Costanza v. Jefferson Parish et al, No. 2:2016cv17670 - Document 36 (E.D. La. 2017)

Court Description: ORDER AND REASONS - For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS defendants' motions to dismiss 23 , 25 and DENIES defendants' motion to stay 26 . Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 6/26/2017. (cg)
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Costanza v. Jefferson Parish et al Doc. 36 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA KATHERINE P. COSTANZA VERSUS CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-17670 J EFFERSON PARISH, ET AL. SECTION “R” (2) ORD ER AN D REASON S Before the Court are defendants’ m otions to dism iss plaintiff’s claim s in part, 1 and defendants’ m otion to stay. 2 For the following reasons, the Court grants defendants’ motions to dism iss and denies defendants’ m otion to stay. I. BACKGROU N D Plaintiff Katherine Costanza has been em ployed as a civil servant by J efferson Parish, Louisiana, for over 24 years. 3 According to her complaint, she was prom oted from her position as Environm ental Quality Supervisor to Assistant Director for Environm ental Affairs on J uly 31, 20 0 6. 4 On December 26, 20 15, Costanza was dem oted from her position as Assistant 1 2 3 4 R. Docs. 23 and 25. R. Doc. 26. R. Doc. 1 at 3. Id. Dockets.Justia.com Director to Adm inistrative Management Specialist with the Division of Public Works Adm inistration. 5 Plaintiff alleges that she was dem oted to allow Margaret Winter to return to the position of Assistant Director. 6 Plaintiff further alleges that Winter was the Assistant Director 25 years ago, but she took a leave of absence to becom e the Director of Environm ental Affairs. 7 When a recent change in the J efferson Parish Adm inistration resulted in Winter’s losing her position as Director, she was allowed to return to the Assistant Director position, ousting Costanza. 8 According to Costanza, Winter m ade the decision to demote Costanza with J efferson Parish em ployees J ohn Dum as, Kazem Alikhani, and Lauren Call. 9 Costanza alleges that a “devastating” decrease in pay accom panied her dem otion, as her pay grade was reduced from 40 to 28, resulting in a decrease in salary of approxim ately $15,0 0 0 annually. 10 Her new salary is also capped at a num ber significantly lower than the cap for the Assistant 5 6 7 8 9 10 Id. Id. at 4. Id. Id. Id. at 5. Id. at 4. 2 Director position. 11 Plaintiff further alleges that this annual reduction will lead to a corresponding reduction in her pension and benefits. 12 On J anuary 25, 20 16, plaintiff filed an adm inistrative appeal of her dem otion with the J efferson Parish Personnel Board. 13 While that challenge was pending, on December 21, 20 16, plaintiff filed this action against J efferson Parish, the J efferson Parish Personnel Department, the J efferson Parish Departm ent of Environm ental Affairs, the J efferson Parish Department of Public Works, Dum as (in his individual and official capacities), Winter (in her individual and official capacities), Alikhani (in his individual and official capacities), and Call (in her individual and official capacities). 14 Plaintiff asserts claim s under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that her dem otion violates her substantive and procedural due process rights, as well as her rights under the Equal Protection Clause. 15 She also asserts that she was wrongfully dem oted under Louisiana law. 16 Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief (in the form of reinstatem ent and backpay), as well as damages. 17 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Id. Id. R. Doc. 26-3. R. Doc. 1 at 1-2. Id. at 5-7. Id. at 8. Id. at 7-9. 3 Defendants now move to dism iss with prejudice the claim s against J efferson Parish Personnel Department, J efferson Parish Departm ent of Environm ental Affairs, and the J efferson Parish Departm ent of Public Works, 18 as well as the official capacity claim s against Dum as, Winter, Alikhani, and Call. 19 Defendants have also m oved to stay this case pending the resolution of plaintiff’s state adm inistrative proceeding. 20 Plaintiff has no opposition to both m otions to dism iss but opposes defendants’ m otion to stay. 21 II. D ISCU SSION To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) m otion to dism iss, the plaintiff m ust plead “sufficient factual m atter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (20 0 9) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Tw om bly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (20 0 7)). