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Case Name Singleton v. Cannizzaro CJ-LA-0010
Docket / Court 2:17-cv-10721 ( E.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Civil Rights Corps
Case Summary
On October, 17, 2017, eight residents of Louisiana who were victims of or witnesses to crimes filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging that they had been jailed or threatened with jail by prosecutors in hopes of ensuring their testimony in court ... read more >
On October, 17, 2017, eight residents of Louisiana who were victims of or witnesses to crimes filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging that they had been jailed or threatened with jail by prosecutors in hopes of ensuring their testimony in court. They sued the District Attorney of Orleans Parish along with several assistant district attorneys under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and Civil Rights Corps, sought injunctive and monetary relief as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Jane Triche Milazzo.

The plaintiffs claimed that, pursuant to official policies, practices, and customs of the defendant Orleans Parish District Attorney, prosecutors routinely issued their own fabricated subpoenas, without any judicial approval or oversight, in order to coerce victims and witnesses into submitting to interrogations by prosecutors outside of court. According to the plaintiffs, if this unlawful coercion did not succeed, the defendants unlawfully arrested victims and witnesses and ensured that they would languish in jail by obtaining high secured money bonds. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants’ use of extrajudicial and unlawful means to coerce, arrest, and imprison crime victims and witnesses violated the plaintiffs’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights along with fraud and abuse of process provisions of Louisiana state law.

On December 21, 2017, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint. As such, the plaintiffs filed a consent motion to treat any previously filed motions to dismiss as moot. On January 2, 2018, Judge Milazzo granted this motion.

On January 25, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint that added one plaintiff and two defendants to the case.

On March 1, 2018, the defendants together filed a joint motion to dismiss all claims against them, arguing that prosecutors were protected by absolute immunity with respect to actions taken as advocates of the state and by qualified immunity with respect to their official actions. The court heard the parties’ oral arguments on May 31, 2018.

On February 28, 2019, the court granted a significant portion of the defendants’ motion, but also denied the defendants’ motion in part.

The court first addressed the defendants’ absolute immunity arguments. The court determined that the defendants did not have absolute immunity for creating or distributing fake subpoenas to the plaintiffs because the subpoenas were not created in the prosecutors’ role of acting as advocate of the state. Similarly, the claims that the defendants failed to supervise or intervene in the creation of subpoenas would not be dismissed because the employees were not immune from using the fake subpoenas. The court found that absolute immunity protected prosecutors from claims of threats of imprisonment against the plaintiffs because the defendants acted within the bounds of their roles as advocates for the state.

Next, the court evaluated the defendants’ qualified immunity claims with respect to the various constitutional claims raised by the plaintiffs. First, the court granted the defendants qualified immunity against the plaintiffs’ First Amendment compelled speech and retaliation claims. The court found the plaintiffs failed to establish that witnesses possess a clearly established First Amendment right to refuse to speak to prosecutors about active criminal cases. The court also granted the defendants qualified immunity as to the Fourth Amendment unlawful seizure claims because the plaintiffs failed to establish that they had been unlawfully seized. The court emphasized that the plaintiffs needed to show they submitted to the assertion of authority. Two of the plaintiffs had not met with the prosecutors at all, so the court found they had acted in defiance, not in submission, of the defendants’ authority. The plaintiff who ultimately did meet with the defendants did so after receiving both the fake subpoena and a lawful court order, but still did not specify that the plaintiff had unlawfully submitted. Finally, the court granted the defendants qualified immunity as to the plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment due process claims because the plaintiffs did not provide any cases that suggest the defendants violated a clearly established constitutional right.

On March 12, 2019, the defendants appealed the court’s order partially dismissing the motion to dismiss. As of March 25, 2019, the case is on appeal in the Fifth Circuit.

Jake Parker - 07/16/2018
Amanda Stephens - 03/25/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Orleans Parish
Plaintiff Description Eight crime victims and witnesses who were threatened, arrested, and imprisoned by prosecutors seeking to coerce them into submitting to interrogations.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Civil Rights Corps
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  SINGLETON ET. AL. V. CANNIZZARO ET. AL
http://www.civilrightscorps.org
Date: March 2018
By: Civil Rights Corps
Citation: http://www.civilrightscorps.org/prosecutor-project/
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:17−cv−10721−JTM−JVM (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0010-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/22/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-LA-0010-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/17/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 52]
CJ-LA-0010-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part Motion to Dismiss with Reasoning [ECF# 116] (2019 WL 969788) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0010-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Milazzo, Jane Margaret Triche (E.D. La.) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-0003 | CJ-LA-0010-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Arceneaux, Anna Marie (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-0001 | CJ-LA-0010-0002 | CJ-LA-0010-9000
Blume, Michael S. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Chamblee-Ryan, Katherine Ashworth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-0001 | CJ-LA-0010-0002 | CJ-LA-0010-9000
Hamilton, Bruce Warfield (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-0001 | CJ-LA-0010-0002 | CJ-LA-0010-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-0001 | CJ-LA-0010-0002 | CJ-LA-0010-9000
Kovel, Mariana Louise (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Trivedi, Somil Bharat (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-0002 | CJ-LA-0010-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Alford, W. Raley (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Barbera, Thomas Jeffrey (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Freeman, Robert L. Jr. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Paul, Matthew J. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Stanley, Richard C (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Other Lawyers Adcock, John Nelson (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Bloom, Jonathan (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Giang, Albert (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Lasky, Catherine Elena (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Leung, Victor (California) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Murphy, Kerry Ann (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Perigoe, Kelly L. (California) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Rich, R. Bruce (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000
Stutz, Trevor Porter (California) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0010-9000

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