Williams v. DiVittoria, Civ. A. No. 90-491.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Writing for the CourtScott G. Vincent, Cleveland, Barrios, Kingsdorf & Casteix, New Orleans, La., for defendants
Citation777 F. Supp. 1332
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 90-491.
Decision Date05 November 1991
PartiesFrances Marie WILLIAMS, etc. v. Danny DiVITTORIA, et al.

777 F. Supp. 1332

Frances Marie WILLIAMS, etc.
v.
Danny DiVITTORIA, et al.

Civ. A. No. 90-491.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana.

November 5, 1991.


777 F. Supp. 1333
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
777 F. Supp. 1334
Otha C. Nelson, Sr., Baton Rouge, La., for plaintiff

Scott G. Vincent, Cleveland, Barrios, Kingsdorf & Casteix, New Orleans, La., for defendants.

ORDER AND REASONS

FELDMAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is a motion for reconsideration of a previous judge's ruling denying defendant's motion for summary judgment and his alternative motion to dismiss under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6).

Upon reconsideration, and for the reasons that follow, defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED as to plaintiff's state law and § 1983 false arrest claims, her § 1983 malicious prosecution claims, as well as on plaintiff's state law defamation and § 1983 cruel and unusual punishment and due process claims. Defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED as to plaintiff's remaining pendent state law malicious prosecution claim, but that claim is dismissed without prejudice because it is pendent only.

I.

This is a combined § 1983 civil rights and state law tort suit by an African-American woman, Frances Marie Williams, against Danny DiVittoria, a Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputy. In her state court petition plaintiff charged that she was a victim of a false arrest by deputy DiVittoria, and that she was subjected to malicious prosecution, defamation and violations of her due process rights.

A.

On June 15, 1989, plaintiff's daughters, Lacrita Nicole Williams and Nadia Tanika Williams, were waiting with their cousin Taj Williams and other children for a school bus to take them to a parish summer school lunch program at the Independence Middle School. When the bus arrived at their stop, the driver, Norma Jean DiVittoria (the wife of defendant), refused to let Taj Williams on the bus. According to defendant, when his wife told Taj and another person that if they were going to fight as they had the day before, they should not get on the bus, Williams and the other young man did not get on the bus.

As Taj Williams walked to the Independence Middle School, he met up with plaintiff along the way, and they walked to the school together. When the bus arrived, plaintiff was waiting, and an argument started between Mrs. DiVittoria and plaintiff. Plaintiff says that she had been told by another child, Shantelle Bell, that the bus driver made the black children sit in the back of the bus, and let the white children sit in front. When she approached the bus, according to her, she merely told her children to get off the bus, and admonished the other children to tell their parents "what was going on." Little doubt she was angry.

Defendant tells a different story. He says that when the bus arrived at the school, plaintiff approached and began shouting obscenities at his wife, and threatened to beat her with a stick that plaintiff was brandishing. Mrs. DiVittoria lodged a complaint with the police after this incident.

Thereafter, as plaintiff and her children were walking home, defendant drove up beside them and began asking questions. Plaintiff claims that defendant exited the car, and approached her in a threatening manner as if to hit her. Defendant says that he simply approached plaintiff to ask her questions about the incident at school, and, in response, plaintiff began shouting and cursing him. (No doubt it would have been more professional for an officer other than the bus driver's husband to investigate the incident).

Defendant arrested plaintiff and charged her with public intimidation and disturbing the peace. The charges were later amended, but not importantly. Two weeks later,

777 F. Supp. 1335
state Judge Joseph Anzalone issued a warrant for plaintiff's arrest. Eventually, plaintiff moved for a preliminary examination to determine whether the charges against her should be dismissed for lack of probable cause. At a hearing before Judge Anzalone, at which plaintiff was represented by counsel and the judge received testimony and other evidence, the judge denied plaintiff's motion for dismissal of the charges and expressly found that probable cause existed for the charges

Plaintiff's case proceeded through the state system until, on the day of trial, the prosecutor dismissed the case against her because the states's witnesses failed to appear.

B.

Plaintiff filed suit in state court against deputy DiVittoria, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff and the sheriff's insurer. She claimed damages for (1) constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, cruel and unusual punishment and deprivations of her liberty without due process of law; (2) defamation, humiliation and embarrassment; (3) state law claims for false imprisonment and arrest; and (4) a state law claim for malicious prosecution. (Deputy DiVittoria is the only remaining defendant).

The suit was removed to federal court, and the defendants moved for summary judgment, and alternatively to dismiss under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) or 12(b)(1) all of plaintiff's claims against DiVittoria, the sheriff and the insurance company. The first presiding judge dismissed the claims against the sheriff and the insurance company, but denied the motions regarding deputy DiVittoria.

The court rejected the argument that the false arrest claim against deputy DiVittoria was barred because of the state court's determination that probable cause for the arrest existed. (The court held that Louisiana law does not recognize the doctrine of collateral estoppel, and that Louisiana's res judicata principles are too restrictive to apply to the finding at the preliminary examination.1)

Defendant then filed this motion urging the Court to reconsider the earlier Order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b).2 Defendant makes two special arguments for reconsideration: First, the Order denying defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion on plaintiff's false arrest claims was erroneous because Judge Anzalone's finding at the preliminary examination that there was probable cause for the charges against plaintiff is binding and bars plaintiff from pursuing a claim for false arrest or imprisonment based on her arrest on those charges. Second, defendant urges that there is no genuine issue of material fact on the issue of whether defendant is entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiff's § 1983 claims, and whether defendant acted with malice and without probable cause in arresting and charging plaintiff.

II.

A.

