805 F.3d 543 (5th Cir. 2015), 15-30182, Vincent v. City of Sulphur

Docket Nº:15-30182
Citation:805 F.3d 543
Opinion Judge:JERRY E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:CAROL J. VINCENT, Plaintiff--Appellee, v. CITY OF SULPHUR; LEWIS COATS; CHESTER GREMILLION; GLENN MARTIN, Defendants--Appellants
Attorney:CAROL J. VINCENT, Plaintiff - Appellee, Pro se, Sulphur, LA. For CITY OF SULPHUR, LEWIS COATS, CHESTER GREMILLION, GLENN MARTIN, Defendants - Appellants: Robin J. Magee, Esq., Patrick B. McIntire, Oats & Marino, Lafayette, LA.
Judge Panel:Before HIGGINBOTHAM, JONES, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 28, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
SUMMARY

Plaintiff filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging civil rights violations because the police issued an “Official Notification of Trespass Warning” prohibiting her from entering city-owned property, which was later lifted. The district court concluded that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity as to the majority of plaintiff's claims, but denied qualified immunity... (see full summary)

 
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Page 543

805 F.3d 543 (5th Cir. 2015)

CAROL J. VINCENT, Plaintiff--Appellee,

v.

CITY OF SULPHUR; LEWIS COATS; CHESTER GREMILLION; GLENN MARTIN, Defendants--Appellants

No. 15-30182

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

October 28, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

CAROL J. VINCENT, Plaintiff - Appellee, Pro se, Sulphur, LA.

For CITY OF SULPHUR, LEWIS COATS, CHESTER GREMILLION, GLENN MARTIN, Defendants - Appellants: Robin J. Magee, Esq., Patrick B. McIntire, Oats & Marino, Lafayette, LA.

Before HIGGINBOTHAM, JONES, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 544

JERRY E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:

After an altercation at a bank during which Carol Vincent allegedly threatened

Page 545

violence against the mayor of Sulphur, Louisiana, and a city council member, police issued an " Official Notification of Trespass Warning" prohibiting Vincent from entering city-owned property, including City Hall. After the district attorney determined that the allegations did not support prosecution, police lifted the order. Claiming civil-rights violations, Vincent sued Sulphur Police Chief Lewis Coats, Officers Chester Gremillion and Glenn Martin, and the city under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims, asserting qualified immunity. The district court held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity as to the majority of Vincent's claims. The court denied qualified immunity, however, on Vincent's procedural-due-process and direct-municipal-liability claims, concluding that issuance of the no-trespass order without notice and an opportunity to be heard violated Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976), and its progeny and that the pertinent law was clearly established at the time of the incident. Defendants appeal the denial of qualified immunity. Because we agree with them that the law was not clearly established, we reverse and remand.

I.

On August 7, 2012, Vincent went to a bank to discuss a financial matter on a friend's behalf. The meeting became acrimonious, and Vincent left. Later that day, the Sulphur Police Department received information that, in the course of the argument, Vincent had threatened to get a gun and kill Mayor Christopher Duncan and City Councilman Mike Koonce. Because that alleged incident occurred outside the city limits, the information was referred to the sheriff's department for investigation. The next day, a sheriff's detective called Vincent and requested that he come to the station for questioning; Vincent complied. The detective interrogated him and specifically asked whether Vincent had threatened to kill the two city officials, which Vincent denied.

Two days later, Gremillion pulled Vincent's car over, explaining that he was being stopped to inform him that a no-trespass order had been issued and that he was prohibited from entering onto certain city property. Vincent specifically indicated that the ban, as he understood it, encompassed " 'city hall,' 'old city hall,' 'city council chambers/building,' 'city of sulphur city council meetings,' 'city of Sulphur police station,' 'city of sulphur court house,' 'city of Sulphur business center across from the new city hall,' 'West Calcasieu business center,' and 'ward 4 marshal's office'" but excluded " public thoroughfares and right-of-ways."

In early September, Vincent wrote Coats inquiring why the no-trespass order had been issued. Coats tried to respond by phone but did not reach Vincent and left a message. Vincent did not call back but on September 27 requested a written answer from Coats, who responded on October 4, indicating that the order was to prevent Vincent from coming into contact with the two individuals that he had allegedly threatened. Vincent answered by letter of October 11 requesting a meeting at a " neutral" location (so as not to violate the order by entering the police station).

At about the same time, Coats followed up with the district attorney's office regarding its investigation of the August 7 incident. That office indicated in response that it had not found sufficient evidence to prosecute. After consultation with the mayor, Coats decided to terminate the no-trespass order and notified Vincent of that by letter on October 16.

Page 546

II.

Vincent sued pro se, alleging violations of his rights under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV and the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting qualified immunity. The district court addressed the motion for summary judgment in two stages--in an initial ruling, it granted the motion on the substantive-due-process, equal-protection, Fourth Amendment, and right-to-travel claims and denied summary judgment as to Vincent's procedural-due-process claims,1 identifying what it deemed to be clearly established law prohibiting state officials from banning individuals from public areas without notice and an opportunity to be heard. The court also stayed the First Amendment claims for additional briefing. In a later ruling, it disposed of the remaining summary judgment issue, granting qualified immunity on the First Amendment claims.

After the court had finally disposed of all issues arising from the motion for summary judgment, defendants filed what they styled a second motion for summary judgment on the procedural-due-process issue, contending that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and that the claims against the city were barred by that immunity. Treating that as a motion to reconsider, the court rejected both arguments; the defendants appealed.

III.

A.

We have jurisdiction over this denial of qualified immunity because such an order is immediately appealable to the extent that the appeal turns on an issue of law. Morgan v. Swanson, 659 F.3d 359, 370 (5th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Vincent suggests that we lack jurisdiction because the individual officers' qualified-immunity argument was initially rejected, as to the due-process claims, in the district court's May 15, 2014, Order and Memorandum Ruling, and the officers did not appeal until February 27, 2015--more than the thirty days allotted under Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Vincent reasons that the appeal is thus untimely. But the May 15 order ruled only on certain summary judgment items; it stayed final disposition of other issues to receive additional briefing. The court did not finally determine...

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