ACLU of Louisiana Criticizes Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision to Toss Suit of Man Beaten by Police, Blames LA’s Statute of Limitations

By Kaylynn Chang

NEW ORLEANS, LA  — The ACLU of Louisiana criticized a ruling this week by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which dismissed a Section 1983 action brought against DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies by Jarius Brown—a Black man beaten by officers who were later criminally charged by the U.S. Dept. of Justice for their actions.

According to the U.S. Code Section 1983, this section enforces the rights granted by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the US Constitution by allowing “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory…shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law”

The ACLU said Brown, following a non-violent traffic stop, was “transported to DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office,” where “while changing (into prison clothes) and despite full compliance on Mr. Brown’s behalf, the DeSoto Parish deputies began to beat Mr. Brown without legal justification, warning, or provocation.”

Per the ACLU’s statement from Case #22 from their Justice Lab website, Brown was “brutally beaten by DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies in violation of his US Constitutional Rights.” 

Keeping the attackers “liable under Louisiana state law for their violent attack,” the ACLU states Brown sued using Section 1983 to hold “DeSoto Parish deputies accountable for their violation of citizens’ rights under the U.S. Constitution and Louisiana state laws.”

However, the ACLU’s case was refused by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana because of Louisiana’s “one-year residual statute of limitations.” 

This statute, according ACLU’s Case #49 from the Justice Lab, limits the time to one-year to file the suit from the incident.

The ACLU argued Louisiana’s statute of limitations “impermissibly contravenes the federal interests underpinning Section 1983 as it both discriminates against and fails to account for the practicalities inherent to preparing Section 1983 claims predicated on police brutality.”

Case #49 states that in his appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court, Brown “argued that the District Court erred in applying this one-year limitation to his Section 1983 claim.” 

Yet the Fifth Circuit Court agreed with the lower court, “dismissing Mr. Brown’s lawsuit” and stating in its decision that only the U.S. Supreme Court “can clarify how lower courts should evaluate practical frustration” of a victim’s Section 1983 claim.”

Case #49 notes Brown is now pursuing action using “Section 1658, which provides a limitations period of four years for federal claims (that) would better effectuate the federal interests underpinning Section 1983…the four-year period should be applied to Mr. Brown’s federal civil rights claim.”

With the newest appeal still in motion, the ACLU said it is urging Congress “to solve this problem by creating a uniform statute of limitations for Section 1983 claims, such that all victims of civil rights abuses, regardless of location, will have sufficient time to seek redress in federal court.”

About The Author

Kaylynn Chang is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley looking to major in Legal Studies with a strong interest in criminal justice and judicial law. Having years of experence with journalism and leading a publication, she loves to look for the stories of her community, focusing on the hidden voices and intriguing tales of people. She hopes to attend law school in the future, but for now she is looking to gain experience and experiment with her path. A passionate creator, a cafe connoisseur, and a library enthusiast, Kaylynn is always looking for small adventures along with accomplishing big goals.

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