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the m isconduct alleged.” Id. A court m ust accept all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the 18 19 20 21 R. Doc. 23. R. Doc. 25. R. Doc. 26. R. Doc. 29; R. Doc. 30 . 4 light m ost favorable to the plaintiff. Gines v. D.R. Horton, Inc., 699 F.3d 812, 816 (5th Cir. 20 12) (quoting In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 20 5 (5th Cir. 20 0 7)). But a court is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A legally sufficient com plaint m ust establish m ore than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff’s claim is true. Id. It need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it m ust go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or form ulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action. Id. (citing Tw om bly , 550 U.S. at 555). In other words, the face of the com plaint m ust contain enough factual m atter to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each elem ent of the plaintiff’s claim . Lorm and v. U.S. Unw ired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 20 0 9). If there are insufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, Tw om bly , 550 U.S. at 555, or if it is apparent from the face of the com plaint that there is an insuperable bar to relief, see Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (20 0 7); Carbe v. Lappin, 492 F.3d 325, 328 n.9 (5th Cir. 20 0 7), the claim must be dism issed. 5 III. D ISCU SSION A. Mo tio n s to D is m is s First, defendants argue that the claim s against J efferson Parish Personnel Departm ent, J efferson Parish Department of Environm ental Affairs, and J efferson Parish Department of Public Works m ust be dism issed because they are not juridical entities capable of suing or being sued. Rule 17(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the capacity to sue or be sued is determ ined by “the law of the state where the court is located.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(b). Under Louisiana law, “a government body m ay not be sued if it is m erely a dependent sub-body of a larger government agency.” Jefferson v. Delgado Cm ty . Coll., No. 13-2626, 20 13 WL 5530 337, at *1 (E.D. La. Oct. 7, 20 13) (citing Dejoie v. Medley , 945 So. 2d 968, 972 (La. App. 2 Cir. 20 0 6)). The Louisiana Suprem e Court has adopted a functional approach to determ ining whether a governm ental body is a separate and distinct juridical person, asking if the body has “the legal capacity to function independently and not just as the agency or division of another governmental entity.” Roberts v. Sew erage and W ater Board of N ew Orleans, 634 So. 2d 341, 347 (La. 1994) (citations om itted). Here, J efferson Parish is organized pursuant to a hom e rule charter, as authorized by Article VI, Section 4 of the Louisiana Constitution. See La. 6 Const. art. VI, § 4. Article 1 of the Hom e Rule Charter of J efferson Parish provides the parish with “all the powers, rights, privileges, and authority” to which it is entitled under the Louisiana Constitution. Jefferson Parish Hom e Rule Charter, Art. 1, § 1.0 1. In addition, the charter designates the Parish President as the chief adm inistrative officer of the parish, responsible for the “adm inistration and supervision of all parish departments, offices, agencies, and special districts.” Id. § 3.0 3. The Parish President also has the authority to appoint and remove all adm inistrative officers and em ployees. Id. Accordingly, under the J efferson Parish Home Charter, these departmental defendants do not function independently of the J efferson Parish President. As such, these departm ental defendants lack the capacity to sue or be sued, and the claim s against them m ust be dism issed with prejudice. See, e.g., Causey v. Par. of Tangipahoa, 167 F. Supp. 2d 898, 90 9 (E.D. La. 20 0 1) (finding that “City of Ham m ond Police Departm ent is merely a department within the City of Ham m ond, and not a proper party defendant”); Manley v. State of Louisiana, No. 0 0 -1939, 20 0 1 WL 50 6175, at *2 (E.D. La. May 11, 20 0 1) (“The Court dism isses plaintiff’s claims against the New Orleans Police Department because it is sim ply a department of the City governm ent and is not am enable to suit.”) (citations om itted). 