A Livingston Parish man accused of violating a criminal defamation statute declared unconstitutional 50 years ago will be allowed to amend his federal complaint against the Sheriff’s Office to keep alive his claim for illegal search and seizure.
Royce McLin’s Fourth Amendment claim is all that remains of the civil rights lawsuit he filed against Sheriff Jason Ard, six deputies and three Parish Council members in 2013 after he was accused of using a phony Facebook profile to post derogatory comments about the council members.
McLin, a former parish road inspector, was issued a misdemeanor summons Aug. 16, 2012, for three counts of criminal defamation against council members Jim Norred, Chance Parent and Cindy Wale after a laptop deputies seized from his home was tied to the bogus Facebook account.
McLin did not specifically allege in his complaint that the deputies’ search warrant was based on Louisiana’s criminal defamation law, which the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 1964.
But a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said that was an omission McLin would be allowed to correct.
Attorneys for the sheriff and deputies had argued that U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick erred when she did not toss out McLin’s unreasonable search claim along with the rest of his complaint early last year.
The search warrant in this case was based on multiple criminal statutes, not just the defamation law, Cullen Dupuy, one of the sheriff’s attorneys, argued in a brief to the appeals court. And even that statute can be constitutionally applied under certain circumstances, Dupuy said. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday on the Fifth Circuit’s ruling.
But Chris Alexander, one of McLin’s attorneys, said Wednesday that the search warrant used to seize several computers from McLin’s home did not cite a statute at all. It was a later warrant to have the computers analyzed by a crime lab that cited both the defamation statute and the state’s cyberstalking law, Alexander said.
Alexander said McLin still plans to appeal Dick’s dismissal of his other Fourth Amendment claim — that his surrender to law enforcement to sign the misdemeanor summons was an unlawful arrest — and may seek a rehearing on that and several other issues.
The District Attorney’s Office for the 21st Judicial District in Livingston had declined to prosecute McLin on the defamation allegations in December 2012.
McLin then sued the sheriff, deputies and three council members in August 2013, claiming they conspired to maliciously prosecute him under the mostly defunct defamation law.
McLin claimed violations of his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
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