Thomas v. Allred et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 10/26/12. (CVA)
2012 Oct-26 PM 01:34
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JAMES EARL THOMAS,
H ALLRED, et al.,
Civil Action Number
Plaintiff James Earl Thomas, who was a party to a 1992 paternity suit that
resulted in a child support default judgment against him, see generally doc. 49,
failed to utilize Alabama’s appeal procedures to challenge the decisions. Instead,
following hearings in 2008, 2009, and 2010 in Jefferson County Family Court and a
resulting imprisonment, Thomas seeks to challenge the state court decisions by
filing this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which he alleges a conspiracy between
the state court judges and others to defraud him of money and to deprive him of his
Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and state law rights prohibiting
false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. Id. Defendants move
to dismiss Thomas’s Second Amended Complaint, and, perhaps because he
recognizes the merits of Defendants’ arguments, Thomas seeks leave to file a third
Page 1 of 24
amended complaint. See docs. 58, 59, 62, 84. The motions are fully briefed and
ripe for review. See docs. 60, 61, 63, 67, 71-73, 76. For the reasons stated fully
below, the motions to dismiss are due to be GRANTED, and the motion to amend is
due to be DENIED.1
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual
allegations,’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions”
or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Id.
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Id.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a complaint
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
Moreover, in light of this decision, Plaintiff’s motions to allow the case to go forward,
docs. 90 and 92, are MOOT.
Page 2 of 24
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556) (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially plausible
claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”).
On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts all factual allegations
as true. See, e.g., Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir.
2000). However, legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations are not
entitled to that assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Ultimately, this inquiry
is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id.
Because Thomas proceeds pro se – that is, without an attorney – the court
must construe his pleadings liberally. See Alba v. Montford, 517 F.3d 1249, 1252
(11th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). However, “this leniency does not give a court
license to serve as de facto counsel for a party, or to rewrite an otherwise deficient
pleading in order to sustain an action.” GJR Invs. v. Cnty. of Escambia, Fla., 132
F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998). Indeed, “[o]nce a pro se litigant is in court, he is
Page 3 of 24
subject to the relevant laws and rules of court, including the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure.” Smith v. Fla. Dep’t of Corr., 369 F. App’x 36, 38 (11th Cir. 2010)
(citing Moon v. Newsome, 863 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1989)). Therefore, while
the court construes Thomas’s pleadings liberally and affords them significant
leniency, the court may not wholly disregard the federal pleading standards. See
Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990); see also Smith, 369 F.
App’x at 38.
Thomas alleges that the relevant events began on April 9, 1992, when
Defendant Agnes Chappell2 “of the Family Court of Jefferson County, Alabama
issued a default judgment against [Thomas] establishing paternity and setting [the]
amount of Child Support” pursuant to an order from a Georgia court. Doc. 49 at 4;
see also doc. 1-1 at 4. In the Georgia order, Denise Smith, Thomas’s one-time
“common law” wife, established paternity against Thomas and obtained a judgment
for child support. Id. When Thomas failed to comply, the state of Georgia sought
relief here in Jefferson County and obtained a default judgment. Id. The default
Thomas contends that Judge Chappell served as a Jefferson County Family Court Judge
in 1992. See doc. 49 at 4. However, Judge Chappell maintains that in 1992 she “was performing
judicial functions as a referee pursuant to former Code § 12-15-106 of the Code of Alabama,
1975.” Doc. 59 at 1 n.1. The difference is insignificant for the court’s purposes here.
Page 4 of 24
judgment ordered Thomas to pay $151.00 per month to Smith and to reimburse the
state of Georgia $3,721.17 by paying an additional $50.00 per month. Doc. 49 at 5.
Shortly thereafter, on April 17, 1992, the District Attorney’s Office of Child
Support Recovery in Columbus, Georgia initiated a civil case against Thomas on
Smith’s behalf.3 Id. Thomas purportedly paid $200 each month thereafter until
August 1995, when, for reasons unknown to this court, “Thomas was sent back to
prison.” Id. Furthermore, Thomas contends that at “[s]ome time in 1997, DHR of
Columbus, Georgia stopped giving Denise Smith money for Child Support and
closed the Child Support.” Id.
Thomas maintains that eight years later, on or about June 30, 2005, Judge
Henry Allred “issued a Court Order to Colonial Bank to give [Thomas’s] money in
his account to Child Support in Georgia.” Doc. 49 at 5; see also doc. 43-1 at 4
(copy of Colonial Bank check for $2,928.27 from Thomas’s account to the Office of
Child Support Enforcement in Jonesboro, Georgia on June 7, 2005). Also,
allegedly, sometime prior to January 30, 2008, Judge Elise Barclay, and an
unknown prosecutor, “acting on a mistaken belief that [Thomas] was completely
ignorant of the law and because he is an African American, . . . conspired, planned
Thomas claims the District Attorney filed the action in Montgomery, Alabama.
