Carlisle v. Normand, et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting in part 58 , 59 , 71 Motions to Dismiss. Plaintiffs may amend their Complaint within 21 days of the entry of this Order to the extent they can remedy any deficiencies outlined herein. FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall submit any briefing relative to this Courts jurisdiction to entertain official-capacity claims against Defendants Becnel, Mussal, Theriot, and McNair within 15 days of the entry of this Order. Any such briefs shall not exceed five pages in length. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
TAYLOR CARLISLE, ET AL.
NEWELL NORMAND, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court are three Motions: A Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendant Joe McNair (Doc. 58); a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants
Richard Thompson and Joseph Marino (Doc. 59); and a Motion to Dismiss
filed by Defendants Kristen Becnel, Tracey Mussal, and Kevin Theriot (Doc.
71). These Motions are GRANTED IN PART as outlined herein.
In this suit, Plaintiffs challenge the manner in which the Jefferson
Parish Drug Court is conducted. In addition to their individual claims, they
seek to represent a class of individuals who were similarly sentenced by the
Drug Court. The Court will begin by outlining their individual claims.
I. Taylor Carlisle
Plaintiff Taylor Carlisle was arrested on November 9, 2012 and charged
in the 24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson with possession
of oxycodone in case no. 12-6158 and with possession of marijuana and drug
paraphernalia in case no. 12-6159. On January 30, 2015 he entered a guilty
plea as to all charges. In case number 12-6159 he was sentenced to time
served, while his plea in case number 12-6158 was entered pursuant to
Louisiana Revised Statutes § 13:5304, also known as the “Louisiana Drug
Court Statute.” He was sentenced to 0-5 years, with the sentence deferred
contingent upon his completion of the Jefferson Parish Intensive Drug Court
Program while on probation. As part of this program, Carlisle was required to
maintain regular contact with the program probation officer and the drug
court, attend regular AA meetings, consent to regular drug testing, and present
required documentation to the probation officer and the drug court. He also
agreed to waive due process rights in Drug Court proceedings.
His primary claim involves allegations that he received excessive
sentences from the Drug Court for failure to comply with the terms of the
program. On April 28, 2015, he was sanctioned to 90 days flat time. Later, on
August 25, 2015, he was sanctioned with six months of flat time for contempt
of court when he failed to appear for a hearing. Carlisle brings six claims
relative to his experience at Drug Court, essentially averring that the closed
courtroom, lack of court reporter, and lack of adversarial proceedings violate
his due process rights. He also alleges that these sentences were in excess of
those permitted under the state law authorizing the Drug Court and that they
are impermissible “flat time” sentences. He argues that this is violation of the
Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment and
the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. First, he seeks
declaratory and injunctive relief prohibiting the Drug Court from acting in this
unconstitutional manner. Second, he brings a § 1983 claim against Sheriff
Normand for deliberate indifference in keeping Carlisle in jail for the 90 and
180 day flat time sentences, in violation of Louisiana law and his Equal
Protection and Due Process rights. Third, he brings a § 1983 claim against
Drug Court Administrator Kristen Becnel, Program Supervisor Tracy Mussal,
Probation Coordinator Kevin Theriot, and Director of Counseling Joe McNair
for failure to properly train and supervise the implements of the Drug Court
In addition to these constitutional claims, he brings “pendant state law
claims” against several individuals. First, he brings a legal malpractice claim
against the Drug Court’s Indigent Public Defender Board and its staff attorney,
Joe Marino. Mr. Marino was appointed to represent Carlisle in Drug Court,
and Carlisle contends that he breached his duty by failing to appropriately
Second, he brings a claim against Drug Court Clinical
Director Joe McNair for breach of his duty as a therapist. He avers that
McNair owed him a duty to act within the standard of care governing the
treatment of patients with substance abuse problems and that he breached
that duty by failing to make proper recommendations as to his treatment.
II. Emile Heron
Plaintiff Emile Heron has been a participant in the Drug Court Program
since April 17, 2012. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of oxycodone.
He alleges that he has suffered periods of detention for technical violations of
his probation without procedural due process.1 On July 30, 2013, he was
This is despite the fact that he signed a waiver of due process rights.
sentenced to 24 hours flat time for failing to complete required community
service. He next alleges that, on November 12, 2013, he was sentenced to 30
days flat time for “associating with a felon” despite having never committed
that offense. On January 14, 2014, he was sanctioned with 60 days flat time
for failing to appear at Drug Court on January 3, 2014. He further avers that
he was held for an additional four and a half months at the end of this sentence
while waiting for a Long Term Care bed to become available. Eventually, he
was sent to Assisi Bridge House in Shreveport for seven and half months of
inpatient treatment. Upon release, he was again sanctioned for noncompliance
and sentenced to 16 hours of community service due November 18, 2014. It
seems that he failed to complete this community services and was therefore
sentenced to 48 hours in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center on December
2, 2014. On February 5, 2015 he was held in contempt for failure to pay
$1,624.50 in fines from the original plea agreement. He was later jailed on
December 15, 2015 for failure to complete community service. He alleges that
he was held until January 26, 2016, at which time he was sanctioned with 6
months’ time. He alleges that all of these sanctions were imposed without
hearing, a court reporter, or formal notice in violation of due process. He also
alleges that, while he was incarcerated, his probation was extended by motion
without his knowledge.
III. Class Allegations
Plaintiffs also seek certification of the following class:
Those individual natural persons who, while participating as
probationers in the 24th Judicial District Court Drug Court
program pursuant to Plea Agreement (hereinafter the
“probationers”) have been sanctioned, for alleged probation
infractions and sentenced with jail time in the Jefferson Parish
Correctional Center or other location, in excess often days as
proscribed by LA Code Crim. Proc. 891(c). and/or in violation of the
Drug Court Act, R.S. 13:5304 et seq. These probationers include
but are not limited to those sentenced to “flat time” in connection
with said sanctions, as well as those who are alleged to have
committed Contempt and sentenced to jail time without a hearing
or opportunity to defend, or without a record from which to launch
an appeal based on Due Process waivers executed at the time of
the Plea Agreement.
Plaintiffs aver that all of these individuals were subject to a pattern and
practice of conduct whereby they were deprived of liberty under color of state
law. They aver that the subject class may consist of more than one thousand
individuals and that their claims involve common questions of law and fact.
To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead
enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”2 A claim is
“plausible on its face” when the pleaded facts allow the court to “[d]raw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”3
A court must accept the complaint’s factual allegations as true and must “draw
all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.”4
The Court need not,
however, accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.5
To be legally sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a “sheer
possibility” that the plaintiff’s claims are true.6 “A pleading that offers ‘labels
and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’“
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)).
4 Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009).
5 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 667.
will not suffice.7
Rather, the complaint must contain enough factual
allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of each element of the plaintiffs’ claim.8
LAW AND ANALYSIS
The Court will address each of the three pending Motions to Dismiss in
I. Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant McNair (Doc. 58)
The first Motion to Dismiss was filed by Defendant Joe McNair, who
served as the Drug Court clinical director while Carlisle was in Drug Court.
The Complaint alleges that McNair, as an administrator of the Drug Court, is
liable for “deliberate indifference” in failing to properly train and supervise the
implementation of Drug Court policy, leading to violations of Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights. It further alleges a pendant state law negligence claim
against McNair for breach of his duty to Carlisle as a therapist. McNair avers
that he should be dismissed from this action for the following reasons: (1) there
is no therapist/patient relationship between Carlisle and McNair; (2) there is
no casual connection between McNair’s alleged negligence and the alleged
deprivation of Carlisle’s rights; (3) the deliberate indifference claim against
McNair is barred by qualified immunity; (4) the allegations do not meet class
action requisites set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23; and (5) Heron
asserted no cause of action against McNair. The Court will address these
arguments in turn.
Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Lormand, 565 F.3d at 255–57.
A. Existence of a Therapist/Patient Relationship
McNair first argues that the pendant negligence claims asserted against
him should be dismissed because there are no facts alleged in the Complaint
and Amended Complaint from which the Court could find that a
patient/therapist relationship existed. The factual allegations against McNair
are contained in paragraphs 62 through 65 of the Complaint. Therein, Carlisle
alleges that McNair served as the Clinical Director of Drug Court and
recommended Carlisle for the program. He alleges that McNair evaluated him
for program eligibility and that he owed a duty to properly evaluate Carlisle
throughout the program. He alleges that McNair failed to make appropriate
recommendations relative to his treatment throughout the program.
Court finds that these allegations are insufficient, even if taken as true, to
establish a patient/therapist relationship. Accordingly, the negligence claims
against McNair are dismissed without prejudice.
B. Causal Connection Between McNair’s Negligence and
Deprivation of Rights
McNair next argues that Plaintiffs’ “deliberate indifference” claims must
fail because there are insufficient factual allegations to show that he was
causally connected with the due process violations allegedly stemming from
excessive sentences imposed by the Drug Court. “When, as here, a plaintiff
alleges a failure to train or supervise, the plaintiff must show that: (1) the
supervisor either failed to supervise or train the subordinate official; (2) a
causal link exists between the failure to train or supervise and the violation of
the plaintiff’s rights; and (3) the failure to train or supervise amounts to
deliberate indifference.”9 The Complaint broadly alleges that he and the other
Drug Court administrators failed to properly supervise the implementation of
Drug Court policy, leading to unlawful sentences imposed in violation of due
process protections. The ultimate decision-making power relative to these
sentences, however, rested with the judges administering the program. 10
Indeed, the Complaint does not identify subordinate officials whom McNair
failed to train or supervise. In fact, quite the opposite, it appears that the
complained-of sentences were imposed by the drug court judges, who clearly
served as McNair’s supervisors in the program.11 Because the Complaint fails
to allege a causal connection between any alleged failure to train or supervise
and the deprivation of a constitutional right, Plaintiffs’ deliberate indifference
claims against McNair are dismissed without prejudice.
C. Qualified Immunity
McNair next avers that he is entitled to qualified immunity from suit for
damages in his personal capacity on any § 1983 claim. Plaintiff responds,
arguing that (1) as a private contractor he is not entitled to qualified immunity
and (2) that the alleged violations amount to violations of clearly established
The Supreme Court has previously held that medical professionals
contracted to work part time with the state act under color of state law when
treating individuals as part of the terms of their employment.12 Accordingly,
McNair is permitted to assert qualified immunity as a defense. In Saucier v.
Katz, the Supreme Court promulgated a two-step analysis to determine if an
Estate of Davis ex rel. McCully v. City of N. Richland Hills, 406 F.3d 375, 381 (5th
10 The judges have not been made party to this suit.
11 La. Rev. Stat. § 13:5304.
12 West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 56 (U.S. 1988).
official has stepped outside the bounds of qualified immunity.13 Under that
test, the initial inquiry is whether the Plaintiff has alleged a constitutional
violation.14 If established, the next inquiry is whether the defendant’s conduct
was objectively reasonable in light of clearly established law at the time the
conduct occurred.15 In Pearson v. Callahan, the Court retreated somewhat
from this rigid two-step inquiry, giving courts leave to decide which prong to
consider first.16 Plaintiff argues that the procedural due process rights violated
by Defendants are clearly established, however, it is undisputed that Plaintiff
signed a waiver of his due process rights prior to participating in the Drug
To evade qualified immunity, Plaintiffs would have to
demonstrate that the invalidity of the due process waiver was clearly
established. They have not done so. Accordingly, in light of the due process
waiver, Plaintiff cannot establish that McNair’s actions violated any clearly
established constitutional right. He is therefore entitled to qualified immunity
from suit in his personal capacity as to all claims for damages arising under §
Accordingly, all § 1983 claims for damages against McNair in his
personal capacity are dismissed with prejudice.