When determining whether to give preclusive effect to a state court judgment, a federal court must apply the issue preclusion rules of the state in which the judgment was rendered. See 28 U.S.C. § 1738; Migra v. Warren City School District Board of Education, 465 U.S. 75, 81, 104 S.Ct. 892, 896, 79 L.Ed.2d 56 (1984).

Historically, Louisiana law is somewhat hostile to the idea of issue preclusion. See Vicknair v. Hibernia Building Corp., 479 So.2d 904, 908 (La.1985) ("collateral estoppel or issue preclusion is not a valid

777 F. Supp. 1336
defense in Louisiana."); Safeco Insurance Co. of America v. Palermo, 436 So.2d 536, 537 (La.1983) (same); Welch v. Crown Zellerbach Corp., 359 So.2d 154, 156 (La.1978) ("Collateral estoppel is a doctrine of issue preclusion alien to Louisiana law."). Thus defendant's continued reliance on collateral estoppel theories and cases applying such theories3 is inappropriate

Similarly, in Louisiana, res judicata principles applicable to this case are simply too restrictive to give preclusive effect in a later civil suit to a finding of probable cause in a prior criminal suit.4 Res judicata bars relitigating an issue in a later proceeding only if: (1) there is identity of the thing demanded; (2) the cause of action is the same; and (3) the same parties appear in the same capacity. See Vicknair, supra at 908; La.Rev.Stat. 13:4231.

The absence of any one of the three identity factors is fatal to a res judicata defense, and a second suit will not be barred if there is any doubt as to the doctrine's applicability. See Vicknair, supra at 908; First Guaranty Bank v. Durham, 409 So.2d 380, 382 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1982). Clearly, the parties to this civil action, plaintiff and the deputy, and the parties to the criminal preliminary examination, plaintiff and the State, are not identical.

B.

What, then, is the effect of the prior determination of probable cause, if any?

In Louisiana, the tort of false arrest or imprisonment consists of two elements: (1) detention of a person; and (2) the unlawfulness of the detention. See Touchton v. Kroger, 512 So.2d 520, 524 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1987). Defendant notes that despite Louisiana's restrained preclusion rules, at least one Louisiana court has held that a plaintiff does not have a cause of action for false imprisonment based on an arrest for a crime for which he was convicted because such a plaintiff, as a matter of law, cannot prove that his detention was unlawful. See Restrepo v. Fortunato, 556 So.2d 1362, 1363 (La.App. 5 Cir.), writ denied, 560 So.2d 11 (La.1990).

Essentially, defendant argues that the question is not one of issue preclusion, but one of whether plaintiff has a cause of action as a matter of law. This argument instructs that one cannot prove that her detention was unlawful if a state court has determined at some time following the arrest either that the challenged arrest was conducted with probable cause, or that the criminal charges were supported by probable cause. Here, defendant concludes, Judge Anzalone decided both issues in favor of deputy DiVittoria, and, therefore, plaintiff cannot, as a matter of law, establish that she was wrongfully detained.

Although the Louisiana courts have not addressed this precise issue, this Court understands Restrepo to suggest that Louisiana courts would hold that a plaintiff has no cause of action for false arrest...

To continue reading

Request your trial
11 practice notes
  • Causey v. Parish of Tangipahoa, No. Civ.A. 00-2352.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • April 12, 2001
    ...at 299. Indeed, the warrant was issued by a state district judge and stood through a motion to suppress. See Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332,1337 (E.D.La.1991) (when court determine that arrest was made with probable cause plaintiff cannot argue in a civil action that the arrest wa......
  • Gordy v. Burns, No. 01-30234.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 17, 2002
    ...and the burden shifts to the defendant to prove the presence of probable cause and the absence of malice. See Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332, 1338 (E.D.La.1991)(applying Louisiana tort law).5 This burden-shifting approach cannot be warranted in § 1983 claims, but neither party add......
  • Turner v. Union Planters Bank of Southern Miss., No. 2:96CV232PG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • July 3, 1997
    ...United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, Page 895 383 U.S. 715, 726, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 1139, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966); see also Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332 (E.D.La.1991). Generally, "state claims should be dismissed once the basis for federal jurisdiction has been dismissed." Engstrom v. First ......
  • Adams v. Landry, Civil Action 21-2153
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • May 4, 2022
    ...jurisdiction after dismissing a case's federal causes of action is within the discretion of the district court.” Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332, 1341 (E.D. La. 1991) (citing Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 404-05 (1970)); see also Guzzino v. Felterman, 191 F.3d 588, 595 (5th Cir. 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Causey v. Parish of Tangipahoa, No. Civ.A. 00-2352.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • April 12, 2001
    ...at 299. Indeed, the warrant was issued by a state district judge and stood through a motion to suppress. See Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332,1337 (E.D.La.1991) (when court determine that arrest was made with probable cause plaintiff cannot argue in a civil action that the arrest wa......
  • Gordy v. Burns, No. 01-30234.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 17, 2002
    ...and the burden shifts to the defendant to prove the presence of probable cause and the absence of malice. See Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332, 1338 (E.D.La.1991)(applying Louisiana tort law).5 This burden-shifting approach cannot be warranted in § 1983 claims, but neither party add......
  • Turner v. Union Planters Bank of Southern Miss., No. 2:96CV232PG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • July 3, 1997
    ...United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, Page 895 383 U.S. 715, 726, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 1139, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966); see also Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332 (E.D.La.1991). Generally, "state claims should be dismissed once the basis for federal jurisdiction has been dismissed." Engstrom v. First ......
  • Adams v. Landry, Civil Action 21-2153
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • May 4, 2022
    ...jurisdiction after dismissing a case's federal causes of action is within the discretion of the district court.” Williams v. DiVittoria, 777 F.Supp. 1332, 1341 (E.D. La. 1991) (citing Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 404-05 (1970)); see also Guzzino v. Felterman, 191 F.3d 588, 595 (5th Cir. 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT