July 8, 2021 opinions

Designated for publication

  • Franco v. Mabe Trucking Co., 19-30316, appeal from W.D. La.
    • Dennis, J. (King, Jones, Dennis), Jones, J., dissenting; timeliness, venue
    • Reversing district court’s dismissal of suit as untimely after venue was transferred under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) from Eastern District of Texas to Western District of Louisiana, and remanding for further proceedings.
    • In a suit arising from a car-truck accident three miles on the Louisiana side of the Louisiana-Texas border, the plaintiff brought suit in the Eastern District of Texas. The Texas federal court found that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and, finding it would be in the interest of justice to do so, transferred to the venue of the Western District of Louisiana. In response to a summary judgment motion that argued that, under Louisiana law, prescription is not interrupted by a suit unless it is filed in a court of competent jurisdiction and venue, the Louisiana federal court denied summary judgment, holding that 28 U.S.C. § 1631 allowed a court to transfer an action over which it lacked jurisdiction to a court where the action could have been brought “in the interest of justice” and that the action then “shall proceed as if it had been filed in … the court to which it had been transferred … on the date it was actually filed in … the court from which it was transferred.” After a different presiding judge was installed in the matter, the defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, and the new judge granted that motion and granted summary judgment, holding that § 1631 could not trump the substantive law regarding prescription in Louisiana Civil Code article 3462.
    • The Court first held that § 1631 applies when a court finds a lack of personal jurisdiction, not just a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. “The text does not confine itself to personal or subject-matter jurisdiction, but instead to ‘a want of jurisdiction’ generally.”
    • The Court then held that, although the Texas federal court only specifically invoked § 1406(a), its reliance on “the interest of justice” in setting forth its rationale for the transfer was sufficient to make this a § 1631 transfer. “§ 1631’s provisions apply to the transferred case because the statute establishes a mandatory duty when it is triggered that is not contradictory or mutually exclusive of the duty triggered by § 1406(a).” (Internal quotation marks omitted).
    • The Court then held that Erie did not require the federal court to ignore § 1631 and only apply La. C.C. art. 3462. “[T]he Erie analysis is confined to the kind of judge-made federal practices that might arguably be characterized as common law–practices that have no source in a federal rule or statute. … The Erie doctrine is not implicated when a valid federal rule or statute directly governs the matter at issue.” The Court then held that Congress was well within its authority in enacting § 1631, and that “the plain language of the statute governs when and where Franco’s claim must be considered to have been filed.” The Court also found that there is no conflict between the federal venue transfer rule and the Louisiana prescription law: “Section 1631 determines when and where a transferred suit is deemed to have been filed, and neither Article 3462 nor Article 3492 says anything about when and where a case should be considered filed. Instead, the Louisiana Civil Code Articles only instruct a court to look to when and where a case was filed–the matters set by § 1631–to determine if the case is timely.”
    • Judge Jones dissented. She opined that the Court’s holding that § 1631 did not conflict with Civil Code article 3462 ignored half of the Civil Code article. Where article 3462 provides that a suit in a court of incompetent jurisdiction or venue does not interrupt prescription, Judge Jones would hold that applying § 1631 changes the substantive Louisiana law of when a suit is timely filed.
  • Terwilliger v. Reyna, 19-50888; c/w Weaver v. Reyna, 19-50909; c/w Walker v. Reyna, 19-50910; c/w Walker v. Stroman, 19-51029; c/w Eaton v. Stroman, 20-50032; c/w Rhoten v. Stroman, 20-50276; appeals from W.D. Tex.
    • Jones, J. (Higginbotham, Jones, Higginson), Higginson, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part; qualified immunity
    • Reversing denial of motions to dismiss for qualified immunity as to two defendants; affirming in part and reversing in part as to three other defendants; and remanding for further proceedings.
    • Violence erupted at a meeting of various motorcycle clubs at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, resulting in nine deaths and twenty injured. In the wake of the violence, police arrested 177 individuals for Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, based on Detective Chavez’s form affidavit regarding individuals affiliated with the Cossacks Motorcycle Club and the Bandidos Motorcycle clubs. Only one of those suits went to trial, ending in a mistrial. The plaintiffs in these consolidated appeals brought § 1983 claims for unlawful arrests without probable cause under Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335 (1986); intentional or reckless false statements in the affidavit resulting in a warrant lacking probable cause; and conspiracy and bystander liability claims. The district court dismissed the Malley claims, but denied dismissal as to qualified and absolute prosecutorial immunity on the other claims.
    • The Court first held that the district attorney defendant was not entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity because the acts that were alleged against him extended beyond his prosecutorial function and went into investigative activity, for which he could at most seek the protection of qualified immunity.
    • The Court then held that, if facts in the form affidavit that were alleged to be false were removed from the affidavit, it would be “insufficient to establish particularized probable cause for arrest on supposed violations of the EIOCA.” Accordingly, the Court held that, at the pleadings stage, plaintiffs’ Franks claims (regarding intentional or reckless false statements) should survive dismissal.
    • The Court held that the Franks claim had been adequately stated against the detective who signed the affidavit, and the district attorney who provided facts to include in the affidavit, as well as to another detective who was alleged to have supplied information for the affidavit. The Court held, however, that there had not been sufficiently particularized allegations against Asst. Police Chief Lanning or Chief Stroman, such that the Franks claim against them should be dismissed.
    • The Court also held that the conspiracy and bystander claims should be dismissed.
    • Judge Higginson concurred in part and dissented in part. He would hold that the plaintiffs’ claims should survive on the basis of Malley, rather than Franks, because he would find that the form affidavits facially lacked probable cause (a Malley error) and that no misstatement could be material for purposes of a Franks violation if the resulting affidavit lacked a showing of probable cause on its face.

Unpublished

  • LaVergne v. Stutes, 19-30842, appeal from M.D. La.
    • per curiam (Clement, Haynes, Wilson), § 1983, prisoner suit
    • Reversing in part and affirming in part dismissal as frivolous of plaintiff’s many claims arising from his confinement after he pled guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.
  • Pedder v. Lumpkin, 19-40091, appeal from E.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Clement, Higginson, Engelhardt), habeas corpus
    • Affirming dismissal of plaintiff’s § 2254 petition as time-barred.
  • U.S. v. Villa de Morales, 19-50666, appeal from W.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Higginbotham, Jones, Costa), criminal, sentencing
    • Affirming conviction and 78-month sentence for aiding and abetting the importation of at least 100 kilograms but less than 1000 kilograms of marijuana and aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute at least 100 kilograms but less than 1000 kilograms of marijuana.
  • U.S. v. Steele, 20-10251, appeal from N.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Jolly, Elrod, Graves), criminal, compassionate release
    • Affirming denial of motion for compassionate release.
  • U.S. v. Samson, 20-20136 c/w 20-20228, appeal from S.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Jolly, Elrod, Graves), criminal, sentencing
    • Affirming conviction on two counts of theft of Social Security retirement benefits, and 15-month sentence.
  • Thibeaux v. Unknown Psychiatrist, 20-30200, appeal from W.D. La.
    • per curiam (Southwick, Graves, Costa), § 1983
    • Dismissing as frivolous plaintiff’s claims that he had a tracking device implanted in his body while he was incarcerated; and sanctioning plaintiff for multiple frivolous appeals.