Most of lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution thrown out

A former Livingston Parish employee might appeal a judge’s ruling tossing out most of his lawsuit against three Parish Council members who filed criminal defamation complaints against him last year, his attorneys said Wednesday.

The lawsuit stems from comments the employee allegedly made on Facebook using a bogus account.

Royce McLin sued council members Jim Norred, Chance Parent and Cindy Wale in August, claiming violations of his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

McLin said the council members conspired with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office to maliciously prosecute him because of some derogatory comments about the council members anonymously posted on the social networking site in April 2012.

Sheriff Jason Ard and six deputies and detectives also were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Sheriff’s deputies seized McLin’s computer equipment from his home in June 2012, and a State Police forensic analysis found one of McLin’s laptops contained evidence of the bogus account name being used.

McLin was issued three misdemeanor summonses on Aug. 16, 2012, for criminal defamation under a statute the state Supreme Court twice found unconstitutional in 1973 and 1981.

McLin surrendered to the Sheriff’s Office the same day and signed the summonses.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case four months later.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, of the Middle District in Baton Rouge, threw out McLin’s Fourth Amendment claims against the council members Monday, saying McLin’s surrender did not qualify as an arrest.

“Notably, absent from the complaint is any allegation that (McLin) was restrained, hand cuffed, jailed, or even made to defend the charges,” Dick wrote in her ruling.

The judge also threw out McLin’s First Amendment claims, saying, “Although the conduct of the (council members) is troubling, (McLin) did not suffer a harm caused by these movants sufficient to chill the speech of a person of ordinary firmness.”

Dick did say she was “mindful that the (council members) seemingly get a ‘pass’ because the justice system worked as it should.”

McLin’s attorneys disagreed with the judge’s reasoning.

“Royce surrendered to the Sheriff’s office and was booked in because he had absolutely no choice,” attorneys Chris Alexander and Stephen Spring said Wednesday in an emailed statement.

“There were three arrest warrants for him. ... Should he have waited at his home so they could come cuff him in front of his family and neighbors?” McLin’s attorneys said.

No criminal process using a statute thrown out decades ago could ever be considered reasonable, they said.

“The average American is not allowed to plead ignorance of the law as an excuse, and public officials, particularly council members, should not be able to either,” the attorneys said.

“These council members swore out arrest affidavits against Royce based upon a law that doesn’t exist, and it was a retaliatory act because he criticized their public conduct.”

Councilwoman Cindy Wale said Wednesday that she was excited that the claims had been tossed.

“Obviously, I think they weren’t warranted in the first place,” Wale said. “I’m looking forward to the rest being taken off as well.”

Neither Norred nor Parent returned calls for comment. Their attorney, parish legal adviser Chris Moody, also could not be reached for comment.

Dick said she did not address McLin’s Fifth Amendment claim because it was not made clear in the complaint. She said the 14th Amendment was inapplicable to a malicious prosecution lawsuit.

McLin’s attorneys said the claims against the Sheriff’s Office remain intact.