Lafrance v. New Orleans City et al
ORDER & REASONS denying 5 Motion to Strike 1 Complaint. Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 3/17/2017. (mmm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
NEW ORLEANS CITY, ET AL.
SECTION “R” (2)
ORDER AND REASONS
Defendants Orleans Parish Criminal District Court and Judicial
Administrator Robert Kazik (collectively, the Judicial Defendants) move to
strike several allegations in Plaintiff Joseph LaFrance’s complaint under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). For the following reasons, the Judicial
Defendants’ motion is denied.
Plaintiff Joseph LaFrance alleges that he was arrested on an invalid
warrant for unpaid fines and fees and held for three weeks in Orleans Parish
Prison without being brought before a judge. 1 LaFrance further alleges that
no bond was ever set in his case. 2 While incarcerated, LaFrance suffered
R. Doc. 1 at 8.
several seizures and lost his job. 3 LaFrance names the City of New Orleans,
the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court (OPCDC), Judicial Administrator
Robert Kazik, and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman as defendants.4
LaFrance challenges his arrest and incarceration on several grounds.
Specifically, LaFrance alleges that:
1. LaFrance had, in fact, paid all fines and fees due to the court, and
his warrant was therefore issued in error. 5
2. Defendants have a policy of issuing and enforcing such
nonpayment warrants without inquiry into the subject’s ability
to pay, and this practice violates the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. 6
3. LaFrance was “indefinitely” jailed in violation of the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and LaFrance’s
incarceration constitutes wrongful arrest and imprisonment
under Louisiana law. 7
4. LaFrance was deprived of his right to a neutral tribunal because
the prosecutor and judicial officer that seek and approve
Id. at 9.
Id. at 6-7.
Id. at 32.
Id. at 33.
Id. at 33, 35.
nonpayment warrants, and conduct subsequent hearings, are
financially interested in the outcome of such cases. 8
5. Defendants imposed unduly restrictive methods of collection on
LaFrance in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. 9
The Judicial Defendants now move to strike several allegations in
Plaintiff Joseph LaFrance’s complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(f).10 In support, the Judicial Defendants argues that the challenged
allegations are immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. 11
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) allows the court to strike “from
any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). A motion to strike
under Rule 12(f) “is a drastic remedy to be resorted to only when required for
the purposes of justice.” Augustus v. Bd. of Pub. Instruction of Escambia
Cnty., Fla., 306 F.2d 862, 868 (5th Cir. 1962); see also Kaiser Aluminum &
Id. at 33-34.
Id. at 34-35.
R. Doc. 5.
Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1057 (5th Cir.
1982) (“[M]otions to strike a defense are generally disfavored. . . .”); Synergy
Mgmt., LLC v. Lego Juris A/S, No. 07-5892, 2008 WL 4758634, at *1 (E.D.
La. Oct. 24, 2008) (“Motions to strike made under Rule 12(f) are viewed with
disfavor by the federal courts, and are infrequently granted.”). A motion to
strike should be granted only when “the allegations are prejudicial to the
defendant or immaterial to the lawsuit.” Johnson v. Harvey, No. 96-3438,
1998 WL 596745, at *7 (E.D. La. Sept. 8, 1998) (citation omitted).
Immateriality is established by showing that the challenged allegations “can
have no possible bearing upon the subject matter of the litigation.” Bayou
Fleet P’ship v. St. Charles Parish, No. 10-1557, 2011 WL 2680686, at *5 (E.D.
La. Jul. 8, 2011) (citations omitted). Disputed questions of fact cannot be
decided on a motion to strike. Gonzales v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., No.
10-3041, 2011 WL 2607096, at *5 (E.D. La. July 1, 2011).
