Sanderson v. Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Commission et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Susan Russ Walker on 6/7/2011. (br, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DONALD RAY SANDERSON, #263986, )
SHERIFF D. T. MARSHALL, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:10-CV-878-SRW
This cause of action is before the court on an amended complaint filed by Donald
Ray Sanderson ["Sanderson"], a state inmate, on February 22, 2011.1 In the amended
complaint, Sanderson challenges the medical treatment provided to him and conditions of
confinement to which he was subjected during his confinement in the Montgomery County
Detention Facility from December 29, 2009, until January 19, 2010. He also attacks actions
taken by the Alabama State Bar Association in addressing a complaint filed by him against
his attorney, Tony Glenn. Sanderson lists D. T. Marshall, the Sheriff of Montgomery
County, Alabama; William F. Joseph, Jr., a member of the Montgomery County
Commission; the Montgomery County Jail; the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary
Pursuant to the orders entered herein, this case is proceeding "only against the defendants named
and claims presented in the amended complaint" filed by Sanderson on February 22, 2011. Order of
February 4, 2011 - Court Doc. No. 7 at 5.
Commission; Robert E. Luske, Jr., an assistant general counsel for the bar association; and
Tony Glenn as defendants in the amended complaint.
Upon review of the allegations contained in the amended complaint, the court
concludes that all of the claims presented in this pleading, with the exception of the
plaintiff's claims against Sheriff D. T. Marshall regarding actions which occurred during
his prior confinement at the Montgomery Detention Facility, are due to be dismissed prior
to service of process in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).2
A. The Montgomery County Jail
Sanderson names the Montgomery County Jail as a defendant. However, the law
is well settled that a county jail is not a legal entity subject to suit or liability under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. See Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992). Thus, the
plaintiff's claims against the Montgomery County Jail are due to be dismissed as frivolous
in accordance with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). Id.
B. Commissioner William F. Joseph, Jr.
To the extent that Sanderson seeks to hold William F. Joseph, Jr., a commissioner
The court granted Sanderson leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Order of January 20, 2011 Court Doc. No. 4. 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' 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).
for Montgomery County, Alabama, liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for actions of the sheriff
regarding the daily operation of the Montgomery County Detention Facility or policies
implemented by the sheriff regarding such operation, he is entitled to no relief. "A local
government may be held liable under § 1983 only for acts for which it is actually
responsible, 'acts which the [local government] has officially sanctioned or ordered.'
Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80, 106 S.Ct. 1292, 1298, 89 L.Ed.2d
452 (1986) (citing Monell v. New York City Dept. of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct.
2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978))." Turquitt v. Jefferson County, 137 F.3d 1285, 1287 (11th
Cir. 1998). Consequently, "local governments can never be liable under § 1983 for the acts
of those whom the local government has no authority to control." Id. 1292. In deciding
whether a county commission is liable under § 1983, "[a] court's task is to 'identify those
officials or governmental bodies who speak with final policymaking authority for the local
government actor concerning the action alleged to have caused the particular constitutional
or statutory violation at issue.'" McMillian v. Monroe County, 520 U.S. 781, 784-785, 117
S.Ct. 1734, 1736 (1997) (quoting Jett v. Dallas Independent School Dist., 491 U.S. 701,
737, 109 S.Ct. 2702, 2724, 105 L.Ed.2d 598 (1989)). State law is well settled that "an
Alabama sheriff acts exclusively for the state rather than for the county in operating a
county jail." Turquitt, 137 F.3d at 1288.3 As is clear from the foregoing, "Alabama
Under all facets of Alabama law, a county sheriff acts as a state officer "when supervising inmates
and otherwise operating the county jails." Turquitt, 137 F.3d at 1289; Parker v. Amerson, 519 So.2d 442
(Ala. 1987) ("A sheriff is an executive officer of the State of Alabama" and as such "is not an employee of
a county for the purposes of imposing liability on the county."); Ala. Code § 14-6-1 (a sheriff has "the legal
sheriffs are not county policymakers in their daily management of county jails." Turquitt,
137 F.3d at 1292. "For § 1983 liability to attach to a county [and/or its commissioners],
the policy at issue must have been made by a person who exercises final authority on behalf
of the county with respect to that policy. See McMillian, 520 U.S. at [784-785], 117 S.Ct.
