Case #49 – Brown v. Pouncy et al. (CA5)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Covington & Burling LLP filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Jarius Brown, an individual who was unlawfully beaten by DeSoto Parish police officers after being taken into custody following a nonviolent traffic violation.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana dismissed Mr. Brown’s Section 1983 action against Defendants Javarrea Pouncy, John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 as time-barred under Louisiana’s one-year residual statute of limitations. On appeal, Mr. Brown argues that the District Court erred in applying this one-year limitations period to his Section 1983 claim.

Before the Fifth Circuit, the ACLU of Louisiana and Covington & Burling argued that the application of Louisiana’s one-year limitations period — tied with only two other states for shortest in the nation — impermissibly contravenes the federal interests underpinning Section 1983 as it both discriminates against and fails to account for the practicalities inherent to preparing Section 1983 claims predicated on police brutality.  As a result, this one-year limitations period cannot be applied to bar Mr. Brown’s claim.  Further, the district court erred in relying on the Supreme Court’s opinion in Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, to dismiss the claim, as that decision explicitly left open the question of whether a one-year statute of limitations could be so short as to contravene the federal interests underlying Section 1983. 

The ACLU of Louisiana and Covington & Burling next argued that, because Louisiana’s one-year statute of limitations does not apply to Mr. Brown’s claim, the court should instead look to 28 U.S.C. § 1658 as providing an appropriate federal analogue for a limitations period.  Under the Supreme Court’s three-part test in Burnett v. Grattan, 468 U.S. 42, federal courts are instructed to look at other federal laws when determining how to carry Section 1983 into effect.  Because Section 1658, which provides a limitations period of four years for federal claims, would better effectuate the federal interests underpinning Section 1983, the four-year period should be applied to Mr. Brown’s federal civil rights claim. 

Mr. Brown is represented by Nora Ahmed at the ACLU of Louisiana and the team of Michael Imbroscio, Lauren Willard, and Caleb Ellis at Covington & Burling.

The Defendant—Appellees in the case are:

Former DeSoto Parish Deputy Javarrea Pouncy

DeSoto Parish Deputy Doe #1

Louisiana Police Officer Doe #2

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