However, the evidence Thomas provided is a “Civil Case Initiation Form” filed by Denise Smith
in the Superior Court of Muscogee County, Georgia seeking to enforce child support payments.
See doc. 1-1, at 6; doc. 49, at 5.
Page 5 of 24
and agreed to bring up a closed Child Support case against [Thomas] and used the
Family Court system to falsify documents that would make it appear that [Thomas]
owed Child Support.” Id. at 6. Moreover, “[p]ursuant to the conspiracy . . . Judge
Elise Barclay set up several fake hearings, but each time that she would see
[Thomas’s] witness she would cancel the hearing.” Id. Allegedly, Defendant Jack
A. Wallace joined the conspiracy “when he conspired with a lady at DHR to
fabricate the record to make it appear that plaintiff owed money for Child Support.”
Id. at 7. “The purpose of the conspiracy was that defendants used the State Court
System to get [Thomas] to pay money he did not owe, voluntarily or by force.” Id.
In October 2008, Thomas and Denise Smith allegedly “settled the remainder
of the Child Support between them.” Id. at 6; see doc. 43-1 at 2. The October 3,
2008 agreement Thomas provided stated
This agreement is entered into by and between James Earl Thomas and
Denise Smith concerning child support for their child, Armon Quinta
Parker. I, James Earl Thomas acknowledge that I have a responsibility
to pay to Denise Smith the sum of $150.00 per month. I also
acknowledge that in the past I have not been able to make all payments
Therefore, I have discussed my financial situation with Denise Smith
and we both agree that all unpaid amounts that [are] still due her will
be paid on a schedule that we both have agreed to. The amount still
owing is to be treated as a personal loan and will be paid on a schedule
that we both agree to. . .
Page 6 of 24
Doc. 43-1 at 2. The record is unclear whether Thomas provided this agreement to
the state court.
Pursuant to the purported conspiracy, on October 8, 2009, “Judge H. Allred
sent [Thomas] a fake Court Appearance Notice,” and on October 19, 2009, at a
“fake hearing,” Judge Allred used the “false name” Judge Riggs and placed Thomas
in jail for three months and ten days. Doc. 49 at 7. Jack A. Wallace served as the
prosecutor for this hearing. Id. at 8. During the “fake hearing,” when Thomas made
a “verbal motion. . .to postpone [the hearing] so that he could subpoena his
witness,” Judge Allred purportedly stated “he was not interested in any evidence.”
Id. Thereafter, Judge Allred held another “fake hearing” on May 28, 2010 and
again placed Thomas in jail, allegedly “so that [Thomas] could not file his brief in
the [Eleventh] Circuit Court of Appeals.” Id. at 8. During the hearing, Judge
Allred allegedly “told [Thomas] that he would let him out of jail if he paid to Sandra
Johnson what ever money that she would accept.” Id. In turn, Sandra Johnson, a
DHR worker, supposedly told Thomas’s friend that she “would have the judge to let
[Thomas] out of jail” if Thomas paid $1,000.00. Id. Although Thomas claims he
paid DHR, Judge Allred still held Thomas in jail for another three weeks, again
allegedly “for the purpose of preventing [Thomas] from filing his brief in the
[Eleventh] Circuit Court of Appeals.” Id. at 9.
While in jail, Defendant Leotis Williams purportedly visited Thomas, and
Page 7 of 24
“[t]he first words out of his mouth were for $2,500.00, I’ll file an affidavit of
hardship on your behalf.” Id. at 9. Williams also allegedly stated that “all the court
wanted was money” and asked Thomas “to give him $500.00 and $500.00 for the
court and he would have the judge release [Thomas] from jail.” Id. at 10. Although
Thomas agreed to this arrangement, Thomas never heard from Williams again,
prompting Thomas to conclude that Williams “acted in concert with State Officials”
because “Williams knew that Judge H. Allred used a fake name to defraud [Thomas]
out of money.” Id.
On January 20, 2012, Thomas filed this suit against Sandra Johnson, Leotis
Williams, Jack A. Wallace, “the unknown prosecutor,” and Judges Henry Allred,
Elise Barclay, and Agnes Chappell. Doc. 1. Thomas subsequently amended his
complaint twice. Docs. 43 and 49. The court dismissed Sandra Johnson due to
Thomas’s failure to serve her. Doc. 88. Further, Thomas’s claims against the
“unknown prosecutor” are also DISMISSED because “fictitious-party pleading is
not permitted in federal court.” Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th
Cir. 2010). As such, the remaining defendants are Jack A. Wallace, Leotis
Williams, and Judges Allred, Barclay, and Chappell.
