University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Imani v. City of Baton Rouge PN-LA-0006
Docket / Court 3:17-cv-00439-SDD-RLB ( M.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On July 9, 2017, thirteen protesters and two reporters who were arrested during a protest in Baton Rouge filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs sued the City of Baton Rouge, as well as numerous agents of the Sheriff’s Department and of ... read more >
On July 9, 2017, thirteen protesters and two reporters who were arrested during a protest in Baton Rouge filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs sued the City of Baton Rouge, as well as numerous agents of the Sheriff’s Department and of the state, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Children’s Code Article 306, and state law. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well and monetary relief and attorneys’ fees.

After a Baton Rouge police officer shot and killed Alton Sterling, people gathered in Baton Rouge to speak out against the pattern of police misconduct in the area and, more generally, in the United States. In July 2016, a peaceful, youth-led protest gathered at the State Capitol building where participants spoke, sang, and prayed. Participants then marched around the area in the same fashion.

Eventually, law enforcement officers gathered. The officers ordered the protesters out of the streets. Most complied with the dispersal order. The officers ordered the protesters to disperse – an impossible order to comply with, since the police blocked off most of the surrounding streets, had already ordered the protesters to stay off the sidewalks, and were arresting people who stepped into the streets to leave.

Shortly thereafter, the officers swept through the crowd, violently grabbing people and binding their wrists with plastic zipties. The officers arrested a mix of protesters, reporters, and legal observers. One of the plaintiffs was a 17-year-old girl put in an adult prison with male inmates in violation of the Children’s Code. Another plaintiff was separated from her children, including a five-year-old who was taken from her and put into child protective services.

The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had, in ordering the dispersal of a peaceful protest and unlawfully arresting participants, violated participants’ First Amendment rights to speech, assembly, and free press. The plaintiffs also claimed excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure, and civil conspiracy. The original complaint and some of the exhibits contained many photographic images depicting the actions of both protesters and law enforcement officers.

The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief in the form of a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants to end their practices and policies as described above. The plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction to require the defendants to expunge the plaintiffs’ arrests at the defendants’ cost and bar the defendants from reporting the plaintiffs’ arrests to any law enforcement agency, database, employer, or credit agency. They further asked that a permanent injunction be granted for the above.

On July 12, 2017, the plaintiffs filed a notice of related cases. The plaintiffs listed six cases that all involved damages lawsuits on behalf of people who were wrongfully arrested during the July 2016 Alton Sterling protests in Baton Rouge. One of these cases was McKesson v. City of Baton Rouge, one with common questions of law and fact with the present case.

The case was originally assigned to Judge Shelly D. Dick. On July 12, 2017, the case was reassigned to Judge James J. Brady. Then, in light of the plaintiff’s notice of related cases, the court reassigned the case to Judge John W. deGravelles and Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, the judges who presided over the McKesson case mentioned above.

On July 21, 2017, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint, adding an exhibit to the complaint listing the names and charges of all persons arrested during the protest.

On September 11, 2017, the defendants filed a motion to strike the plaintiffs’ complaint and first amended complaint. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs’ failed to comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in their use of illustrative pictures in a petition and a “Photographic Timeline” as one of the exhibits. The defendants considered these to be unconventional and unprofessional.

Then, on September 28, 2017, the defendants filed another motion to dismiss and, in the alternative, a motion to strike the first amended complaint. The defendants made similar arguments to the motion above.

On October 12, 2017, the plaintiffs filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal of some of the defendants, namely, the defendants associated with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association. Judge deGravelles approved this the next day.

On January 2, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint, removing some of the unconventional exhibits complained about in prior motions to dismiss. The amended complaint retained, however, much of the photographic imagery in the complaint itself.

On January 11, 2018, the defendants, in response to the plaintiffs’ filing a second amended complaint, withdrew their September 11, 2017 and September 28, 2017 motions to dismiss. In the following weeks, the defendants filed two motions to strike and four motions to dismiss the second amended complaint. In support of the motions to strike, the defendants argued again that the second amended complaint violated Rule 8. Additionally, the defendants claimed that the complaint contained redundant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous allegations.

In support of the motions to dismiss, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Moreover, the defendants claimed that the court lacked jurisdiction over some of the defendants because Eleventh Amendment immunity applies to them. Lastly, the defendants argued that this case was ripe for dismissal on the grounds that the outcome of the case might influence the claims that had already been or had yet been filed.

On February 20, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to stay discovery. Then, on February 26, 2018, the defendants filed another motion to dismiss and, in the alternative, a motion to strike the second amended complaint. The defendants argued that the complaint should be dismissed and/or stricken because the 82d page, 333 paragraph complaint, with its attached 64 pages of exhibits, violated the provision of Rule 8 that requires that a properly pled complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” On May, 14, 2018, Judge deGravelles granted in part the defendants’ motion to stay discovery. With the exception of written discovery, discovery was stayed pending resolution of the issues raised in the motions to dismiss.

The case is ongoing. There are several motions to dismiss and motions to strike that have not yet been decided. As of June 5, 2018, there is a hearing set for August 21, 2018 to present argument regarding the pending motions.

Jake Parker - 06/05/2018


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Aggressive behavior
Excessive force
False arrest
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Restraints : physical
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) City of Baton Rouge
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are thirteen protesters and two reporters arrested and jailed during a police frenzy at the July 2017 Alton Sterling protest, even though they continuously complied with police orders.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
3:17-cv-439 (M.D. La.)
PN-LA-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-LA-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/09/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 59]
PN-LA-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges DeGravelles, John Wheadon (M.D. La.)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Wilder-Doomes, Erin Court not on record [Magistrate]
PN-LA-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adcock, John Nelson (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-0001 | PN-LA-0006-0002 | PN-LA-0006-9000
Most, William (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-0001 | PN-LA-0006-0002 | PN-LA-0006-9000
Rutherford, Michelle Marie (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-0002 | PN-LA-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brustowicz, Celeste (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Cunningham, Erika (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Erlingson, Mary G. (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Frosch, Craig Edmond (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Johnston, Tara Lynn (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Morris, Deelee (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Phayer, Dennis J. (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Schroeder, Lloyd Frederick II (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
St. Pierre, Catherine S. (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000
Usry, Thomas Allen (Louisiana)
PN-LA-0006-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -