Caliste v. Cantrell, CIVIL ACTION No. 17-6197

Citation329 F.Supp.3d 296
Decision Date06 August 2018
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION No. 17-6197
Parties Adrian CALISTE et al. v. Harry E. CANTRELL
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana

Eric A. Foley, Katharine Murphy Schwartzmann, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, New Orleans, LA, Alec George Karakatsanis, Civil Rights Corps, Washington, DC, for Adrian Caliste et al.

Dennis J. Phayer, Christopher Kent Tankersley, Elizabeth A. Doubleday Burglass & Tankersley, L.L.C., Metairie, LA, Celeste Brustowicz, Cooper Law Firm, LLC, New Orleans, LA, for Harry E. Cantrell.




Before the Court are Plaintiffs' and Defendant's Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. R. Docs. 116 and 121. The parties have also filed in opposition. R. Docs. 120 and 130. Having considered the parties' arguments and the applicable law, the Court issues this Order & Reasons.


On June 27, 2017, Plaintiffs Adrian Caliste and Brian Gisclair, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Orleans Parish Criminal District Magistrate Judge Harry E. Cantrell, alleging violations of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. R. Doc. 1 at 25. Plaintiffs are former criminal defendants who were in the custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office at the time the complaint was filed. R. Doc. 1 at 2-3. Defendant Cantrell is the Magistrate Judge for Orleans Parish Criminal District Court ("OPCDC"), where he is responsible for setting bail upon arrest and has a role in managing the expenditures of the Judicial Expense Fund. R. Doc. 1 at 3.

In Count One, Plaintiffs allege that Judge Cantrell routinely sets a $2,500 minimum secured money bond without first considering the facts of the case to determine whether a lower bond amount or an alternative condition of release might be appropriate. R. Doc. 1 at 6. Plaintiffs further aver that Judge Cantrell requires the use of a bail bond from a commercial (for-profit) surety and does not allow arrestees to post cash bail. R. Doc. 1 at 2. In Count Two, Plaintiffs contend that Judge Cantrell has a conflict of interest because under Louisiana law, 1.8% of a bond amount collected from a commercial surety is allocated directly to the Court for its discretionary use. R. Doc. 1 at 2.

Plaintiffs moved to certify a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. R. Doc. 5. On March 16, 2018, the Court granted this motion and certified the class. R. Doc. 99. Plaintiffs now seek a declaratory judgement that Judge Cantrell's bond policy, which they assert results in the creation of a modern "debtor's prison," and financial conflict of interest are violations of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. R. Doc. 1 at 26. Defendant, Judge Cantrell, denies Plaintiffs' allegations and seeks summary judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint.

A. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 116)

Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. R. Doc. 116. The Plaintiff Class seeks declaratory judgment on both of their claims. R. Doc. 116-1 at 4. First, Plaintiffs' argue that Judge Cantrell violates their Equal Protection and Due Process rights by jailing Plaintiffs when they are unable to pay set bonds. R. Doc. 116-1 at 5. Plaintiffs argue that Judge Cantrell's practice violates their rights against wealth-based detention and fundamental right to pretrial liberty because he sets bail without making findings that pretrial detention is necessary or making an inquiry into Plaintiffs' ability to pay. R. Doc. 116-1 at 6, 12, 26. Second, Plaintiffs argue that since Judge Cantrell shares executive control over funds that come partly from fees on the commercial surety bonds that he sets, he has a conflict of interest in the process of setting those bonds. R. Doc. 116-1 at 33. Plaintiffs allege that this conflict violates their due process right to a neutral and detached judge. R. Doc. 116-1 at 29. For these reasons, Plaintiffs move for summary judgment. R. Doc. 116-1 at 34.