7 Next, defendants argue that the official capacity claims against the individual defendants m ust be dism issed because they are duplicative of Costanza’s claims against J efferson Parish. As defendants correctly state, in section 1983 actions, claims against individuals in their official capacity are treated as claim s against the m unicipality. See, e.g., Hafer v. Melo, 50 2 U.S. 21, 25 (1991) (citing Kentucky v. Graham , 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985)). Plaintiff’s com plaint alleges the same claim s against all defendants, and m akes no distinction between the acts of J efferson Parish and the acts of the individual defendants, in either their individual or official capacities. Therefore, the official capacity claim s against the individual defendants are duplicative of the claim s against J efferson Parish. Plaintiff cannot m aintain an action both against the individual defendants in their official capacities and J efferson Parish, as this would allow the m unicipal defendant to be liable twice for the same alleged conduct. LaMartina-How ell v. St. Tam m any Par. Sch. Bd., No. 0 7-1168, 20 0 9 WL 3837323, at *4 (E.D. La. Nov. 12, 20 0 9) (citing Castro Rom ero v. Becken, 256 F.3d 349, 355 (5th Cir. 20 0 1)). Accordingly, plaintiffs’ official capacity claim s against Dum as, Winter, Alikhani, and Call are dism issed with prejudice. 8 B. Mo tio n to Stay Defendants also move to stay this case pending the resolution of plaintiff’s state adm inistrative proceedings. Federal courts have a “virtual[] unflagging obligation . . . to exercise the jurisdiction given them .” Colo. River W ater Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 80 0 , 817 (1976) (citations om itted). “However, in ‘extraordinary and narrow’ circum stances, a district court m ay abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a case when there is a concurrent state proceeding . . . .” Murphy v. Uncle Ben’s, Inc., 168 F.3d 734, 737 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting Colo. River, 424 U.S. at 813). The court’s decision whether to abstain should be based on considerations of “[w]ise judicial adm inistration, giving regard to conservation of judicial resources and com prehensive disposition of litigation.” Id. (quoting Kerotest Mfg. Co. v. C-O-Tw o Fire Equip. Co., 342 U.S. 180 , 183 (1952)). For a court to abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Colorado River doctrine, it first m ust find that the federal and state court actions are “parallel.” Hartford Accident & Indem . Co. v. Costa Lines Cargo Servs., Inc., 90 3 F.2d 352, 360 (5th Cir. 1990 ). Generally, actions are parallel when the same parties are litigating the same issues. See Republicbank Dallas, N at’l Ass’n v. McIntosh, 828 F.2d 1120 , 1121 (5th Cir. 1987). But the Fifth Circuit has rejected the argum ent that the parties and issues must be completely 9 identical for the action to be parallel. See Brow n v. Pacific Life Ins. Co., 462 F.3d 384, 395 n.7 (5th Cir. 20 0 6) (noting that “‘there need not be applied in every instance a m incing insistence on precise identity’ of parties and issues”) (quoting McIntosh, 828 F.2d at 1121); accord Polu Kai Servs., LLC v. Ins. Co. of State of Pa., No. 0 6-10 70 8, 20 0 7 WL 716115, at *2 (E.D. La. Mar. 6, 20 0 7) (finding actions parallel despite the presence of additional issues in the state court litigation and despite that the state court plaintiff was not a party in federal action). Here, both the federal and state proceedings revolve around Costanza’s dem otion, and though her state action nam ed only the J efferson Parish Department of Public Works as a defendant, she ultim ately seeks to hold the sam e body (J efferson Parish) liable for the same alleged wrongs. Further, in both cases, she asserts that J efferson Parish violated her substantive and procedural due process rights, and that Section 6.1 of the J efferson Parish Personnel Rules is unconstitutionally void for vagueness and overbreadth. 22 Thus, the Court finds that the two actions are parallel. See Kenner Acquisitions, LLC v. BellSouth Telecom m unications, Inc., No. 0 6-3927, 20 0 7 WL 625833, at *2 (E.D. La. Feb. 26, 20 0 7) (finding actions parallel where the proceedings 22 Com pare R. Doc. 1 at 5-7 w ith R. Doc. 26-3 at 5-6. 