D. Class Allegations as to McNair
McNair next argues that the class allegations against him are
insufficient because the class action allegations of the Complaint are devoid of
any allegations specific to McNair. Plaintiff avers that this attack on the class
allegations is premature, as he has not yet moved for class certification. This
argument is unavailing. Class actions are governed by Rule 23 of the Federal
533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001).
16 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2008).
Rules of Civil Procedure. “The class action is ‘an exception to the usual rule
that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties
only.’”17 In order for an action to be maintained as a class action under Rule 23
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, each of the four prerequisites of Rule
23(a) must be satisfied.18 Additionally, one of the three conditions of Rule 23(b)
must be met by all proposed classes.19 Ultimately, a “[d]istrict court maintains
great discretion in certifying and managing a class action.”20
Courts have routinely applied Rule 23(d)(1)(D), formerly Rule 23(d)(4),
to actions where a party seeks to strike class allegations because plaintiffs
have not met the requirements of Rule 23.21 A court may strike class
allegations under Rule 23 where a complaint fails to plead the minimum facts
necessary to establish the existence of a class.22
The Court has reviewed the factual allegations of the Complaint and the
Amended Complaint and finds that no facts have been asserted to support a
class action against Defendant McNair. Plaintiff has not alleged that any
individual other than Plaintiff Carlisle was treated by McNair as part of the
Drug Court program.
Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to plead common
questions of law and fact relative to this Defendant. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’
class allegations as to Defendant Joe McNair are stricken.
Wal–Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2550 (2011) (quoting Califano v.
Yamasaki, 442 U.S. 682, 700–01 (1979)).
18 Fed. R. Civ. P. 23.
19 Id.; see also Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 614 (1997).
20 Berger v. Compaq Computer Corp., 257 F.3d 475,478 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Mullen v. Treasure Chest Casino, LLC, 186 F.3d 620, 624 (5th Cir. 1999) (quotations
21 Markey v. La. Citizens Fair Plan, No. 06–5473, 2008 WL 5427708, at *1 (E.D.La.
Dec. 30, 2008) (citations omitted).
22 Aguilar v. Allstate Fire and Cas. Ins. Co., No. 06–4660, 2007 WL 734809, at *2
(E.D.La. Mar. 6, 2007).
E. Allegations as to Heron
McNair finally argues that Heron has asserted no claim against him.
Plaintiffs respond, arguing that Heron has adopted the allegations of the
Complaint relative the McNair’s conduct. The Court has reviewed both the
Complaint and the Amended Complaint and finds that Plaintiffs have plead
no facts to support a cause of action against McNair as asserted by Plaintiff
Heron. Accordingly, such claims are dismissed without prejudice.
II. Motion to Dismiss filed by Marino and Tompson (Doc. 59)
Plaintiffs bring a state legal malpractice claim against District Defender
for the 24th Judicial District Richard Tompson and Joseph Marino, who served
as Plaintiff Carlisle’s counsel in Drug Court. Marino and Tompson argue that
this claim should be dismissed because (1) it does not fall within the Court’s
supplemental jurisdiction and (2) even if it does fall within the Court’s
supplemental jurisdiction, the allegations of the Complaint and Amended
Complaint are insufficient to support a legal malpractice action. The Court
will address these arguments in turn.
A. Whether the Claim falls within the Court’s Supplemental
Marino and Tompson argue that there is no supplemental jurisdiction
over the malpractice claims asserted against them.
In pertinent part, 28
U.S.C. § 1367 provides as follows:
Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) or as expressly
provided otherwise by Federal statute, in any civil action of which
the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts
shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are
so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction
that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article
III of the United States Constitution. Such supplemental
jurisdiction shall include claims that involve the joinder or
intervention of additional parties.
