Deputies Entitled to Qualified Immunity in 42 U.S.C. §1983 Case

Recently, Judge Ivan Lemelle, Senior United States District Court Judge, Eastern District of Louisiana, granted a Motion for Summary Judgment to Deputies Charles Cook and Joe Cehan of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office on the basis of qualified immunity.

The Court considered the initial arrest, interactions between the deputies and the plaintiff, Christopher Verdin, thereafter, and Christopher Verdin’s alleged constitutional rights, and found that plaintiff did not meet his burden of proving that the rights he alleged defendants violated were clearly established under the law. The Court noted that, as there was extensive video evidence from the deputies’ body cameras as well as cell phone video, the Court could assign greater weight to the facts evidenced from video recordings taken at the scene as opposed to plaintiff’s own version of the facts.

The Court found, given the undisputed facts as reflected in the video, that there was no finding that an objectively reasonable officer would be on notice that using some degree of force while handcuffing an armed individual, or physically removing him from a vehicle when, after repeated commands, the plaintiff refused to get out of the police vehicle, violated clearly established law. Nor were there any First Amendment rights implicated under the facts as evident from the videos aforementioned. Because the case law supports the deputies’ claims that they are entitled to use reasonable force to remove the plaintiff from the vehicle after the plaintiff refused to comply with orders to exit, there was no First Amendment right implicated. The Court granted judgment for the defendants and dismissed the case in its entirety.

Deputies Charles Cook and Joe Cehan were represented by Mark E. Hanna and Trevor M. Cutaiar of Mouledoux, Bland, Legrand & Brackett, LLC.