10 consisted of “substantially the sam e parties litigating substantially the same issues”) (citation om itted); Polu Kai, 20 0 7 WL 716115, at *2. The Court next m ust determ ine whether exceptional circum stances exist that would perm it the court to decline jurisdiction in the instant m atter. See Murphy , 168 F.3d at 738. The Supreme Court has set forth six factors to guide this inquiry: (1) assum ption by either court of jurisdiction over a res; (2) the relative inconvenience of the forum s; (3) the avoidance of piecemeal litigation; (4) the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent forum s; (5) whether and to what extent federal law provides the rules of decision on the merits; and (6) the adequacy of the state proceedings to protect the rights of the party invoking federal jurisdiction. W ilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 285-86 (1995). “No one factor is necessarily determ inative; a carefully considered judgm ent taking into account both the obligation to exercise jurisdiction and the combination of factors counseling against that exercise is required.” Colo. River, 424 U.S. at 818-19. The Court m ust balance the factors carefully, “with the balance heavily weighted in favor of the exercise of jurisdiction.” Moses H. Cone Mem ’l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 16 (1983). 11 1. Assum ption by Either Court of Jurisdiction Over a Res Neither this Court nor the state tribunal has assum ed jurisdiction over any res or property in this case. The absence of this factor, however, is not neutral. See Murphy , 168 F.3d at 738. Rather, it weighs against abstention. Id. The Court declines defendants’ invitation to ignore binding circuit precedent, and will not follow courts beyond this Circuit that have treated this factor as neutral in situations like this. Cf. Reiseck v. Universal Com m c’ns of Miam i, Inc., 141 F. Supp. 3d 1295, 130 5 (S.D. Fla. 20 15) (finding first factor neutral when case did not involve property). 2. The Relative Inconvenience of the Forum s Both the federal and the state tribunal are located in the New Orleans, Louisiana metropolitan area. Therefore, neither forum is m ore or less convenient than the other. The absence of any inconvenience weighs against abstention. 23 Murphy , 168 F.3d at 738; Gam m on v. McLain, No. 14-1184, 23 Defendants contend that the J efferson Parish Personnel Board is closer to the location of the m ajority of defendants and therefore the federal court is m ore inconvenient. R. Doc. 26-2 at 7. While the Board m ay be closer, the locations are less than 9 m iles apart, and any slight inconvenience from this additional distance does not rise to a level sufficient to favor abstention. Defendants’ reply cites an unpublished case from the Western District of Louisiana, Roy al Manufactured Hom es, LLC v. N ew Ham pshire Ins. Co., 20 12 WL 70 40 86 (W.D. La. Mar. 1, 20 12), to argue that this factor does not weigh against abstention but is actually neutral. Roy al is contrary to binding 12 20 15 WL 160 449, at *2 (E.D. La. J an. 13, 20 15) (“Both the federal and state proceedings are located in southeastern Louisiana. Therefore, neither forum is m ore or less convenient than the other. The absence of this factor weighs against abstention.”) (citation om itted). 3. The Avoidance of Piecem eal Litigation The anim ating concern at the heart of this factor is the “avoidance of piecem eal litigation, and the concom itant danger of inconsistent rulings with respect to a piece of property.” Black Sea Inv., Ltd. v. United Heritage Corp., 20 4 F.3d 647, 650 (5th Cir. 20 0 0 ) (emphasis in original). But the “prevention of duplicative litigation is not a factor to be considered in an abstention determ ination.” Evanston Ins. Co. v. Jim co, Inc., 844 F.2d 1185, 1192 (5th Cir. 1988) (citing Colo. River, 424 U.S. at 817) (em phasis added). This is because “[d]uplicative litigation, wasteful though it m ay be, is a necessary cost of our nation’s m aintenance of two separate and distinct judicial systems possessed of frequently overlapping jurisdiction.” Black Sea Inv., Ltd. v. United Heritage Corp., 20 4 F.3d 647, 650 (5th Cir. 20 0 0 ) (em phasis in original). Fifth Circuit precedent. See, e.g., Murphy , 168 F.3d at 738; Stew art v. W estern Heritage Ins. Co., 438 F.3d 488, 492 (5th Cir. 20 0 6); Black Sea Inv., Ltd. v. United Heritage Corp., 20 4 F.3d 647, 650 (5th Cir. 20 0 0 ). 