The Second Amended Complaint has four claims: (1) Count I - alleged
violation of the Fourth Amendment as related to the October 19, 2009 and May 28,
Page 8 of 24
2010 imprisonments; (2) Count II - alleged denial of Equal Protection under the
Fourteenth Amendment by denying Thomas “an opportunity to present evidence on
his behalf because he is an African American;” (3) Count III - alleged Eighth
Amendment violation as related also to the two imprisonments; and (4) Count IV state law claims for false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.4
See doc. 49, at 11-13. Although not explicitly stated, the court assumes that
Thomas asserts his three constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
provides a private right to relief for constitutional violations. See Gonzaga Univ. v.
Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002) (reiterating that § 1983 “generally supplies a
remedy for the vindication of rights secured by federal statutes” and the
Constitution). Thomas seeks injunctive relief, a declaratory judgment, and
While Thomas mentions 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(3) and 1986 in the body of his original and
amended complaints, see docs. 1 at 1-2; 49 at 1-2, he fails to state an actual cause of action
pertaining to those sections in the portion of his complaint containing his claims. Nevertheless,
even if Thomas had properly pled a claim under §§ 1985(3) and 1986, he is still not entitled to
relief under those sections. “To state a claim for relief under § 1985(3), a plaintiff must establish
that there was ‘some racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus
behind the conspirators’ actions.’” Smith v. Belle, 321 F. App’x 838, 845 (11th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Griffin v. Breckenridge, 402 U.S. 88, 102 (1971)). Here, Thomas merely makes one
legal conclusion that Judge Barclay exhibited some racial discrimination without offering any
factual detail regarding such animus. See doc. 49, at 6. Therefore, the court cannot draw the
reasonable inference that any defendant is liable under § 1985(3), see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, and
any purported claim Thomas maintains under this section is due to be DISMISSED.
Accordingly, Thomas’s § 1986 claim—premised on knowledge of § 1985 violations—is also due
to be DISMISSED. Moreover, the claims also fail because the alleged conduct by Judge Barclay
occurred prior to January 2008, well outside of the two year statute of limitation. See Trawinski
v. United Technologies, 313 F.3d 1295, 1298 (11th Cir. 2002).
Page 9 of 24
compensatory and punitive damages. Doc. 49 at 13-14.
Thomas’s motion for leave to file a third amended complaint
Before beginning the substantive analysis of the claims, the court addresses
first the motion for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint, which Thomas
supports by citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) and the need to
“eliminat[e] the shotgun pleading that defendants complain  about in their
motion[s] to dismiss.” Doc. 84 at 1. Although the court agrees with Thomas that
the Second Amended Complaint is a quintessential example of a shotgun pleading,
see Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1359 n.9 (11th Cir. 1997),
allowing Thomas to amend would amount to a futile exercise because an
amendment would not cure the deficiencies in his claims outlined below. Put
differently, the underlying facts —even if pled properly—are not sufficient to
evidence a right to relief. See Hall v. United Ins. Co. of Am., 367 F.3d 1255, 126263 (11th Cir. 2004) (holding that, “if the underlying facts or circumstances relied
upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief . . . leave to amend should be
freely given;” however, “a district court may properly deny leave to amend the
complaint under Rule 15(a) when such amendment would be futile.”) (quotation
marks and citations omitted). Therefore, the court DENIES the motion to amend.
Statute of Limitations
Several of Thomas’s claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
Page 10 of 24
Section 1983 claims - Counts I, II, and III
The Eleventh Circuit directs reviewing courts to determine the timeliness of §
1983 actions arising in Alabama as follows:
All constitutional claims brought under § 1983 are tort actions, subject
to the statute of limitations governing personal injury actions in the
state where the § 1983 action has been brought. Wilson v. Garcia, 471
U.S. 261, 275–76 (1985). [Plaintiff’s] claim was brought in Alabama,
where the governing limitations period is two years. Ala.Code §
6–2–38; Jones v. Preuit & Mauldin, 876 F.2d 1480, 1483 (11th Cir.
1989) (en banc ). Therefore, in order to have [his] claim heard,
[Plaintiff] was required to bring it within two years from the date the
limitations period began to run.
It has long been the law of this Circuit that in § 1983 actions “the
statute of limitations does not begin to run until the facts which would
support a cause of action are apparent or should be apparent to a person
with a reasonably prudent regard for his rights.” Mullinax v.
McElhenney, 817 F.2d 711, 716 (11th Cir. 1987) (internal quotations
McNair v. Allen, 515 F.3d 1168, 1173 (11th Cir. 2008). According to Thomas, the
alleged wrongs began during his first paternity hearing in 1992 and continued
throughout various hearings until May 28, 2010. Doc. 1 and 49. Therefore, because
Thomas filed this lawsuit on January 20, 2012, see doc. 1, pursuant to the two-year
statute of limitations, all alleged incidents that occurred prior to January 20, 2010,
are time-barred, unless a basis exists to toll the statute. However, “equitable tolling
is appropriate only in ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ and [plaintiff] bears the burden
of showing equitable tolling is warranted.” Salas v. Pierce, 297 F. App’x 874, 877
Page 11 of 24
(11th Cir. 2008) (citing Drew v. Dep’t of Corr., 297 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir.
