Federal judge dismisses most claims in civil rights lawsuit

A federal judge tossed out all but one of a former Livingston Parish worker’s claims Monday that officials violated his civil rights when he was accused of a crime deemed unconstitutional decades ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Royce McLin, a former parish road inspector, alleged in a federal lawsuit filed in August 2013 that Parish Council members Jim Norred, Chance Parent and Cindy Wale, along with the parish Sheriff’s Office, worked together to accuse him of making derogatory statements about the trio through an anonymous Facebook account.

McLin’s lawsuit says the anonymous user made the comments on a news story posted on Facebook by a local news outlet called the Livingston Daily Times.

De puties issued McLin a misdemeanor summons Aug. 16, 2012, for three counts of criminal defamation, which is defined by Louisiana Revised Statute 14:47 as “a malicious publication or expression in any manner” that exposes a person to “hatred, contempt or ridicule.”

McLin’s suit says the U.S. Supreme Court rendered most of the law unconstitutional 47 years ago.

McLin surrendered to deputies shortly after receiving the summons, and the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against him four months later.

McLin sued the council members, Sheriff Jason Ard and six sheriff’s deputies, claiming his constitutional rights were violated.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick tossed out McLin’s claims against the council members in October, saying a summons had been issued against McLin, not an arrest warrant, and he did not have to “surrender” to authorities.

Dick on Monday threw out all but one of McLin’s claims against Ard and his deputies.

While Dick reiterated that McLin’s surrender was voluntary, the judge upheld McLin’s claim that deputies may have violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they seized computers and video game consoles from his home in June 2012 to determine if McLin wrote the comments on Facebook.

Dick said deputies were searching McLin’s home for evidence of a crime that has been found to be unconstitutional and unenforceable.

“There is no legitimate government interest in enforcing a penal statute that was declared unconstitutional as applied to punishing public expression about public officials,” Dick’s ruling says.

Chris Alexander, one of McLin’s attorneys, strongly opposed Dick’s ruling that said McLin surrendered to authorities voluntarily.

Alexander said McLin will appeal the rulings.

“All of these defendants based an arrest warrant on a criminal law that was overturned 50 years ago,” Alexander said in an email. “Either they are the most uninformed public servants in our state or their actions were retaliatory.”

Ard and the deputies’ attorney, Cullen Dupuy, did not return messages Wednesday for comment.