“The question under section 1367(a) is whether the supplemental claims are so
related to the original claims that they form part of the same case or
controversy, or in other words, that they ‘derive from a common nucleus of
Defendants Marino and Tompson argue that the federal question claims
in the Complaint involve the formation and application of Drug Court policies
and practices that violate due process under the Eight and Fourteenth
Amendments. They argue that the malpractice claims are divorced from these
federal question claims in that they involve only whether the defendants
breached their duty of care. This argument misapplies the applicable standard
in determining whether supplemental jurisdiction exists. The claims need not
share the same legal theory; rather, “[a] loose factual connection between the
claims is generally sufficient.”24 Additionally, “[a] court’s determination of
whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction is guided by considerations of
judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants.”25 The Court finds that
the alleged malpractice claim falls within the same common nucleus of
operative fact as the federal constitutional claims. Indeed, they arise out of
the same Drug Court meetings as the constitutional claim and include
allegations that these Defendants allowed the complained-of constitutional
violations to continue unabated despite their duty as counsel to Plaintiffs.
Mendoza v. Murphy, 532 F.3d 342, 346 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting United Mine
Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966)).
24 CheckPoint Fluidic Sys. Int’l, Ltd. v. Guccione, No. 10-4505, 2012 WL 195533, at
*3 (E.D. La. Jan. 23, 2012).
Accordingly, these claims form part of the same “common nucleus of operative
fact” and fall within the Court’s supplemental jurisdiction.
In their reply brief, Defendants for the first time argue that the Court
should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c). This argument is not properly before the Court, as arguments cannot
be raised for the first time in a reply brief.26 Nevertheless, the Court finds that
no exceptions circumstances exist that would cause it to decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over this matter.
B. Sufficiency of Legal Malpractice Claims
To establish a prima facie case for legal malpractice, a plaintiff must
prove there was an attorney-client relationship, the attorney was guilty of
negligence in his handling of the client’s case or professional impropriety in his
relationship with the client, and the attorney’s misconduct caused the client
some loss or damage.27
When the attorney’s performance falls below the
standard of competence and expertise usually exercised by other attorneys in
handling such matters, the attorney is liable for any damage to the client
caused by his substandard performance. “The proper method of determining
whether an attorney’s malpractice is a cause in fact of damage to his client is
whether the proper performance of that act would have prevented the
Defendants argue that Plaintiff must present proof of innocence or
exoneration in order to pursue a legal malpractice claim. They do not, however,
point the Court to any Louisiana case adopting this rule. Indeed, it appears
Spencer v. Hercules Offshore, Inc., No. 13-4706, 2014 WL 1612440, at *4 (E.D. La.
Apr. 22, 2014).
27 See Prestage v. Clark, 723 So.2d 1086, 1091 (La. App. 1 Cir. 1998), writ denied,
739 So.2d 800 (La. 1999).
28 Schwehm v. Jones, 872 So. 2d 1140, 1143 (La. App. 1 Cir. 2004).
that such a rule has not been expressly adopted in Louisiana.29 Accordingly,
the Court declines to adopt such a rule here.
Even if the Court does not apply the proof of innocence standard,
Defendants argue that Plaintiff has alleged insufficient facts to show that their
conduct has caused the complained-of damage. With regard to Defendant
Marino, Plaintiff alleges that he served as lawyer in the Drug Court and failed
to object to the various constitutional and state law violations that took place
therein, causing him damage. The Court finds that these allegations are
conclusory and fail to establish causation. Accordingly, the malpractice claims
against Defendant Marino are dismissed without prejudice.
With regard to Defendant Tompson, the Complaint is entirely devoid of
any factual allegations sufficient to support a legal malpractice claim.30
Accordingly, the legal malpractice claim against him is dismissed without
III. Motion to Dismiss filed by Becnel, Mussal, and Theriot (Doc. 71)
The final Motion to Dismiss was filed by Drug Court Administrator
Coordinator Kevin Theriot (collectively, the “Drug Court Administrators”).
