Parish: Desoto 

Police Department: Desoto Parish Sheriff’s Office

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Covington & Burling LLP have filed an appeal in the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal 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.

After his brutal beating at the hands of two officers, one of whom later admitted to using unjustifiable lethal force, Mr. Brown brought suit against the officers in Louisiana state court.  However, the district court dismissed the case, holding that Mr. Brown’s suit was prescribed because the attack on Mr. Brown did not qualify as a crime of violence, and thus Louisiana Civil Code Article 3493.10’s two-year prescriptive period for crimes of violence did not apply.

The ACLU of Louisiana and Covington & Burling appealed, challenging the district court’s interpretation of Article 3493.10.  The ACLU and Covington argued that the district court erred in interpreting Article 3493.10 to require formal criminal proceedings against a defendant as a prerequisite to qualify for the two-year prescriptive period in Article 3493.10.  Neither the statutory language nor the intent of Article 3493.10 requires a criminal prosecution or conviction, and Louisiana case law does not impose a criminal proceedings requirement for conduct to qualify as a crime of violence.

The ACLU of Louisiana and Covington & Burling also asserted that the district court erred by failing to apply Louisiana law that instructs courts to strictly construe prescription statutes against prescription.  To the extent there is any uncertainty in interpreting a prescription statute, Louisiana’s rules of statutory interpretation instruct that courts should interpret the provision in a way that preserves claims, rather than prescribing them.

Finally, the ACLU of Louisiana and Covington & Burling argued that the district court erred by not accepting all well-pleaded facts in the Petition as true for purposes of determining prescription.  The court instead made the factually-unsupported finding that the officers’ use of force was “reasonable” and therefore did not constitute conduct that would qualify as crime of violence under Article 3493.10.

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

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