Angela Braud v. Evin Spell, et al, No. 15-31075 (5th Cir. 2016)

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Case: 15-31075 Document: 00513574742 Page: 1 Date Filed: 06/30/2016 IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT No. 15-31075 Summary Calendar United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit FILED June 30, 2016 ANGELA BRAUD, Plaintiff - Appellant Cross-Appellee Lyle W. Cayce Clerk v. EVIN SCOTT SPELL; RICKY FOX; TOWN OF VINTON, Defendants - Appellees Cross-Appellants Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana USDC No. 2:14-CV-3132 Before KING, CLEMENT, and OWEN, Circuit Judges. PER CURIAM:* Angela Braud appeals the district court’s denial of her various state and federal claims alleging that she was unlawfully arrested. The district court determined that she was arrested pursuant to a valid warrant based on probable cause. This determination precluded recovery on all claims. “[T]he ultimate determination of whether there is probable cause for the arrest is a Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR. R. 47.5.4. * Case: 15-31075 Document: 00513574742 Page: 2 Date Filed: 06/30/2016 No. 15-31075 question of law we review de novo.” United States v. Castro, 166 F.3d 728, 733 (5th Cir. 1999). Here, the district court concluded that “[t]he . . . information in the affidavit—the polygraph examination results, the medication audit report from the previous school year, the statements from [school] staff, and the statements of Braud’s ex-husband and daughter—was certainly sufficient for a finding of probable cause.” Braud v. Spell, No. 2:14-CV-03132, 2015 WL 7432813, at *2 (W.D. La. Nov. 19, 2015). We agree. Because there was probable cause to arrest, the district court did not err in rejecting Braud’s claims. Defendants appeal the district court’s denial of their motion for attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. “We review a denial of § 1988 attorney’s fees for abuse of discretion.” Dean v. Riser, 240 F.3d 505, 507 (5th Cir. 2001). “[P]revailing defendants in civil rights cases may be awarded attorney’s fees only where plaintiff’s action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation . . . .” Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 708 F.2d 991, 995 (5th Cir. 1983). “Thus, attorney’s fees for prevailing defendants are presumptively unavailable unless a showing is made that the underlying civil rights suit was vexatious, frivolous, or otherwise without merit.” Dean, 240 F.3d at 508. Here, the district court issued its final ruling only after a contested bench trial where both parties presented a case—a fact that weighs against a finding of frivolousness. See, e.g., Vaughner v. Pulito, 804 F.2d 873, 878 (5th Cir. 1986) (no abuse of discretion in denying defendant’s request for attorney’s fees where action proceeded to trial on the merits); cf. Myers v. City of West Monroe, 211 F.3d 289, 293 (5th Cir. 2000) (abuse of discretion in awarding attorney’s fees to defendants after complete trial). Thus, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying attorney’s fees here. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED. Defendants’ motion for damages and costs under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38 is DENIED. 2