The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Akerman, LLP, on behalf of Miguel Nevarez, a 36-year-old Afro-Latino man, who was fatally shot by Houma police officers, recently filed their brief in opposition to the Defendant’s appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana denied defendants Anthony Dorris and Justin Leonard’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint and ruled that the plaintiffs plausibly alleged the Fourth Amendment violation. The court further ruled that defendants are not entitled to a qualified immunity defense as the Fourth Amendment right that plaintiffs contend defendants violated—to be free from a search pursuant to a warrant that, on its face, is so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence unreasonable—was clearly established at the time defendants submitted their warrant affidavits. The defendants subsequently appealed the district court’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On appeal, the plaintiffs are arguing that the district court properly denied the Defendant-Officers’ motion to dismiss. The search warrants did not contain any facts describing or alleging any link between the subjects of the requested warrants and the crime of aggravated assault against a police officer, and that the law is clear that when there is a knowing absence of probable cause then it is objectively unreasonable for the Officers to submit affidavits for warrants to search a person’s house, phone, and car. Additionally, the alleged crime that officers stated they were investigating was one that could not be prosecuted due to the alleged perpetrator being deceased at the time of the application for the warrant. Therefore, denial of the motion to dismiss was proper.
Mr. Nevarez’s surviving family are represented by Nora Ahmed and Bridget Wheeler at the ACLU of Louisiana and the team of Richard Leland and Xakema Henderson at Akerman, LLP.
The Defendant-Appellants in this case is:
- Justin Leonard, state trooper with the Louisiana State Police
- Anthony Dorris, state trooper with the Louisiana State Police