Lafrance v. New Orleans City et al, No. 2:2016cv14439 - Document 20 (E.D. La. 2017)

Court Description: ORDER & REASONS denying 5 Motion to Strike 1 Complaint. Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 3/17/2017. (mmm)
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Lafrance v. New Orleans City et al Doc. 20 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA J OSEPH LAFRANCE CIVIL ACTION VERSUS NO. 16-14439 NEW ORLEANS CITY, ET AL. SECTION “R” (2) ORD ER AN D REASON S Defendants Orleans Parish Crim inal District Court and J udicial Adm inistrator Robert Kazik (collectively, the J udicial Defendants) m ove to strike several allegations in Plaintiff J oseph LaFrance’s com plaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). For the following reasons, the J udicial Defendants’ m otion is denied. I. BACKGROU N D Plaintiff J oseph 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 1 2 R. Doc. 1 at 8. Id. Dockets.Justia.com several seizures and lost his job. 3 LaFrance nam es the City of New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Crim inal District Court (OPCDC), J udicial Adm inistrator Robert Kazik, and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusm an 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 nonpaym ent warrants without inquiry into the subject’s ability to pay, and this practice violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Am endm ents to the U.S. Constitution. 6 3. LaFrance was “indefinitely” jailed in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Am endm ent, and LaFrance’s incarceration constitutes wrongful arrest and im prisonm ent 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 3 4 5 6 7 Id. at Id. at Id. at Id. at Id. at 9. 6-7. 32. 33. 33, 35. 2 nonpaym ent warrants, and conduct subsequent hearings, are financially interested in the outcom e of such cases. 8 5. Defendants im posed unduly restrictive m ethods of collection on LaFrance in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Am endm ent. 9 The J udicial Defendants now m ove to strike several allegations in Plaintiff J oseph LaFrance’s complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). 10 In support, the J udicial Defendants argues that the challenged allegations are im material, im pertinent, and scandalous. 11 II. LEGAL STAN D ARD Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) allows the court to strike “from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, im m aterial, im pertinent, or scandalous m atter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). A m otion 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 Escam bia Cnty ., Fla., 30 6 F.2d 862, 868 (5th Cir. 1962); see also Kaiser Alum inum & 8 9 10 11 Id. at 33-34. Id. at 34-35. R. Doc. 5. Id. 3 Chem . Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipy ards, Inc., 677 F.2d 10 45, 10 57 (5th Cir. 1982) (“[M]otions to strike a defense are generally disfavored. . . .”); Sy nergy Mgm t., LLC v. Lego Juris A/ S, No. 0 7-5892, 20 0 8 WL 4758634, at *1 (E.D. La. Oct. 24, 20 0 8) (“Motions to strike m ade under Rule 12(f) are viewed with disfavor by the federal courts, and are infrequently granted.”). A m otion to strike should be granted only when “the allegations are prejudicial to the defendant or im m aterial to the lawsuit.” Johnson v. Harvey , No. 96-3438, 1998 WL 596745, at *7 (E.D. La. Sept. 8, 1998) (citation om itted). Im m ateriality is established by showing that the challenged allegations “can have no possible bearing upon the subject m atter of the litigation.” Bay ou Fleet P’ship v. St. Charles Parish, No. 10 -1557, 20 11 WL 2680 686, at *5 (E.D. La. J ul. 8, 20 11) (citations om itted). Disputed questions of fact cannot be decided on a m otion to strike. Gonzales v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., No. 10 -30 41, 20 11 WL 260 70 96, at *5 (E.D. La. J uly 1, 20 11). III. D ISCU SSION Defendants m ove to strike 53 separate sections of LaFrance’s com plaint. 12 Defendants group their objections into several categories, which the Court considers in turn: 12 R. Doc. 5-2. 4 A. Allegations pertaining to other crim inal defendants and other crim inal proceeding; The J udicial Defendants argue that “whether other people have been wronged by the J udicial Defendants in any way whatsoever” is irrelevant and that allegations to this effect should be stricken. 