Parish: Orleans

Police Department(s): New Orleans Police Department, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Louisiana State Police

Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, alongside Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, represented Remingtyn A. Williams, Lauren E. Chustz, and Bilal Ali-Bey, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated in Louisiana who participated in peaceful protest in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic murder and were met with excessive force at the hands of law enforcement. Specifically, on June 3, 2020, law enforcement officers in Louisiana violently attacked hundreds of peaceful demonstrators with batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets, resulting in what has been described in media reports as the most high-profile local confrontation between demonstrators and police amid protests across the U.S. The discriminatory nature of this excessive crackdown on peaceful protests against police misconduct was made painfully clear when these events are juxtaposed with the gentler police response to other events in Louisiana over the years that did not involve protests against racial injustice or police misconduct, as well as the storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021.

The class action complaint seeks to hold the responsible officers and their supervisors and enablers accountable for systemic discrimination against demonstrators exercising their right to protest police misconduct. The class action complaint alleges that the defendants violated the demonstrators’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and assembly, using excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment and under Louisiana’s state constitution, and civil rights violations, among other tort claims, such as assault, battery, negligence, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress under Louisiana law.

Because of the defendants’ wrongful conduct that day—both in excessive force against peaceful demonstrators and in their attempts to curtail the First and Fourteenth Amendment for those protesting police misconduct and racial injustice—the class action complaint seeks to hold the supervisory defendants accountable for failing to adequately train their officers on how to appropriately respond to demonstrations and for the harm their violent and disproportionate actions caused on June 3, 2020 and beyond.

On September 14, 2021, Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto filed a Motion to Dismiss with the court. The Sheriff submits that Plaintiffs’ claims fail because Plaintiffs have failed to allege or show: (1) that any employee or agent of the Sheriff took any action that violated the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, or (2) that the Sheriff adopted a policy or practice that was the moving force behind any alleged violation of Plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights and, further (3) that any employee or agent of the Sheriff participated in any manner in any alleged delictual conduct to expose the Sheriff to liability under state law. The district court found that the plaintiffs had raised sufficient factual allegations able to overcome the motion to dismiss. Thus, denying the motion to dismiss the suit. 

Separately, Defendant Lamar A. Davis, Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that he was protected by Eleventh Amendment Immunity and that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue him. The district court denied this motion as to Plaintiffs’ Section 1983 claims and state law tort claims. However, this decision was subsequently appealed and reversed by the Fifth Circuit, and Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Davis were dismissed. For more information on this appeal, Plaintiffs’ brief can be found here, and the Fifth Circuit’s decision can be found here.

The parties are currently engaging in discovery. 

The defendants in the case are:

  • Joseph P. Lopinto, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Jefferson Parish
  • Shaun Ferguson, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department 
  • Officers Travis Johnson, Jason Jorgenson, Devin Joseph, Michael Pierce, David Desalvo, Wesley Humbles, Arden Taylor, Jr., Frank Vitrano; Michael Devezin; Bryan Bissell; Daniel Grijalva; Brandon Abadie; Devin Johnson; Douglas Boudreau; Matthew Connolly; Jonathan Burnette; Justin McCubbins; Kenneth Kuykindall; Zachary Vogel; Denzel Millon; Raphael Rico; Jamal Kendrick; Jeffrey Crouch; John Cabral; James Cunningham; Demond Davis; Joshua Diaz; Vinh Nguyen; and Matthew McKoan.
  • Sergeants Travis Ward; Evan Cox; Terrance Hilliard; Lamont Walker; Daniel Hiatt; and Stephen Nguyen.
  • Lieutenant Merlin Bush.
  • Captains Brian Lampard and LeJon Roberts.
  • Deputy Chief John Thomas.

The dismissed defendants include:

  • Lamar A. Davis, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police (dismissed pursuant to the Fifth Circuit’s decision)
  • Officer Matthew Ezell (voluntarily dismissed)

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