at 1736. Alabama law, however, clearly demonstrates that sheriffs possess only state
policymaking authority when running the day-to-day affairs of a jail. See Turquitt, 137
F.3d at 1291-92." Vinson v. Clarke County, 10 F.Supp.2d 1282, 1295-1296 (S.D. Ala.
1998). Furthermore, a county commission and its individual members are entitled to
absolute immunity under § 1983 for claims arising from the appropriation of funds for the
maintenance of a county jail. Woods v. Garner, 132 F.3d 1417, 1420 (11th Cir. 1998). In
light of the foregoing, the plaintiff’s claims against defendant Joseph are due to be
summarily dismissed in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
C. Claims Arising from State Bar Complaint
Sanderson alleges that the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Commission and Robert
E. Luske, Jr., deprived him of his constitutional rights during proceedings related to a
complaint he filed with the bar association against his attorney, Tony Glenn. Specifically,
Sanderson complains the Alabama State Bar Association refused to take disciplinary action
against Mr. Glenn.
An essential element of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is that a person acting under color
custody and charge of the jail in his county and all prisoners committed thereto."); King v. Colbert County,
620 So.2d 623, 625 (Ala. 1993) (Ala. Code § 14-6-1 establishes that "the sheriff's authority over the jail is
totally independent of the [county commission].")
of state law committed the asserted constitutional deprivation. American Manufacturers
Mutual Ins. Company v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 119 S.Ct. 977, 985, 143 L.Ed.2d 130
(1999); Willis v. University Health Services, Inc., 993 F.2d 837, 840 (11th Cir. 1993).
To state a [viable] claim for relief in an action brought under § 1983, [a
plaintiff] must establish that [he was] deprived of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States, and that the alleged deprivation
was committed under color of state law.... [T]he under-color-of-state-law
element of § 1983 excludes from its reach “‘merely private conduct, no
matter how discriminatory or wrongful,’” Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991,
1002, 102 S.Ct. 2777, 73 L.Ed.2d 534 (1982) (quoting Shelley v. Kraemer,
334 U.S. 1, 13, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161 (1948)).... [Consequently,] state
action requires both an alleged constitutional deprivation “caused by the
exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or by a rule of
conduct imposed by the State or by a person for whom the State is
responsible,” and that “the party charged with the deprivation must be a
person who may fairly be said to be a state actor.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil
Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 73 L.Ed.2d 482 (1982); see Flagg
Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 156, 98 S.Ct. 1729, 56 L.Ed.2d 185
American Manufacturers, 526 U.S. at 49-50, 119 S.Ct. at 985 (footnote omitted) (emphasis
It is clear to the court that the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Commission and
Robert E. Luske, Jr., are not state actors subject to suit or liability in the instant cause of
action as the Alabama State Bar Association is a private entity, not a state agency.
American Manufacturers, supra. In addition, any claims lodged against attorney Tony
Glenn are likewise subject to summary dismissal as the law is well settled that an attorney
who represents an accused in criminal proceedings does not act under color of state law.
Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981); Mills v. Criminal District Court No. 3, 837
F.2d 677, 679 (5th Cir. 1988) ("[P]rivate attorneys, even court-appointed attorneys, are not
official state actors and ... are not subject to suit under section 1983."). Sanderson's claims
against these defendants are therefore due to be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
A separate order will accompany this memorandum opinion.
DONE, this 7th day of June, 2011.
/s/ Susan Russ Walker
SUSAN RUSS WALKER
CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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