Baker v. The Alabama Supreme and Court of Criminal Appeals et al (MAG+)
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS that this cause be dismissed as frivolous within the meaning of 28 USC 1915(e), and that each of Baker's claims against the two Alabama Courts and the Alabama judges be DISMISSED with prejudice; Objections to R&R due by 2/8/2006. Signed by Judge Vanzetta P. McPherson on 1/25/06. (djy, )
Baker v. The Alabama Supreme and Court of Criminal Appeals et al (MAG+)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION J E F F E R Y BAKER, JR., P l a i n t if f , v. T H E ALABAMA SUPREME AND C O U R T OF CRIMINAL APPEALS, e t al., D e f e n d a n ts . ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )
C IV IL ACTION NO. 2:06CV43-WHA
R E C O M M E N D A T I O N OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
T h is case is pending on the plaintiff's civil complaint, filed on 18 January 2006, ag ains t the following defendants: (1) The Alabama Supreme Court, (2) The Alabama Court o f Criminal Appeals, (3) Chief Justice Drayton Nabers of the Alabama Supreme Court, and (4 ) Chief Judge H. W. McMillan of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals (Doc. # 1). He in v o k e s this court's original jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and its supplemental ju ris d ic tio n pursuant to "28 U.S.C. § 1651 [sic]".1 U p o n reviewing the complaint, the Magistrate Judge concludes that the plaintiff's c la im s presented in this case lack an arguable basis and are therefore due to be dismissed
The plaintiff cites to the federal provisions governing writs, when in fact the only writ in question i n this lawsuit is a state writ, i.e., a petition before the Alabama Supreme Court. The court understands that, b e c a u s e the plaintiff alleges violations of state law as well as federal law, it is his intent to involve 28 U.S.C. § 1367, which governs supplemental jurisdiction in this court. Notwithstanding the plaintiff's actual a lle g a tio n , courts should construe pro se filings liberally. M e d e r o s v. United States, 218 F.3d 1252, 1254 ( 1 1 th Cir. 2000). A pro se complaint is governed by "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted b y lawyers". Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Hogan v. Midland County Commissioners Court, 680 F . 2 d 1101, 1103 (5th Cir. 1982).
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b e fo re service upon application of 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (19 8 9 ).
S ta n d a r d for Determining Frivolousness U n d e r the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1915 (e)(2)(B)(i), an action filed in forma pauperis
m a y be dismissed if it is frivolous or malicious. A claim is frivolous when it lacks an a rg u a b le basis either in law or fact. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The in s ta n t complaint is clearly frivolous and lacks an arguable basis in law because none of the d e fe n d a n ts is suable on the grounds asserted by the plaintiff.
T h e allegation made by the plaintiff, Jeffery Baker [Baker"], that the defendant courts are "governmental entities of the State of Alabama" is correct. He acknowledges, however, th a t the issues in this case arise "in a misdemeanor case appealed from the Circuit Court of P ik e County, Alabama" and from his conviction of a state criminal offense. He appealed his s e n te n c e to the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the court affirmed the conviction on 26 A u g u s t 2005. B a k e r filed his application for rehearing on 11 October 2005, and the application was d e n ie d on 16 December 2005. On 4 January 2006, the Court of Criminal Appeals issued a
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c e rtific a te of judgment, certifying the judgment affirming the conviction as final.2 Baker a lle g e s that he learned for the first time on that date that his application for rehearing had b e e n denied in December. He challenges in this action the court's failure to notify him
p ro m p tly in December of its decision, and alleges that the court's failure to notify him " c irc u m v e n ted [his] timely application" to the Supreme Court. A c c o rd in g ly , on 9 January, Baker filed a petition for extraordinary writ to Chief J u s tic e Nabers; it was docketed on 12 January 2006. He requested a Temporary Restraining O rd e r and Preliminary Injunction to enjoin the Court of Criminal Appeals from treating the ju d g m e n t as final. He alleges that the two Courts and the two judges have violated his rights g u a ra n te e d by the First, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal constitution. W h en he filed this lawsuit, Baker was set to surrender to the Pike County jail on 19 January 2 0 0 6 . His petition is still pending in the Alabama Supreme Court.