They argue that the claims asserted against them should be dismissed on the
basis of absolute judicial immunity, or alternatively qualified immunity. These
Defendants also adopt McNair’s Motion with regard to the sufficiency of the
class allegations. The Court will address these arguments separately.
Indeed, the Complaint is completely devoid of any factual allegations against
A. Applicability of Absolute Immunity
Defendants argue that absolute judicial immunity may be extended to
them in this matter. Judges are absolutely immune from suit for damages
under § 1983 for action performed in their role as judges, even where their
actions are malicious.31
Absolute immunity does not, however, shield
individuals from suits for declaratory relief.32 Absolute immunity “help[s]
guarantee an independent, disinterested decision-making process” by
“prevent[ing] harassment and intimidation that could otherwise result if
disgruntled litigants—particularly criminal defendants and inmates . . . could
vent their anger by suing . . . the person or persons who rendered an adverse
decision.”33 As another section of this Court recently summarized:
To further this underlying policy, “other necessary
participants in the judicial process are entitled to absolute quasijudicial immunity.” This absolute quasi-judicial immunity
“protects officials that perform functions comparable to those of
judges . . . .” In determining whether an official is entitled to
absolute quasi-judicial immunity, courts must take a “functional
approach”—looking to “the nature of the function performed, not
the identity or title of the actor who performed it.” Consistent with
this “functional approach,” courts often hold that other judicial
employees, such as clerks of court, law clerks, and others, enjoy
absolute quasi-judicial immunity when “performing a
discretionary act or . . . a ministerial function at the direction of
the judge.” In other words, judicial employees are absolutely
immune when they act, whether “in bath faith or with malice”
pursuant to a court order or a judge’s instructions because the
employee is “act[ing] as the arm of the judge and comes within his
Holloway v. Walker, 765 F.2d 517, 522 (5th Cir. 1985).
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 806 (1982).
33 Johnson v. Kegans, 870 F.2d 992, 996–97. (5th Cir. 1989)
34 Cain v. City of New Orleans, 184 F. Supp. 3d 379, 388–89 (E.D. La. 2016).
Defendants argue that their roles as part of the Drug Court were under
the direct supervision of the presiding judge, entitling them to absolute judicial
immunity. Plaintiffs respond, arguing that the “Drug Court” is not a court, but
rather a non-profit treatment program. The Court does not find this argument
persuasive. A review of the statute authorizing the creation of the drug courts
indicates that it is an intensive probation program over which the judges
preside.35 The sanctions complained of by Plaintiffs were imposed by judges
acting in their judicial roles, shielding them from liability.
Defendants played in bringing about these allegedly unconstitutional
sanctions was judicial in nature, entitling them to absolute immunity.
Accordingly, the § 1983 claims for damages asserted against the Drug Court
Administrators in their personal capacities are dismissed with prejudice.
B. Class Allegations
The Drug Court Administrators adopt arguments asserted by McNair
relative to the Complaint’s class allegations. They asserted that Plaintiffs
have failed to show that there are common issues of law or fact among the class
members sufficient to support a class action against them. This Court agrees.
The class allegations of the Complaint contain broad factual assertions relative
to the Drug Court; however, they do not allege that the Defendant Drug Court
Administrators were involved in the alleged rights deprivations of all class
Accordingly, the class allegations against the Drug Court
Administrators are stricken.
IV. Jurisdiction Over Remaining Claims
The Court notes that Plaintiffs have asserted § 1983 claims for damages,
declaratory, and injunctive relief against the Drug Court Administrators and
La. Rev. Stat. § 13:5304.
McNair arising out of their roles as officials with the Drug Court. The Court
has ruled that any § 1983 claims for damages asserted against these
individuals in their personal capacities are precluded by either absolute or
qualified immunity. It appears to this Court, however, that Plaintiffs also seek
relief against these individuals in their official capacities. Official capacity
claims merely represent an alternative means of pleading a cause of action
against the entity of which the individual is a member—here, the Jefferson
Parish Drug Court.36
The Court now sua sponte raises the issue of its
jurisdiction to entertain such claims.
