Johnson v. Brooks et al (INMATE1)

Filing 4

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 1 Inmate 1983 Complaint filed by Alvin James Johnson; it is the Recommendation of the Mag Judge that: 1) The plaintiff's claims against defendants Brooks and Myrick be dismissed with prejudice in accordance with t he provisions of 28 USC 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii); 2) To the extent Johnson presents a claim challenging the constitutionality of actions occurring in a pending state criminal case, this case be dismissed without prejudice in accordance with the provisions of 28 USC 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Objections to R&R due by 5/18/2009. Signed by Honorable Terry F. Moorer on 5/5/09. (vma, )

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IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION A L V IN JAMES JOHNSON, Plaintiff, v. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C IV IL ACTION NO. 2:09-CV-385-TMH [WO] DISTRICT ATTORNEY ELLEN BROOKS and DETECTIVE MIKE MYRICK, Defendants. RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE T h is case is before the court on a 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint filed by Alvin James Jo h n so n ["Johnson"], a pre-trial detainee presently confined in the Montgomery County D e te n tio n Facility on capital murder charges. In this complaint, Johnson asserts the State of A la b a m a , thorough its representative district attorney, has failed to properly respond to a m o tio n for production of discovery filed on May 27, 2008 in his pending criminal case. J o h n s o n argues that such failure is violative of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and th e state rules of criminal procedure. Johnson names Ellen Brooks, the district attorney of M o n tg o m e ry County, Alabama, and Mike Myrick, a detective with the Montgomery Police D e p a rtm e n t, as defendants in this cause of action. Johnson seeks judgment in his favor, i.e., d e c l a ra to r y relief, and monetary damages for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights. P la in tiff' s Complaint - Court Doc. No. 1 at 5. U p o n review of the allegations contained in the complaint, the court concludes that th is case is due to be dismissed prior to service of process pursuant to the directives of 28 U .S .C . 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii) and (iii).1 I . DISCUSSION A. Pending Criminal Case J o h n s o n challenges the constitutionality of discovery responses in a capital case p re se n tly before the state courts of Montgomery County, Alabama. Any decision issued by th is court on the merits of Johnson's claim for relief would interfere with the state courts in th e ir conduct of proceedings regarding the pending capital case. Under the decision of the U n ite d States Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971), a federal c o u rt must refrain from interfering with pending state criminal proceedings "when the m o v in g party has an adequate remedy at law and will not suffer irreparable injury if denied e q u ita b le relief." The Younger abstention doctrine is premised upon a fundamental "public p o lic y against federal interference with state criminal prosecutions." Id. at 43. In this case, J o h n s o n has an adequate remedy at law because he may pursue his federal constitutional is s u e through the state court system. See generally Doby v. Strength, 758 F.2d 1405 (11 th Cir. 1 9 8 5 ). Specifically, Johnson may present his claim throughout the on-going state criminal The court granted Johnson leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Court Doc. No. 3. A prisoner who is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis will have his complaint screened under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B) which requires this court to dismiss a prisoner's civil action prior to service of process if it determines that the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). 1 2 p ro c e ed in g s , including presentation of motions to the district and/or circuit courts, assertion o f claims to the appellate court if dissatisfied with the rulings of the lower courts and p re se n ta tio n of the claim on direct appeal if he is convicted of the charged offense. M o re o v e r, the plaintiff has not alleged the existence of any special circumstances which c re a te a threat of irreparable harm. The mere fact that Johnson must endure state criminal p ro c e e d in g s fails to demonstrate irreparable harm. Younger, 401 U.S. at 45. This court must th e re f o re abstain from considering the merits of Johnson's complaint as it challenges the c o n stitu tio n a lity of actions with respect to discovery in his pending criminal case. C o n s e q uen tly, summary dismissal of the instant complaint is appropriate under the provisions o f 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). B . Damage Claims Jo h n so n maintains defendants Brooks and Myrick violated his constitutional rights b y failing to properly respond to his request for production of documents and seeks monetary d a m a g e s for their actions. Defendant Myrick is not a party to the criminal case in which the m o tio n for production of documents was filed and therefore has no responsibility regarding f il i n g a response to such motion as such is the sole responsibility of counsel for the State. S e e Rule 