T h e Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals B a k e r contends that his constitutional rights were - and continue to be - violated
d u rin g state court criminal proceedings. However, his claims against the state's appellate c o u rts lack merit. A state court is not a "person" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. M o ity v. Louisiana State Bar Association, 414 F.Supp. 180, 182 (E.D. La. 1976), aff'd, 537
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F .2 d 1141 (5th Cir. 1976).3 The court therefore concludes that dismissal of the plaintiff's c laim s against the Alabama Supreme Court and its Court of Criminal Appeals pursuant to th e provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is appropriate.
C h ie f Justice Nabers and Judge McMillan T h e law is well-settled that state judges are absolutely immune from damages liability
w h e n sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for actions taken in the course of their judicial duties. F o r r e ste r v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227-229 (1988); Paisey v. Vitale in and for Broward C o u n ty , 807 F.2d 889 (11th Cir. 1986); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978); . Thus, B a k e r's claims for damages against Chief Justice Nabers and Judge McMillan are "based on a n indisputably meritless legal theory" and are therefore subject to dismissal under the p ro v is io n s of 28 U.S.C. §1915(d). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). B a k e r also seeks a declaratory judgment, and to that extent, this court lacks ju ris d ic tio n to render such judgment. A federal court has no jurisdiction or right to grant re lie f under 42 U.S.C. §1983 with respect to challenges to state court decisions in particular c a se s arising out of state judicial proceedings even if those challenges allege that the state c o u rt's action is unconstitutional. Berman v. Florica Board of Bar Examiners, 794 F.2d 1 5 2 9 (11th Cir. 1986).
In Bonner v. Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals adopted as binding precedent all of the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit h a n d e d down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981. 4
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A n action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 may not be used as a substitute to appeal a state court decision. Rolleston v. Eldridge, 848 F,2d 163 (11th Cir. 1988). In light of the fo re g o in g , dismissal of the plaintiff's claims against both judges is appropriate under 28 U .S .C . §1915(e). See Clark v. State of Georgia Pardons and Paroles Board, 915 F.2d 636 (11 th Cir. 1990).
A b s te n tio n M o reo v er, resolution of the criminal charges about which Baker complains are
te c h n ic a lly pending before an Alabama state court. Under the decision of the United States S u p r e m e Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37,43-44 (1971), a federal court must refrain fro m interfering with pending state criminal proceedings "when the moving party has an a d e q u ate remedy at law and will not suffer irreparable injury if denied equitable relief." The Y o u n g e r abstention doctrine is premised upon a fundamental "public policy against federal in te rfe re n c e with state criminal prosecutions." Id. at 43. In this case, Baker has an adequate remedy at law because he may pursue any of his fe d e ra l constitutional issues through the state court system. See generally Doby v. Strength, 7 5 8 F.2d 1405 (11th Cir. 1985). Specifically, he can still vindicate his constitutional rights in the on-going state criminal proceedings before the Alabama Supreme Court, or he can file a collateral attack against the court's action. The mere fact that Baker must endure state criminal proceedings fails to demonstrate irre p a ra b le harm. Younger, 401 U.S. at 45. This court must therefore abstain from 5
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c o n sid e rin g the merits of plaintiff's challenges to his lack of notice regarding the finality of th e Court of Criminal Appeals' judgment. In light of the foregoing, dismissal of the p la in tif f 's constitutional and state law claims is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1 9 1 5 (e )(2 )(B )(ii) as these claims are not cognizable in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action at this time.
IV . CONCLUSION
A c c o r d in g ly , it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that this cause b e dismissed as frivolous within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §1915(e), and that each of Baker's c laim s against the two Alabama Courts and the Alabama judges be DISMISSED with p r e ju d ic e . It is further O R D E R E D that the parties shall file any objections to this Recommendation on or b e fo re 8 February 2006. A party must specifically identify the findings in the
R e c o m m e n d a tio n to which objection is made; frivolous, conclusive, or general objections w ill not be considered. Failure to file written objections to the Magistrate Judge's proposed fin d in g s and recommendations shall bar a party from a de novo determination by the District C o u rt of issues covered in the Recommendation and shall bar the party from attacking on a p p e al factual findings accepted or adopted by the District Court except upon grounds of p la in error or manifest injustice. Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404 (5 th Cir. 1982). See S te in v. Reynolds Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11 th Cir. 1982). See also Bonner v. City of
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P r ic h a r d , 661 F.2d 1206 (11 th Cir. 1981, en banc). D O N E this 25 th day of January, 2006.
/s / Vanzetta Penn McPherson V A N Z E T T A PENN MCPHERSON U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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