Defendant responds in opposition. R. Doc. 120. First, Judge Cantrell argues that this Court lacks the power to direct him in the performance of his duties. R. Doc. 120 at 1. Judge Cantrell argues that Plaintiffs have asked this Court to order him to follow certain protocols when he conducts bail hearings and that this Court lacks the power to direct him in this manner. R. Doc. 120 at 3. Second, regarding Plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief, Judge Cantrell argues that any such relief would be advisory because there is no justiciable controversy. R. Doc. 120 at 5. Judge Cantrell further argues that Plaintiffs' claims regarding his bail hearing protocol are moot because since this lawsuit he has in good faith changed his bail hearing procedures. R. Doc. 120 at 6. Understanding his heavy burden in proving mootness, Judge Cantrell has attached an affidavit describing his new colloquy and checklist used during bail hearings. R. Doc. 120-1.1

Third, Judge Cantrell argues that the procedures regarding management of the Judicial Expense Fund do not negate a fair tribunal because 1) the OPCDC can go to the state or parish if it needs more funds, 2) there is no quota or reward for adding to the fund, and 3) the judges have no personal interest in the money collected. R. Doc. 120 at 9-11. Additionally, Judge Cantrell argues that he benefits from a presumption of integrity and if this procedure makes him biased than all courts are biased because all collect fees from defendants in some way. R. Doc. 120 at 13. Finally, Judge Cantrell also argues that the fees incurred under Louisiana's bail bond statutes do not create an impermissible bias because the Fifth Circuit has held that such fees are reasonable administrative fees. R. Doc. 120 at 18.

B. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 121)

In support of his motion for summary judgment, Defendant has submitted a memorandum identical to that submitted in response to Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. R. Doc. 121-1. In opposition, Plaintiffs have submitted a memorandum identical to that submitted in reply supporting their own motion. R. Doc. 130.


The present motions raise questions of justiciability, the constitutionality of Judge Cantrell's bail procedures, and his conflict of interest when he has both judicial and executive power regarding revenues of the Judicial Executive Fund. The Court acknowledges the similarities between this case and Cain v. City of New Orleans , 281 F.Supp.3d 624 (E.D. La. 2017) (Vance, J.). The Court draws as relevant from Judge Vance's excellent and thorough opinion, particularly as it relates to analysis of judicial conflict of interest.

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) ). " Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. A party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for summary judgment and identifying those portions of the record, discovery, and any affidavits supporting the conclusion that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. If the moving party meets that burden, then the nonmoving party must use evidence cognizable under Rule 56 to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "[U]nsubstantiated assertions," "conclusory allegations," and merely colorable factual bases are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Hopper v. Frank , 16 F.3d 92, 97 (5th Cir. 1994) ; Anderson , 477 U.S. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505. In ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court may not resolve credibility issues or weigh evidence. See Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's Inc. , 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991). Furthermore, a court must assess the evidence, review the facts and draw any appropriate inferences based on the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. See Daniels v. City of Arlington, Tex. , 246 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2001) ; Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. , 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986). With these legal principles in mind, the Court turns to the parties motion which will be discussed in turn.

B. Justiciability

Defendant Cantrell's motion for summary judgment raises several justiciability questions. First, Judge Cantrell argues that the claims in Count One are moot due to his voluntary cessation of the challenged bail procedures. Second, Judge Cantrell argues that Plaintiffs improperly seek a writ of mandamus compelling the actions of a state official. Finally, Judge Cantrell argues that the Court should abstain from granting declaratory relief in this case.

The Court will discuss each argument in turn.

i. Mootness

The Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to cases or controversies. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. To satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must have a personal interest in the case, not only at the outset, but at "all stages" of the lawsuit. Davis v. Fed. Election Comm'n , 554 U.S. 724, 732-33, 128 S.Ct. 2759, 171 L.Ed.2d 737 (2008) (quoting Arizonans for Official English v....

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2 books & journal articles
  • The Constitutional Case for Clear and Convincing Evidence in Bail Hearings.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 75 No. 2, February 2023
    • February 1, 2023
    ...604 A.2d at 868, 870. (286.) Id. at 869 n. 14. (287.) In re Humphrey, 482 P.3d 1008, 1020 (Cal. 2021). (288.) Caliste v. Cantrell, 329 F. Supp. 3d 296, 313 (E.D. La. 2018), aff'd on other grounds, 937 F.3d 525 (5th Cir. (289.) Id. (290.) Schultz v. Alabama, 330 F. Supp. 3d 1344, 1371-72 (N.......
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    ...deficient by numerous federal courts. See Schultz v. State, 330 F. Supp. 3d 1344 (N.D. Ala. 2018); Caliste v. Cantrell, 329 F. Supp. 3d 296 (E.D. La. 2018); ODonnell v. Harris Cty., 251 F. Supp. 3d 1052 (S.D. Tex. 2017); Buffin v. City & Cry. of ST., No. 15-CV-04959, 2018 WL 424362 (N.D......

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