Despite Plaintiffs’ arguments to the contrary, it is apparent from the
statute authorizing the Drug Court that it exists under the auspices of the 24th
Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson.
Accordingly, any suit
against the Drug Court appears precluded by the immunity provisions of the
Eleventh Amendment. Indeed, “Courts in this and other circuits routinely hold
that state courts are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment.”37
Burge v. Par. of St. Tammany, 187 F.3d 452, 466 (5th Cir. 1999) (“Official capacity
suits generally represent another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an
officer is an agent.”).
37 Cain v. City of New Orleans, No. CV 15-4479, 2016 WL 2742374, at *1 (E.D. La.
May 11, 2016) (“See, e.g., Jefferson v. La. State Supreme Court, 46 Fed. Appx. 732, *1 (5th
Cir. 2002) (“The Eleventh Amendment clearly bars [plaintiff’s] § 1983 claims against the
Louisiana Supreme Court, which is a branch of Louisiana’s state government.”); Bourgeois
v. Par. of Jefferson, 20 F.3d 465, *1 (5th Cir. 1994) (holding that the Orleans Parish Civil
District Court is “an agency of the state” entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity);
Summers v. Louisiana, No. 13-4573, 2013 WL 3818560, at *4 (E.D. La. July 22, 2013)
(holding that an official capacity claim against a state court judge “would in reality be a
claim against the state itself, and...would be barred by the Eleventh Amendment”);
Wilkerson v. 17th Judicial Dist. Court, No. 08-1196, 2009 WL 249737, at *4 (E.D. La. Jan.
30, 2009) (“It is clear that the Eleventh Amendment bars § 1983 claims against a state
court.”); Rackley v. Louisiana, No. 07-504, 2007 WL 1792524, at *3 (E.D. La. June 21, 2007)
(“[T]he Eleventh Amendment likewise bars § 1983 claims against a state court.”); see
generally Mumford v. Basinski, 105 F.3d 264, 267 (6th Cir. 1997) (noting that state courts
are not “persons” under section 1983 and are otherwise immune from suit as an arm of the
state government); Harris v. Champion, 51 F.3d 901, 905-06 (10th Cir. 1995) (holding that
Because this issue is jurisdictional, the Court may raise it sua sponte. 38 Before
dismissing any such claims, however, the Court will allow briefing on the
subject. The parties are therefore directed to submit briefs, not to exceed five
pages, addressing the limited issue of whether any official capacity claims
brought against Defendants Becnel, Mussal, Theriot, and McNair are
precluded by the provisions of the Eleventh Amendment. The briefs shall be
submitted within 15 days of the entry of this order.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants Motions are GRANTED IN
PART as outlined herein. Plaintiffs may amend their Complaint within 21
days of the entry of this Order to the extent they can remedy any deficiencies
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall submit any briefing
relative to this Court’s jurisdiction to entertain official-capacity claims against
Defendants Becnel, Mussal, Theriot, and McNair within 15 days of the entry
of this Order. Any such briefs shall not exceed five pages in length.
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is immune from suit under Eleventh Amendment as
“a governmental entity that is an arm of the state”); Landers Seed Co., Inc. v. Champaign
Nat’l Bank, 15 F.3d 729, 731-32 (7th Cir. 1994) (“The Eleventh Amendment, however, bars
federal suits against state courts and other branches of state government[.]”); Clark v.
Clark, 984 F.2d 272, 273 (8th Cir. 1993) (“Courts are not persons within the meaning of 42
U.S.C. § 1983, and, if they were, the action would be barred by the Eleventh Amendment
38 Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Serv. Ctr., 307 F.3d 318, 333 (5th Cir. 2002).
New Orleans, Louisiana this 23rd day of May, 2017.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?