RULING AND ORDER
BRIAN A. JACKSON, Chief Judge.
Before the Court is a
According to Hall, the current Judicial Election Plan discriminates against African Americans because African American voters, who make up the majority of Section 1 and the City population, are allotted only two judges, while White voters, who make up the majority of Section 2 but a minority of the City population, are allotted three judges. Hall further alleges that the Defendants' refusal to reapportion the City Court judges and/or redraw the geographic boundaries of the Divisions in accordance with the City of Baton Rouge's 2010 Census demographic data is an intentional attempt to dilute the votes of African Americans.
Accordingly, Hall seeks a ruling and judgment declaring, inter alia, that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates: (1) the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, made applicable to the States by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) Hall's fundamental right to vote, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (5) the Fifteenth Amendment; (6) Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and (7) the "democratic principles of majority rule and individualistic egalitarianism" related to the "one person, one vote" principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Further, Hall requests an injunction forbidding Defendants from enforcing the 1993 Judicial Election Plan, including enjoining Defendants from "calling, holding, supervising, or certifying" any future elections. Hall also seeks a ruling and judgment holding Defendants liable under Section 1983, and granting him attorney's fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
As to the instant motion, the Defendant-Judges seek an order from this Court dismissing Hall's claims against them, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The Defendant-Judges contend that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate claims brought against them, as they are protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity. In the alternative, they argue that they are protected by judicial immunity and qualified immunity. The Defendant-Judges further contend that Hall has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because his Section 1983 claims are proscribed. They further argue that Hall has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because their alleged actions constitute free speech, which is protected by the First Amendment. In the alternative, the Defendant-Judges argue that Hall has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under the Voting Rights Act because the "one-man, one-vote" principle does not apply to judicial elections, and because the Defendant-Judges are incapable of granting the relief he seeks.
Hall opposes the motion and argues that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction, as the Defendant-Judges are not immune from suit. He further contends that his Section 1983 claims are not proscribed. Hall also argues that he has sufficiently pled claims upon which relief can be granted, as the Defendant-Judges' actions are not protected by the First Amendment, and that the "one-man, one-vote" principle
II. Standard of Review
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; without jurisdiction conferred by statute, they lack the power to adjudicate claims. In re FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Prods. Liab. Litig., 668 F.3d 281, 286-287 (5th Cir.2012) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994); Stockman v. FEC, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir.1998)). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1), a claim is "properly dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate" the claim. Id. (quoting Home Builders Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998)). A court should consider a Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the merits. Id. (citing Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir.2001), cert. denied, 536 U.S. 960, 122 S.Ct. 2665, 153 L.Ed.2d 839 (2002)). Considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss first "prevents a court without jurisdiction from prematurely dismissing a case with prejudice." Id. (citing Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161).
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Benton v. U.S., 960 F.2d 19, 21 (5th Cir.1992). A complaint is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) if it fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. City of Clinton v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 632 F.3d 148, 152-53 (5th Cir.2010) ("Under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, all well-pleaded facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff...."); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir.1996). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to `state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).
In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, however, "the court is permitted to look at evidence in the record beyond simply those facts alleged in the complaint and its proper attachments." Ambraco, Inc. v. Bossclip B.V., 570 F.3d 233, 238 (5th Cir.2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1111, 130 S.Ct. 1054, 175 L.Ed.2d 883 (2010); Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (stating that a court ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion may evaluate "(1) the complaint alone, (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.)"
However, "[t]he burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction." Celestine v. TransWood, Inc., 467 Fed. Appx. 317, 318 (5th Cir.2012) (quoting Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161). "Accordingly, the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist." Id. (quoting Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161). A pleading stating a claim for relief must contain "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction[.]" Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1)). In federal question cases, the party must demonstrate a non-frivolous claim based on federal law. Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111 (1939). When a district court finds it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, its determination is not on the merits of the case, and does not bar the plaintiff from pursuing the claim in a proper jurisdiction. Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir.1977) (per curiam).
As an initial matter, the Court notes that the Defendant-Judges were originally sued in their individual and official capacities as Judges of the City Court of Baton Rouge. However, during the May 31, 2013 hearing on the instant motion, the Court dismissed Hall's Section 1983 and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act claims against the Defendant-Judges in their individual capacities, after finding that the facts alleged were insufficient to destroy judicial immunity. (Doc. 137.) Thus, the Court's analysis on the motion sub judice shall be limited to: (1) all claims against the Defendant-Judges in their official capacities; and (2) Hall's claims against the Defendant-Judges in their individual capacities under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
In support of their motion, the Defendant-Judges contend that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and that they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, judicial immunity, and qualified immunity.
The Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides as follows:
U.S. CONST. amend. XI. This language expressly encompasses not only suits brought against a state by citizens of another state, but suits against a state by citizens of that same state. See Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10 S.Ct. 504, 33 L.Ed. 842 (1890); Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 276, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986); see also Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974). "A state's Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to any state agency or entity deemed an alter ego or arm of the state." Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Serv. Ctr., 307 F.3d 318, 326 (5th Cir.2002). In general, therefore, a suit in which the state or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment. Lewis v. University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 665 F.3d 625, 630 (5th Cir.2011) (citing Pennhurst, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 104 S.Ct. 900 (1984)). This jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought. Id.
A state's immunity from suit is not absolute, however, and the Supreme Court has recognized several situations in which an individual may sue a state in federal court. Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. La. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 662 F.3d 336, 340 (5th Cir.2011). First, Congress may authorize such a suit in the exercise of its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment.
1. Congress' Authorization of Lawsuits Against the State in Federal Court
First, the Court notes that Congress has abrogated the states' sovereign immunity for claims arising under the Voting Rights Act. See, e.g., Mixon v. State of Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 398-99 (6th Cir.1999); Reaves v. United States DOJ, 355 F.Supp.2d 510, 515 (D.D.C.2005) ("it is reasonable to conclude that Congress, in passing the Voting Rights Act, effected a valid abrogation of state sovereign immunity."); see also City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 518, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997) (noting that the Supreme Court has "concluded that other measures protecting voting rights are within Congress' power to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, despite the burdens those measures placed on the States.") (citing
As it relates to Hall's Section 1983 claims, it is uncontested that Congress has not abrogated the states' sovereign immunity for claims arising under Section 1983. Inyo County, Cal. v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony, 538 U.S. 701, 709, 123 S.Ct. 1887, 155 L.Ed.2d 933 (2003).
2. The State's Waiver of Eleventh Amendment Immunity
It is also uncontested that the State of Louisiana has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court. Champagne v. Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, 188 F.3d 312, 314 (5th Cir.1999) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979)); La. R.S. § 13:5106(a). Thus, the remaining question is whether the Ex parte Young doctrine applies to Hall's Section 1983 claims against the Defendant-Judges.
Ex parte Young Doctrine and Hall's Section 1983 Claims
As noted above, in Ex parte Young, the Supreme Court carved out an exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441. In that ruling, the Court permitted suits against state officials in their official capacity in order to enjoin enforcement of an unconstitutional state statute. Okpalobi, 244 F.3d at 411 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441). This exception applies when the state official: (1) has some connection with the enforcement of the statute; or (2) is specifically charged with the duty to enforce the statute and is threatening to exercise that duty. Id. at 414-15 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441).
Hall's Original Complaint alleges that the Defendant-Judges "actively campaigned and testified in opposition to Louisiana House Bill 1013 in Regular Session 2004 ... [and] actively opposed Louisiana House Bill 985 of Regular Session 2006 to reapportion, redistrict and reallot City Court judgships...." (Doc. 1, ¶ 77.) According to Hall, such Bills would have "partially or fully negated the disparate and now consequential adverse impact on the Black citizens and voters in Baton Rouge and remedied the complaints alleged herein and legally salvaged the current Judicial Election Plan." (Doc. 1, ¶ 76.) In his Second Amending and Supplemental Complaint, Hall alleges that the Defendant-Judges have:
(Doc. 74, ¶ 13.) Hall further alleges that Defendant-Judges have "personally benefitted [from] and politically supported maintenance thereof and continuance of the [Judicial Election Plan]...." (Doc. 74, ¶ 14.) Further, as alleged by Hall, the Defendant-Judges' "actions helped to prevent the successful outcome of the remedial actions of state representatives and the legislative bills filed in 2004 and 2006 before the Louisiana Legislature to ameliorate the disparate impacts of the Judicial Election Plan...." (Doc. 74, ¶ 15.)
Even when accepting all well-pled facts as true and viewing them in a light most favorable to Hall, it cannot be said that he
Absolute Judicial Immunity
In support of their motion, the Defendant-Judges also contend that they are protected by absolute judicial immunity. Thus, Hall's remaining claims against them must be dismissed. They argue that their testimony before the Louisiana Legislature were judicial acts. Thus, they are immune from suit.
In opposition, Hall argues that the Defendant-Judges' actions were nonjudicial because their testimony before the Louisiana Legislature was not a normal judicial function and because their actions took place outside of the City Court building.
It is well settled that, generally, a judge is immune from suit for any action taken within the scope of the judicial responsibilities. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10, 112 S.Ct. 286, 116 L.Ed.2d 9 (1991) (citations omitted). As opined by the Supreme Court:
Mireles, 502 U.S. at 9-10, 112 S.Ct. 286 (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 347, 13 Wall. 335, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1872)). Further, judicial immunity is an immunity from suit, not just the ultimate assessment of damages. Id. at 11, 112 S.Ct. 286 (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 36 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985)).