Defendants move to strike 53 separate sections of LaFrance’s
Defendants group their objections into several categories,
which the Court considers in turn:
R. Doc. 5-2.
A. Allegations pertaining to other criminal defendants and other
The Judicial Defendants argue that “whether other people have been
wronged by the Judicial Defendants in any way whatsoever” is irrelevant and
that allegations to this effect should be stricken. 13 The Judicial Defendants
are mistaken. LaFrance’s claims against the City of New Orleans and Sheriff
Gusman in his official capacity must satisfy the Supreme Court’s Monell test,
which ensures that cities are held responsible only for “their own illegal
acts.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011) (citing Monell v. Dept.
of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)) (emphasis in original). To satisfy Monell,
LaFrance must show, among other things, that these defendants
promulgated a policy “with deliberate indifference to the ‘known or obvious
consequences’ that constitutional violations would result.”
Lafayette City-Par. Consol. Gov’t, 806 F.3d 268, 280 (5th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 579). Accordingly,
under Rule 12(f)’s low materiality bar, these allegations are relevant to
determining whether the City and Sheriff implemented their challenged
policies with the requisite knowledge that constitutional violations would
R. Doc. 5-1 at 5.
The Judicial Defendants’ motion to strike these allegations is
B. Allegations of a conflict of interest in the implementation of court
costs, abuse of court costs collected from criminal defendants, or
misuse of court costs collected from criminal defendants; and
C. References to related information in publications, news reports, and
As noted, LaFrance alleges that he was deprived of his right to a neutral
tribunal because the prosecutor and judicial officer that seek and approve
fines and fee warrants, and conduct subsequent hearings, are financially
interested in the outcome of the case. LaFrance’s allegations concerning how
money derived from fines and fees is spent are relevant to this claim. The
Judicial Defendants’ motion to strike these allegations is therefore denied.
D. References to City of New Orleans budget hearings and statements
made during such hearings
These allegations, like the allegations concerning other people arrested
pursuant to nonpayment warrants, are relevant to establishing City and
Sheriff knowledge of Judicial Defendant practices. The Judicial Defendants’
motion to strike these allegations is therefore denied for the reasons offered
E. Allegations that challenge the general policies and practices of the
The Judicial Defendants’ last challenge also fails. Judicial Defendants
argue that, because LaFrance seeks damages rather than injunctive or
declaratory relief, allegations concerning general policies and practices are
irrelevant. The Judicial Defendants offer no authority to support the idea
that a defendants policies are irrelevant to claim seeking damages. Rather,
LaFrance’s complaint reveals that his allegations can be divided into two
categories: (1) defendants should not have arrested and incarcerated
LaFrance because he owed no fines and fees; and (2) defendants’ policy of
arresting and incarcerating people for failure to pay fines and fees is
constitutionally deficient. The former allegation does not erase or moot the
latter. Because LaFrance’s allegations concerning the Judicial Defendants’
policies and practices are relevant to his claims that the implementation of
those policies violated LaFrance’s constitutional rights, the Judicial
Defendants’ motion to strike these allegations is denied.
Finally, the Court notes that even if the Judicial Defendants could show
that the challenged statements are immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous,
this alone does not suffice to meet their burden. Defendants must also show
prejudice. See Abene v. Jaybar, LLC, 802 F. Supp. 2d 716, 723 (E.D. La.
2011) (“‘Even when technically appropriate and well-founded,’ motions to
strike are not to be granted ‘in the absence of a showing of prejudice to the
moving party.’”) (quoting Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure
§ 1381 (3d ed. 2004) (internal modifications omitted)). Prejudice in this
context requires a showing that failure to strike will negatively impact the
party or litigation in a concrete way. Accordingly, Courts granting such
motions look to factors like delay, and whether the challenged statements
will unnecessarily prolong or prevent discovery, or increase the parties’
expenses. See, e.g., E.E.O.C. v. Bay Ridge Toyota, Inc., 327 F. Supp. 2d 167,
174 (E.D.N.Y. 2004); CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Just Mortg., Inc., No. 09-1909,
2013 WL 6538680, at *7 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 13, 2013); see also Wright & Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1381 n.34 (3d ed. 2004) (collecting cases).
The Judicial Defendants have made no such showing.
For the foregoing reasons, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court and
Judicial Administrator Robert Kazik’s motion to strike is DENIED.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this _____ day of March, 2017.
SARAH S. VANCE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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