13 Although Fifth Circuit cases have im plied that “there is no such danger” of piecem eal litigation when there is no res or property involved, id. at 651 (citing Evanston Ins. Co., 844 F.2d at 1192), that there is no res or property involved is not dispositive and does not autom atically m ean there is no potential for piecemeal litigation. See Stew art v. W estern Heritage Ins. Co., 438 F.3d 488, 492 (5th Cir. 20 0 6); Saucier v. Aviva Life and Annuity Co., 70 1 F.3d 458, 463-64 (5th Cir. 20 12). Accordingly, that there is no res or property at issue here does not end the inquiry. Here, the federal and state actions involve the same plaintiff, sim ilar defendants, and substantially the same issues, namely, whether Costanza’s dem otion violated her due process rights. As the Fifth Circuit has explained, the concern with piecemeal litigation arises where parallel lawsuits “‘pose[] a risk of inconsistent outcom es not preventable by principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel.” Saucier v. Aviva Life and Annuity Co., 70 1 F.3d 458, 464 (5th Cir. 20 12) (quoting W oodford v. Cm ty . Action Agency of Greene Cty ., Inc., 239 F.3d 517, 524 (2d Cir. 20 0 1)). 24 And while it is true that any tim e duplicative litigation exists, the possibility of inconsistent 24 The classic example of piecemeal litigation arises “where all of the potentially liable defendants are parties in one lawsuit, but in the other lawsuit, one defendant seeks a declaration of nonliability and the other potentially liable parties are not parties.” Saucier, 70 1 F.3d at 464 (quoting W oodford, 239 F.3d at 524). 14 judgm ents also exists, this possibility is not a valid reason by itself to abstain. See Kelly Inv., Inc. v. Cont’l Com m on Corp., 315 F.3d 494, 498 (5th Cir. 20 0 2). Defendants acknowledge the distinction between piecem eal and duplicative litigation, but argue that the litigation is piecemeal because plaintiff’s federal suit is against defendants that are not parties in the state action and asserts a claim not before the state court (the Equal Protection claim ). As defendants correctly assert, there is som e potential for piecem eal litigation here. See Stew art, 438 F.3d at 492 (noting potential for piecemeal litigation when state court was only forum hearing breach of fiduciary claim and only forum hearing claim s against a specific defendant). Nevertheless, in m any situations principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel can elim inate the problem of inconsistent judgm ents on the duplicative issues. See Kelly , 315 F.3d 494, 499 (5th Cir. 20 0 2) (acknowledging the possibility of piecemeal litigation but noting that if “one court render[s] judgment before the other, res judicata will ensure proper order” and m itigate the concern); Saucier, 70 1 F.3d at 464. Unfortunately, neither party has briefed the issue of the applicability vel non of res judicata or collateral estoppel (including which law, state or federal, would govern the issue). Because it is 15 not clear on this record that the risk of piecemeal litigation can be avoided here, this factor favors abstention. 4. The Order in W hich Jurisdiction W as Obtained by the Concurrent Forum s The Supreme Court has stated that “priority should not be m easured exclusively by which com plaint was filed first, but rather in terms of how m uch progress has been made in the two actions.” Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 21. Here, the state court petition was filed on J anuary 25, 20 16, and was pending for m ore than 11 m onths before this federal lawsuit was filed on December 21, 20 16. 25 In the state tribunal, the parties have exchanged written discovery and have substantially com pleted the adm inistrative action. 26 Aside from the filing of plaintiff’s com plaint, there has not been m uch progress in the federal action. 27 Thus, this factor favors abstention. See Sherm ohm ad v. N .Y. Life Ins. Co., No. 0 6-60 72, 20 0 6 WL 2513398, at *4 (E.D. La. Aug. 25, 20 0 6) (fact that state action has progressed further favors abstention); cf. Stew art, 438 F.3d at 493 (noting that when federal 25 Com pare R. Doc. 26-3 at 2 w ith R. Doc. 1. R. Doc. 26-2 at 3, 9. 27 Most defendants in the federal action were not served until March 16, 20 17, and their answers were not due until April 7, 20 17. No scheduling order has been entered in this case. 16 26 “case has clearly progressed further . . . this factor favors federal jurisdiction”). 