Wheat et al v. Craig et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER denying 5 MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order. The MOTION for Preliminary Injunction remains pending. FURTHER ORDERED that the instant action is referred to Magistrate Judge Hornsby for a scheduling conference on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction and the underlying action itself. Plaintiffs are ORDERED to ensure that valid service has been made upon all Defendants prior to such conference. Signed by Judge S Maurice Hicks on 03/22/2017. (crt,McDonnell, D)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
JAMES M. WHEAT, ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 17-0424
JUDGE S. MAURICE HICKS, JR.
JUDGE MIKE CRAIG, ET AL.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE HORNSBY
Before the Court is Plaintiffs James M. Wheat (“Wheat”) and Danny Brinson’s
(“Brinson”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) and
Preliminary Injunction, on behalf of themselves and other putative class members, against
Defendant Sheriff Julian C. Whittington (“Whittington”). See Record Document 5.
Because the Court finds that the showing made is insufficient to warrant granting this
extraordinary remedy, the Motion for TRO is DENIED. The Motion for Preliminary
Injunction remains pending before the Court.
PLAINTIFFS’ ALLEGATIONS1 AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On March 6, 2017, officers of the Bossier City Police Department arrested Plaintiffs
for panhandling in violation of La. R.S. § 14:97.1. See Record Document 5-1 at 4. After
being detained at the Bossier City jail for one night, authorities transferred Plaintiffs to the
Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Maximum Security Detention Center (“Bossier Max”). See id.
Once there, deputies informed Plaintiffs that they were being held on $1,000 bail. See id.
at 5. This bail amount is in accordance with the bail schedule for Bossier Parish, which
sets bail at $1,000.00 for all misdemeanors for which more specific bail amounts are not
The factual statements contained in this section are based upon Plaintiffs’ allegations
and affidavits. See Record Documents 1, 5, 5-1, 5-2, and 5-3. As such, they do not
constitute factual findings by the Court.
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set. See Record Document 5-4 (the bail schedule). Plaintiffs were unable to pay the bond.
See Record Document 5-1 at 5. Bail bondsmen refused to provide Brinson with bail
because he is not a resident of Louisiana. See id. Though Wheat is a resident of
Louisiana, he was unable to pay the 12% fee that bail bondsmen are allowed to charge
under Louisiana law before acting as sureties for pretrial detainees. See id. Thus, neither
was able to pay the $1,000.00 bail, and Plaintiffs remained incarcerated. See id.
On March 8, 2017, Plaintiffs appeared in hearings before a judge of the 26th
Judicial District Court (“26th JDC”). See id. Plaintiffs allege that Sheriff’s deputies
instructed them that they were only allowed to answer three questions from the judge:
whether each of them (1) knew the charge against him; (2) had an attorney; and (3) would
like to have one appointed if he did not have one. See id. Plaintiffs’ affidavits state that
the hearings lasted less than two minutes and did not include a discussion of bail. See
Record Documents 5-2 and 5-3. Brinson chose to request appointment of counsel, while
Wheat did not. See id.
The 26th JDC also has a standing order regarding the payment of Louisiana’s
$40.00 application fee for the appointment of the public defender to represent a criminal
defendant. See Record Document 5-5. This order states that “the Bossier Parish Sheriff
and Webster Parish Sheriff, prior to releasing on bond any defendant who has been
appointed the Public Defender for representation, shall collect the $40.00 application fee
. . . due to the Public Defender’s Office.” Id. Wheat’s affidavit states that he cannot afford
to pay this fee. See Record Document 5-3. Plaintiffs currently remain incarcerated at
Bossier Max. See Record Documents 5-2 and 5-3.
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On March 20, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant federal civil rights class action suit,
seeking solely declaratory and injunctive relief against Whittington and Judges Mike
Craig, Jeff R. Thompson, E. Charles Jacobs, Mike Nerren, and Parker Self in their official
capacities. See Record Document 1. Plaintiffs challenged (1) the bail schedule and (2)
the standing order regarding payment of the public defender fee, arguing that both of
these measures violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth
Amendment. See id. On March 21, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion for TRO and
Preliminary Injunction. See Record Document 5.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
A TRO is a form of equitable injunctive relief that a court may issue before there is
an opportunity to hold a full hearing on an application for a preliminary injunction. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b). To obtain a temporary restraining order, "the moving party must
establish four factors: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) a
substantial threat that failure to grant the injunction will result in irreparable injury, (3) the
threatened injury outweighs any damage that the injunction may cause the opposing
party, and (4) the injunction will not disserve the public interest." Harris v. Monroe City
Sch. Bd., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115871 at *8-9 (W.D. La. 2012), citing Lakedreams v.
Taylor, 932 F.2d 1103, 1107 (5th Cir. 1991). Injunctive relief "is an extraordinary remedy
and should be granted only if the movant has clearly carried the burden of persuasion
with respect to all four factors." Allied Marketing Group, Inc. v. CDL Marketing, Inc., 878
F.2d 806, 809 (5th Cir. 1989).
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The Court has considered each of the four factors upon which a movant must carry
the burden of persuasion to obtain a TRO, and the Court finds that granting the
“extraordinary remedy” of a TRO is unwarranted based upon the showing made in the
instant Motion. Id. In particular, the Court finds that the fourth element, which requires the
Court to examine whether the issuance of the TRO will serve the public interest, weighs
in favor of denying the TRO. Issuing the broad order requested by Plaintiffs (1) declaring
that both of the policies at issue in the instant action are unconstitutional and (2) enjoining
Whittington from enforcing them would create an untenable situation in both Bossier and
Webster Parishes, as currently established procedures for handling bail matters would be
upended overnight with no replacement procedure in place. Furthermore, issuing the
requested relief would release Plaintiffs from jail. The Court has no information upon
which it could determine whether Plaintiffs and the other unnamed members of their
purported class pose a danger to themselves or the public. For these reasons, the Court
finds that Plaintiffs have not met their burden of clearly carrying the burden of persuasion
with respect to all four of the TRO factors. See Lakedreams, 932 F.2d at 1107; see Allied
Marketing Group, Inc., 878 F.2d at 809.
Plaintiffs have asserted arguments regarding one of the most fundamental rights,
the right to liberty itself. However, at the inception of this litigation, the Court finds that (1)
denial of the TRO in favor of a more considered decision on the merits of a preliminary
injunction, after an opportunity to review counter-arguments and evidence from
Defendants, better serves the public interest than granting the TRO; and (2) the public
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interest factor carries greater weight than any factors that may weigh in favor of granting
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion for a TRO (Record Document 5) be and is
hereby DENIED. The Motion for Preliminary Injunction remains pending before the Court.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the instant action is hereby referred to Magistrate
Judge Hornsby for a scheduling conference for the Motion for Preliminary Injunction
(Record Document 5) and the underlying action itself, which seeks a permanent
injunction, declaratory relief, and attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs are hereby ORDERED to
ensure that valid service has been made upon all Defendants prior to such conference.
THUS DONE AND SIGNED at Shreveport, Louisiana, on this the 22nd day of
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