There are only two circumstances under which judicial immunity may be overcome. Davis v. Tarrant County Tex., 565 F.3d 214, 221 (5th Cir.2009). "First, a judge is not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity." Id. (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11, 112 S.Ct. 286). "Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction." Id. (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11, 112 S.Ct. 286). Allegations of bad faith or malice are not sufficient to overcome judicial immunity. Id. (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11, 112 S.Ct. 286 ("judicial immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice, the existence of which ordinarily
"[W]hether an act by a judge is a `judicial' one relate[s] to the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity." Davis, 565 F.3d at 222 (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at 12, 112 S.Ct. 286). "[T]he relevant inquiry is the `nature' and `function' of the act, not the `act itself.' In other words, [a court should] look to the particular act's relation to a general function normally performed by a judge...." Davis, 565 F.3d at 222 (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at 13, 112 S.Ct. 286).
The Fifth Circuit has adopted a four-factor test for determining whether a judge's actions were judicial in nature: (1) whether the precise act complained of is a normal judicial function; (2) whether the acts occurred in the courtroom or appropriate adjunct spaces such as the judge's chambers; (3) whether the controversy centered around a case pending before the court; and (4) whether the acts arose directly out of a visit to the judge in his official capacity. Id. at 222-23 (citing Ballard v. Wall, 413 F.3d 510, 515 (5th Cir. 2005)). These factors are broadly construed in favor of immunity. Id. at 223 (citing Ballard, 413 F.3d at 515).
Here, the Defendant-Judges do not contest that they testified to the Louisiana Legislature in 2004 regarding House Bill 1013, and in 2006 regarding House Bill 985. Instead, they contend that Cannon 4 of the Code of Judicial Conduct
Hall does not allege that the Defendant-Judges' testimony before the Louisiana Legislature were acts not normally performed by a judge. Rather, Hall merely alleges that the Defendant-Judges did so for their own personal benefit. Such allegations, however, are insufficient to establish a plausible claim that the Defendant-Judges' acts were not a normal judicial function. Indeed, Canon 4 of Louisiana's Code of Judicial Conduct suggests that the
It is not clear from Hall's Complaint exactly where the complained of acts took place. Nor is the Court aware of the specific content of the Defendant-Judges' testimony. However, nothing in Hall's Complaint suggests that the Defendant-Judges' testimony took place in an inappropriate location, or was outside of the scope of the then pending House Bills or the issues permitted by Canon 4 of Louisiana's Code of Judicial Conduct. Further, Hall has failed to point to any law or case to support his contention that the complained of acts were nonjudicial. The Court broadly construes "matter concerning the administration of justice" to include how judicial election Sections and Divisions should be drawn. The likelihood that the Defendant-Judges' testimony was self-serving does not require the Court to conclude that such testimony was not "concerning the administration of justice." Thus, the Court concludes that the Defendant-Judges' actions were judicial in nature.
Hall's Complaint is also void of any allegations that the Louisiana Legislature did not deal with the Defendant-Judges in their judicial capacities. Further, accepting all well-pleaded facts as true and viewing them in a light most favorable to Hall, the Court finds that Hall's Complaint does not sufficiently allege that the Defendant-Judges' actions were taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978) (emphasizing that the scope of a judge's jurisdiction must be construed broadly where the issue is the immunity of the judge); Holloway v. Walker, 765 F.2d 517, 523 (5th Cir.1985).
While it may be true that the Defendant-Judges' actions were taken for their own personal benefit, and not for the benefit of the citizens of Baton Rouge generally, allegations of bad faith or malice are not sufficient to overcome judicial immunity. Davis, 565 F.3d at 221 (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11, 112 S.Ct. 286). Moreover, "disagreement with the action taken by a judge ... does not justify depriving that judge of his immunity," nor does the fact that "tragic consequences" may ensue from the judge's action deprive him of his absolute immunity." Stump, 435 U.S. at 363-64, 98 S.Ct. 1099. Indeed, judges have absolute judicial immunity for all acts performed in the exercise of judicial functions, no matter the alleged magnitude or mendacity of the acts. Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 284 (5th Cir.1994).
In sum, the Court concludes that Hall has not sufficiently alleged facts that would destroy the Defendant-Judges' absolute judicial immunity. Therefore, Hall has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and his remaining claims against the Defendant-Judges in their respective individual and official capacities must be dismissed.
While it is not clear from Hall's pleadings, it appears that Hall's Section 1983 claims include: (1) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, made applicable to the States by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan infringes Hall's fundamental right to vote, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (5) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Fifteenth Amendment; (6) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and (7) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the "democratic principles of majority rule and individualistic egalitarianism" related to the "one person, one vote" principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Code of Judicial Conduct, http://www.lasc.org/rules/supreme/cjc.asp (September 30, 2013) (emphasis in original).