16.1, Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure (upon written request of the defendant f o r statements of the defendant, co-defendant or accomplice, documents or tangible objects, th e prosecutor shall allow the defendant to inspect, analyze and/or copy the requested m a te ria l). Thus, no basis for liability exists regarding defendant Myrick. Miller v. King, 384 3 F .3 d 1248, 1261 (11 th Cir. 2004) (an official is not liable under 1983 "on the basis of ... v ica rio u s liability."); Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228, 1234 (11 th Cir.2003) (defendant c a n n o t be held liable on basis of vicarious liablity); Marsh v. Butler County, 268 F.3d 1014, 1 0 3 5 (11 th Cir. 2001) (same). Additionally, it is clear from the complaint that the claims m a d e against defendant Brooks emanate from this defendant's representation of the State d u rin g criminal proceedings before the state courts of Montgomery County, Alabama. "A prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for all actions [she] takes while p e rf o rm in g [her] function as an advocate for the government. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U .S . 259, 273, 113 S.Ct. 2606, 2615-16, 125 L.Ed.2d 209 (1993). The prosecutorial function in c lu d e s the initiation and pursuit of criminal prosecution, Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 4 2 4 , 96 S.Ct. 984, 992, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976), and all appearances before the court, in c lu d in g examining witnesses and presenting evidence. See Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 4 9 2 , 111 S.Ct. 1934, 1942 (1991)." Rowe v. Fort Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11 th Cir. 2 0 0 2 ); see also Mastroianni v. Bowers, 60 F.3d 671, 676 (11th Cir. 1998). [A]bsolute immunity is an entitlement to be free from suit for m o n e y damages.... [T]he purpose of the immunity is to shield o f f ic ia ls from the distractions of litigation arising from the p e rf o rm a n c e of their official functions. To fulfill its purpose, o f f ic ia l immunity protects government officials not only from h a v in g to stand trial, but also from having to bear the other b u rd e n s attendant to litigation, including pretrial discovery.... In Im b le r v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 ( 1 9 7 6 ) , the Supreme Court held that a prosecutor is absolutely im m u n e from civil suit for damages under section 1983 for a c tio n s taken "in initiating a prosecution and in presenting the S ta te 's case." Id. at 431, 96 S.Ct. at 995. 4 M a r x v. Gumbinner, 855 F.2d. 783, 788-89 (11 th Cir. 1988). T h e actions of defendant Brooks about which the plaintiff complains have been u n d ertak en by this defendant in her role "as an `advocate' for the state" and such actions "are in tim a te ly associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process." Mastroianni v. B o w e r s, 60 F.3d 671, 676 (11 th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). Defendant Brooks is therefore " e n title d to absolute immunity [from damages] for that conduct." Id. Thus, Johnson's re q u e st for damages against Ellen Brooks lacks an arguable basis and, as such, is subject to d is m is s a l in accordance with the directives of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii). Neitzke, 4 9 0 U.S. at 327. As previously determined, Johnson is not entitled to declaratory relief with re s p e c t to actions occurring in his pending criminal case. II. CONCLUSION A c c o rd in g ly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that: 1 . The plaintiff's claims against defendants Brooks and Myrick be DISMISSED with p rejud ice in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii). 2 . To the extent Johnson presents a claim challenging the constitutionality of actions o c c u rrin g in a pending state criminal case, this case be DISMISSED without prejudice in a c c o rd a n c e with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). It is further ORDERED that on or before May 18, 2009 the parties may file objections to this R e c o m m e n d a t io n . Any objections filed must specifically identify the findings in the 5 M a g is tra te Judge's Recommendation to which the party is objecting. Frivolous, conclusive o r general objections will not be considered by the District Court. The parties are advised th a t this Recommendation is not a final order of the court and, therefore, it is not appealable. F a i l u r e to file written objections to the proposed findings and advisements in the M a g is tra te Judge's Recommendation shall bar the party from a de novo determination by the D is tric t Court of issues covered in the Recommendation and shall bar the party from a tta c k in g on appeal factual findings in the Recommendation accepted or adopted by the D is tric t Court except upon grounds of plain error or manifest injustice. Nettles v. W a in w r ig h t, 677 F.2d 404 (5th Cir. 1982). See Stein v. Reynolds Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 3 3 (11th Cir. 1982). See also Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206 (11th Cir. 1981, en b a n c ), adopting as binding precedent all of the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981. D o n e this 5 th day of May, 2009. /s/Terry F. Moorer TERRY F. MOORER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 6

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