Louisiana Firefighters Claim Fingerprinting is Unconstitutional

Five Louisiana firefighters have filed suit claiming the fire department violated their civil rights last year by ordering them to be finger printed. Christopher Perre, Kevin Crossen, Mitchell Arbaugh, Michael Giarrusso and Brandon Barthel filed suit against the East Bank Consolidated Special Service Fire Protection District, Jefferson Parrish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, and the district’s past and current fire chiefs.

The suit was filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging that requiring firefighters to be fingerprinted violates their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. The firefighters claim the fingerprinting caused them:

  • Mental anguish stemming from outrage experienced as a result of the actions they experienced;
  • Embarrassment and humiliation;
  • Shock and mortification from threats to comply with [the] unconstitutional order, and
  • Costs and attorney fees.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • On or around February 3, 2022, the then existing Fire Chief of the FIRE DEPARTMENT ordered the Plaintiffs (and other classified fire employees) to submit to a fingerprint search in and around February 3, 2022 (and further thereafter).
  • There was no “special need” for any of the Plaintiffs to submit to a search and seizure of their fingerprints as that term is understood under federal and state constitutional law.
  • The order was under penalty of disciplinary action including termination for insubordination. The order was in response to fire employee’s refusal to provide fingerprints to the FIRE DEPARTMENT. The order was issued pursuant to an official policy and custom of the FIRE DEPARTMENT.
  • There was no valid basis for the taking of the Plaintiffs’ fingerprints such that the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated, namely:
  • The right to only be subjected to reasonable search and/or seizures as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment and/or the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
  • Moreover, turning over private information such as fingerprints as a condition of already vested public employment and associated constitutionally protected property rights is an additional violation of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantee of due process of law.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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