had
and again will have contracts to award.” Doc. 187. Plaintiffs state that they are at a
disadvantage in bidding on these hypothetical contracts; however, they point to no contract
on which they have actually bid. Accordingly, this contention is purely speculative and
insufficient to establish standing.
26 Doc. 99-2 (emphasis added).
The Ordinance also bars non-governmental
organizations from using funds appropriated by the Parish to enter into such contracts.
motivations of third parties in determining damages. This the Court cannot
do. Indeed, these losses are just the type of “independent action[s] of some
third party” that the Supreme Court has cautioned do not give rise to
The Court makes no finding as to whether the Ordinance, if enforced,
would pass constitutional muster. Instead, it merely finds that Plaintiffs
cannot at this time show a case or controversy sufficient to give this Court
subject matter jurisdiction over the instant dispute. Should the Parish take
active steps to enforce the Ordinance, Plaintiffs may return to this Court and
apply for a temporary restraining order. At present, however, Plaintiffs have
suffered no injury in fact sufficient to give rise to standing.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motions are GRANTED.
Plaintiffs’ claims are DISMISSED.
New Orleans, Louisiana this 21st day of June, 2017.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560–61.
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