Parish: Orleans

Police Department(s):

  • Orleans Levee District Police Department; and
  • Housing Authority New Orleans

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Cooley LLP filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Mr. Bilal Hankins.  Mr. Hankins is a Black man who was driving in a vehicle with friends looking for a lost dog, when he was unconstitutionally stopped and subjected to excessive force by two police officers who were working a private security detail in New Orleans.

Mr. Hankins filed suit against those officers and other defendants for violations of his constitutional rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”).  Mr. Hankins asserted that it was unlawful to stop his vehicle because the officers had no reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity.  Mr. Hankins explained that any such suspicion would not be reasonable for a number of reasons, including because Mr. Hankins himself had affirmatively approached one of the officers before the stop to ask for help finding the lost dog.  Mr. Hankins further explained that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by stopping his vehicle without reasonable suspicion and then pointing a firearm at him when he posed no threat to the officers.

The district court dismissed Mr. Hankins’ claims against the officers on summary judgment, determining that no genuine dispute of material fact existed and that defendants were entitled to judgment as a legal matter.  This prevented a jury from hearing this case.  Following that dismissal, Mr. Hankins appealed.

On appeal, Mr. Hankins argues that the district court misapplied the summary judgment standard in concluding that the evidence does not permit finding a constitutional violation.  As Mr. Hankins explains, the district court ignored several important factual issues that should have precluded summary judgment—and also credited the officers’ testimony over Mr. Hankins’ sworn testimony, which is impermissible at summary judgment.  In addition, Mr. Hankins details the evidence offered to the district court demonstrating a genuine dispute of fact regarding whether the officers believed that Mr. Hankins and his friends were engaged in any criminal activity.  Further, Mr. Hankins argues that it was clearly established that a traffic stop cannot be initiated without reasonable suspicion and that a firearm may not be used where an individual does not pose a threat and is not resisting arrest.  Finally, Mr. Hankins contends that the doctrine of qualified immunity is inconsistent with the text of Section 1983 as originally enacted and should not be applied to restrict a party’s right to discovery, as was done in his case.

The Defendants-Appellees in this case are:

  • Kevin Wheeler
  • Ramon Pierre
  • Carl Perilloux
  • Housing Authority of New Orleans
  • Hurstville Security and Neighborhood Improvement District
  • Doe Insurance Companies 1–10
  • Kerry Najolia
  • Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East
  • Michael Brenckle
  • Darnell Laurent
  • Thaddeus Petit
  • Jamel Brown
  • Tyrone Martin
  • Demetrius Jackson
  • Tommy Mercadal
  • Leontine Mullins

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