Bullard v. Denson et al (INMATE 2)
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that: 1) The 1983 claims presented against Judges Denson, Smithart, Young, and Fuller be DISMISSED with prejudice in accordance with the directives of 28 USC 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and/or (iii); 2) Plf' ;s challenge to the constitutionality of the convictions and sentences imposed upon him by the Circuit Courts of Lee, Barbour, Elmore, and Tallapoosa Counties, Alabama, be DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to the provisions of 28 USC 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) as such claims are not properly before the court at this time; and 3) This complaint be DISMISSED prior to service of process; Objections to R&R due by 4/21/2009. Signed by Honorable Terry F. Moorer on 4/8/2009. (wcl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA E A S T E R N DIVISION ____________________________ H A R O L D DOUGLAS BULLARD # 2 2 5 596 P l a in tif f , v. J U D G E DENSON, LEE COUNTY, et al., D e f e n d a n ts . ____________________________ * * * * * 3:09-CV-224-TMH (WO)
R E C O M M E N D A T I O N OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE P la in tif f , an inmate incarcerated at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton, A la b a m a , filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on March 19, 2009. He seeks to challenge m a tte rs related to his criminal court proceedings which occurred in four different counties in Alabama. Plaintiff brings this complaint against circuit court judges for Lee, Barbour, T allap o o sa, and Elmore Counties, Alabama. Upon review of the complaint, the court c o n c lu d e s that dismissal of this case prior to service of process is appropriate under 28 U .S .C . § 1915(e)(2)(B).1
1 A prisoner who is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis in this court will have his complaint screened in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This screening procedure requires the 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).
I. DISCUSSION A . Judges Denson, Smithart, Young, and Fuller T h e court understands Plaintiff to argue in his complaint that Judges Denson (circuit c o u rt judge for Lee County), Smithart (circuit court judge for Barbour County), Young (circuit court judge for Tallapoosa County), and Fuller (circuit court judge for Elmore C o u n ty) violated his constitutional rights during his criminal proceedings in each judge's re sp e c tiv e court. Plaintiff's claims against the named defendants entitle him to no relief in th is cause of action. i. Monetary Damages Plaintiff's allegations against the named judges emanate from actions taken by these d e f e n d a n ts in their judicial capacity during state court proceedings over which they had ju risd ictio n . The law is well established that a state judge is absolutely immune from civil lia b ility for acts taken pursuant to his judicial authority. Forrester v. White, 484 U. S. 219, 2 2 7 -2 2 9 (1988); Paisey v. Vitale in and for Broward County, 807 F.2d 889 (11 th Cir. 1986); S tu m p v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978). Moreover, this immunity applies even when the ju d ic ia l acts are done maliciously or corruptly. Stump, 386 U.S. at 356; Harris v. Deveaux, 7 8 0 F.2d 911, 914 (11 th Cir. 1986). Accordingly, any claim for monetary damages against th e named defendants are "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" and are, there fo re, due to be dismissed under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii). N eitz k e v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
ii. Declaratory Relief T o the extent Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief from adverse decisions issued by the n a m e d defendants in the state criminal proceedings over which these defendants presided, th is court lacks jurisdiction to render such judgment in an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents . . . lower federal courts from exercising ju risd ictio n over cases brought by `state-court losers' challenging `state-court judgments re n d e re d before the district court proceedings commenced.' Exxon Mobil Corp. V. Saudi B a s ic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005)." Lance v . Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460, 126 S.Ct. 1198, 1199 (2006). Although Rooker-Feldman "is a narrow doctrine," it remains applicable to bar Plaintiff from proceeding before this court as this case is "brought by [a] state-court loser complaining of injuries caused by state-court ju d g m e n ts rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district c o u rt review and rejection of those judgments. 544 U.S. at 284, 125 S.Ct. [at] 1517." Lance, 5 4 6 U.S. at 464, 125 S.Ct. at 1201; District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U .S . 462, 486 (1983) (federal district courts "do not have jurisdiction . . . over challenges to s ta te court decisions in particular cases arising out of judicial proceedings even if those c h a lle n g e s allege that the state court's action was unconstitutional."). Moreover, a § 1983 a c tio n is inappropriate either to compel or to appeal a particular course of action by a state c o u rt. Datz v. Kilgore, 51 F.3d 252, 254 (11 th Cir. 1995) (§ 1983 suit arising from alleged erro n eo u s decisions of a state court is merely a prohibited appeal of the state court judgment);
s e e also Rolleston v. Eldridge, 848 F.2d 163 (11 th Cir. 1988). In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that dismissal of any request for d e c la ra to ry relief with respect to actions undertaken by the named defendants during p ro c e e d in g s related to Plaintiff's criminal court proceedings and/or attendant convictions is a p p ro p ria te under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). See Clark v. State of Georgia Pardons and P a r o l e s Board, 915 F.2d 636 (11 th Cir. 1990); see also Neitzke, 490 U.S. 319. B . The Challenge to Plaintiff's Conviction T o the extent Plaintiff's seeks to attack the validity of criminal convictions imposed u p o n him by the named defendants, such claims may not proceed in a § 1983 action. These c la im s goes to the fundamental legality of Plaintiff's confinement, and, consequently, p ro v id e no basis for relief at this time. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646 (1997); Heck v . Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). In Heck, the Supreme Court held that a claim for damages challenging the legality of a prisoner's conviction or confinement is not cognizable in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action "unless a n d until the [order requiring such confinement] is reversed, expunged, invalidated, or im p u g n e d by the grant of a writ of habeas corpus" and complaints containing such claims m u s t therefore be dismissed. 512 U.S. at 483-489. The Court emphasized that "habeas c o rp u s is the exclusive remedy for a [confined individual] who challenges the fact or duration o f his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even though such a claim may co m e within the literal terms of § 1983" and, based on the foregoing, concluded that Heck's
c o m p la in t was due to be dismissed as no cause of action existed under section 1983. Id. at 4 8 1 . In so doing, the Court rejected the lower court's reasoning that a section 1983 action s h o u ld be construed as a habeas corpus action. In Balisok, the Court further concluded that an inmate's "claim[s] for declaratory [and in ju n c tiv e ] relief and money damages, . . . that necessarily imply the invalidity of the p u n ish m e n t imposed, is not cognizable under § 1983 . . ." unless the inmate can demonstrate th a t the challenged action has previously been invalidated. 520 U.S. at 648. Moreover, the C o u r t determined that this is true not only when a prisoner challenges the judgment as a s u b s ta n tiv e matter but also when "the nature of the challenge to the procedures could be such a s necessarily to imply the invalidity of the judgment." Id. at 645. The Court reiterated the p o s itio n taken in Heck that the "sole remedy in federal court" for a prisoner challenging the c o n s titu tio n a lity of his confinement is a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Id. Additionally, th e Court "reemphasize[d] . . . that a claim either is cognizable under § 1983 and should im m e d ia te ly go forward, or is not cognizable and should be dismissed." Id. at 649. To the extent Plaintiff's claims represent a challenge to the constitutionality of his c rim in a l convictions, a judgment in his favor in this cause of action would necessarily imply th e invalidity of these convictions. It is clear from the complaint that the convictions about w h ic h Plaintiff complains have not been invalidated in an appropriate proceeding. C o n s e q u e n tly, the instant collateral attack on the convictions is prohibited as habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the validity of the fact or duration
o f his confinement. Balisok, 520 U.S. at 645; Heck, 512 U.S. at 481; Preiser, 411 U.S. at 4 8 8 -4 9 0 . Such attack is, therefore, subject to summary dismissal by this court in accordance w ith the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). II. CONCLUSION A c c o rd in g ly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that: 1 . The § 1983 claims presented against Judges Denson, Smithart, Young, and Fuller b e DISMISSED with prejudice in accordance with the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1 9 1 5 (e)(2)(B )(i) and/or (iii); 2. Plaintiff's challenge to the constitutionality of the convictions and sentences
im p o s e d upon him by the Circuit Courts for Lee, Barbour, Elmore, and Tallapoosa Counties, A la b a m a , be DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1 9 1 5 (e )(2 )(B )(ii) as such claims are not properly before the court at this time; and 3 . This complaint be DISMISSED prior to service of process. It is further O R D E R E D that the parties are DIRECTED to file any objections to the R e c o m m en d atio n on or before April 21, 2009. Any objections filed must specifically id e n tif y the findings in the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to which a party objects. F r iv o lo u s , conclusive or general objections will not be considered by the District Court. The p a rtie s are advised that this Recommendation is not a final order of the court and, therefore, it is not appealable.
F a ilu re to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations in the M a g is tra te Judge's report shall bar the party from a de novo determination by the District C o u rt of issues covered in the report and shall bar the party from attacking on appeal factual f in d in g s in the report accepted or adopted by the District Court except upon grounds of plain e rr o r or manifest injustice. Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404 (5 th Cir. 1982). See Stein v . Reynolds Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11 th Cir. 1982). See also Bonner v. City of P r ic h a r d , 661 F.2d 1206 (11 th Cir. 1981, en banc), adopting as binding precedent all of the d e c is io n s of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on S e p te m b e r 30, 1981.
Done, this 8th day of April 2009.
/s/Terry F. Moorer TERRY F. MOORER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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