13 The J udicial Defendants are m istaken. LaFrance’s claim s against the City of New Orleans and Sheriff Gusm an in his official capacity m ust satisfy the Supreme Court’s Monell test, which ensures that cities are held responsible only for “their ow n illegal acts.” Connick v. Thom pson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (20 11) (citing Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)) (em phasis in original). To satisfy Monell, LaFrance m ust show, am ong other things, that these defendants prom ulgated a policy “with deliberate indifference to the ‘known or obvious consequences’ that constitutional violations would result.” Mason v. Lafay ette City -Par. Consol. Gov’t, 80 6 F.3d 268, 280 (5th Cir. 20 15) (quoting Piotrow ski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 579). Accordingly, under Rule 12(f)’s low m ateriality bar, these allegations are relevant to determ ining whether the City and Sheriff im plem ented their challenged policies with the requisite knowledge that constitutional violations would 13 R. Doc. 5-1 at 5. 5 result. The J udicial Defendants’ motion to strike these allegations is therefore denied. B. Allegations of a conflict of interest in the im plementation of court costs, abuse of court costs collected from crim inal defendants, or m isuse of court costs collected from crim inal defendants; and C. References to related inform ation in publications, news reports, and audit reports; 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 outcom e of the case. LaFrance’s allegations concerning how m oney derived from fines and fees is spent are relevant to this claim . The J udicial Defendants’ m otion to strike these allegations is therefore denied. D. References to City of New Orleans budget hearings and statem ents m ade during such hearings These allegations, like the allegations concerning other people arrested pursuant to nonpaym ent warrants, are relevant to establishing City and Sheriff knowledge of J udicial Defendant practices. The J udicial Defendants’ m otion to strike these allegations is therefore denied for the reasons offered above. 6 E. Allegations that challenge the general policies and practices of the J udicial Defendants. The J udicial Defendants’ last challenge also fails. J udicial Defendants argue that, because LaFrance seeks dam ages rather than injunctive or declaratory relief, allegations concerning general policies and practices are irrelevant. The J udicial Defendants offer no authority to support the idea that a defendants policies are irrelevant to claim seeking dam ages. Rather, LaFrance’s com plaint 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 m oot the latter. Because LaFrance’s allegations concerning the J udicial Defendants’ policies and practices are relevant to his claim s that the im plementation of those policies violated LaFrance’s constitutional rights, the J udicial Defendants’ m otion to strike these allegations is denied. Finally, the Court notes that even if the J udicial Defendants could show that the challenged statem ents are imm aterial, im pertinent, or scandalous, this alone does not suffice to meet their burden. Defendants m ust also show prejudice. See Abene v. Jay bar, LLC, 80 2 F. Supp. 2d 716, 723 (E.D. La. 20 11) (“‘Even when technically appropriate and well-founded,’ m otions to 7 strike are not to be granted ‘in the absence of a showing of prejudice to the m oving party.’”) (quoting Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1381 (3d ed. 20 0 4) (internal m odifications om itted)). Prejudice in this context requires a showing that failure to strike will negatively im pact the party or litigation in a concrete way. Accordingly, Courts granting such m otions 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 Toy ota, Inc., 327 F. Supp. 2d 167, 174 (E.D.N.Y. 20 0 4); CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Just Mortg., Inc., No. 0 9-190 9, 20 13 WL 6538680 , at *7 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 13, 20 13); see also Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1381 n.34 (3d ed. 20 0 4) (collecting cases). The J udicial Defendants have made no such showing. IV. CON CLU SION For the foregoing reasons, Orleans Parish Crim inal District Court and J udicial Adm inistrator Robert Kazik’s m otion to strike is DENIED. New Orleans, Louisiana, this _ 17th _ day of March, 20 17. ___ _____________________ SARAH S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT J UDGE 8