5. W hether and to W hat Extent Federal Law Provides the Rules of Decision on the Merits Although both actions assert that Costanza was wrongfully dem oted under Louisiana law, Costanza’s primary argum ent in both cases is that her dem otion violated her constitutionally protected due process rights. The Suprem e Court has noted that although “in some rare circum stances the presence of state-law issues m ay weigh in favor of [abstention], the presence of federal-law issues m ust always be a m ajor consideration weighing against [abstention].” Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 26. Defendants assert that these “rare circum stances” are met here, because Costanza’s lawsuit also seeks to interpret a J efferson Parish Personnel Rule. 28 This argument m isunderstands the Court’s task, which is not to find “some substantial reason for the exercise of federal jurisdiction by the district court; . . . [but] to ascertain whether there exist ‘exceptional’ circum stances, the ‘clearest of justifications,’ that can suffice under Colorado River to justify the surrender of that jurisdiction.” Id. at 25-26 (em phasis in original) (quoting Colo. River, 424 U.S. at 819). Further, Costanza does not m erely seek an interpretation 28 R. Doc. 26-2 at 10 . 17 of the Personnel Rule, she is a m aking a federal constitutional challenge to the rule. That the Court m ay be called upon to interpret a J efferson Parish Personnel Rule is not sufficiently rare or exceptional to warrant abstention, especially when the rule is attacked under federal law. Thus, the strong presence of federal law issues here weighs against abstention. 29 6. The Adequacy of the State Proceedings in Protecting the Rights of the Party Invoking Federal Jurisdiction Plaintiff asserts that because her claims are federal, a federal court will be “in a superior position” to hear her claim s. 30 But this factor does not turn on either court’s “superiority,” and plaintiff fails to m ake any argument that her rights will not be protected in the state tribunal or that the tribunal is inadequate. 31 Still, under Fifth Circuit precedent this factor “‘can only be a neutral factor or one that weighs against, not for, abstention.’” Black Sea, 20 4 F.3d at 651 (quoting Evanston, 844 F.2d at 1193). Although courts beyond this Circuit have treated the adequacy of the state proceedings as favoring abstention, see Goldentree Asset Mgm t., L.P. v. Longaberger Co., 29 Contrary to defendants’ assertion, Parham v. N ationstar Mortg., LLC, No. 14-3376, 20 16 WL 440 20 46 (W.D. La. Aug. 17, 20 16), is inapposite. There, not only was it unclear if the plaintiff asserted a federal claim , but also state law issues predom inated in the lawsuit. Id. at *4. 30 R. Doc. 30 at 10 . 31 In any event, the state tribunal is “presum ptively com petent[] to adjudicate claim s arising under the laws of the United States.” Tafflin v. Levitt, 493 U.S. 455, 458 (1990 ). 18 448 F. Supp. 2d 589, 595 (S.D.N.Y. 20 0 6), the Court is bound by the Fifth Circuit’s holding that this factor cannot weigh in favor of abstention. Thus, this factor is neutral. Su m m ary o f Co lo r a d o R iv e r Facto rs The Court finds that three factors weigh against abstention, and one factor is neutral. Although the piecem eal litigation factor somewhat supports abstention, this conclusion could change with sufficient inform ation to perm it a full exam ination of res judicata and collateral estoppel issues. And while the order in which jurisdiction was obtained also supports abstention, that the state tribunal has not decided any issues weakens that support. Cf. Gates v. Gusm an, 15-3898, 20 16 WL 40 10 980 , at *4 (E.D. La. J uly 27, 20 16) (state court decided an issue on the m erits); Mahbod v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., No. 0 5-3266, 20 0 6 WL 2513423, at *4-5 (E.D. La. Aug. 25, 20 0 6) (order-of-jurisdiction-factor strongly favored abstention because state court had rendered judgm ent and was on appeal). On balance, the Court finds that the “extraordinary circum stances” required for the Court to abstain from its “virtually unflagging obligation” to exercise its jurisdiction are not present here. Colo. River, 424 U.S. at 813, 818. Thus, a stay is unwarranted. 19 IV. CON CLU SION For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS defendants’ m otions to dism iss and DENIES defendants’ m otion to stay. New Orleans, Louisiana, this _26th _ day of J une, 20 17. ___ _____________________ SARAH S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT J UDGE 20