2002)); see also Justice v. United States, 6 F.3d 1474, 1479 (11th Cir. 1993)
(analysis tips in defendant’s favor “when the plaintiff does not file her action in a
timely fashion despite knowing or being in a position reasonably to know that the
limitations period is running.”). Moreover, “due diligence on the part of the
plaintiff, though necessary, is not sufficient to prevail on the issue of equitable
Thomas failed to allege any fact or justification for tolling the statute of
limitations. The failure is not surprising because, based on the pleadings and
supporting documents, there is no extraordinary circumstance that warrants
equitable tolling. In fact, it is clear that Thomas knew the material facts underlying
his claims beginning in 1992, but yet waited until this year to file this lawsuit.
Consequently, the motions to dismiss the claims raised in Counts I, II, and III
against (1) Judge Chappell, who performed her last alleged act at the original
paternity hearing on April 9, 1992, see doc. 49 at 4-5, (2) Judge Barclay, who
performed her last alleged act, at the latest, in 2009, see doc. 49 at 6-7, and (3) Jack
Wallace, who performed his last alleged act on October 19, 2009, see doc. 49 at 7-8,
are due to be GRANTED. See docs. 59, 62. The motion to dismiss the claims
raised against Judge Allred that occurred prior to January 20, 2010 is due to be
GRANTED, see doc. 59, leaving only the claims related to the May 28, 2010
Page 12 of 24
hearing.5 See doc. 49 at 5-9.
State law claims - Count IV
In Count IV, Thomas alleges state law claims for false imprisonment, false
arrest, and malicious prosecution against all defendants. In Alabama, a plaintiff
must file all actions for malicious prosecution within two years, Ala. Code § 6-2-38
(1975), and within six years for a false imprisonment claim, Ala. Code § 6-2-34(1).
Because false arrest is not specifically enumerated under Alabama law, the general
two year statute of limitations for torts applies. Ala. Code § 6-2-38(l). Thus, the
malicious prosecution and false arrest claims that arose prior to January 20, 2010
are time-barred and all false imprisonment claims that arose prior to January 20,
2006 are also time-barred. Consequently, the motion to dismiss the state law claims
raised against Judge Chappell, who performed her last alleged act on April 9, 1992,
see doc. 49 at 4-5, is due to be GRANTED. See doc. 59. The motion to dismiss the
malicious prosecution and false arrest claims raised against Judge Barclay, who
performed her last alleged act, at the latest, in 2009, see doc. 49 at 6-7, is due to be
GRANTED. See doc. 59. The motion to dismiss the malicious prosecution and
false arrest claims raised against Jack Wallace, who performed his last alleged act
on October 19, 2009, see doc. 49 at 7-8, is due to be GRANTED. See doc. 62.
Likewise, the federal claims against Leotis Williams are not impacted by the statute of
limitations since they are also related to the May 28, 2010 hearing.
Page 13 of 24
Thomas’s remaining claims fail as a matter of law
The court turns now to the remaining claims – i.e. (1) Counts I, II, III, and IV
against Judge Allred and Leotis Williams, and (2) the false imprisonment claim
against Judge Barclay and Jack Wallace. Plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive
relief against these defendants. The court addresses the claims against each
The remaining claims against Judge Allred are based on a hearing he
conducted on May 28, 2010.6 See doc. 49, at 1, 11-14. Thomas contends that Judge
Allred held the hearing “so that [Thomas] could not file his brief in the [Eleventh]
Circuit Court of Appeals” and that Judge Allred sent him to jail without probable
cause, in violation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and his
state law rights against malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment.
Id. at 8, 11-13. The claims against Judge Allred for monetary relief fail because
Judge Allred has immunity.
1. Federal Claims
Thomas admits that Judge Allred acted in his official capacity as a judge
throughout the alleged conspiracy. See doc. 49, at 8-9. Therefore, Thomas can only
Because of the six year statute of limitation for false imprisonment claims, see infra, the
state law claim against Judge Allred also includes the October 19, 2009 hearing he held regarding
Page 14 of 24
prevail on his federal claims if he can show that Judge Allred acted without
jurisdiction. It is well settled that judges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity
for federal claims and are not subject to damages for acts taken in their judicial
capacity unless they acted in “clear absence of all jurisdiction.”7 Bolin v. Story, 225
F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir. 2000) (citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356–57
(1978); Simmons v. Conger, 86 F.3d 1080, 1084–85 (11th Cir. 1996)). Absolute
immunity is designed to free the judicial process from the harassment and
intimidation associated with litigation. Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 479 (1991).
Besides protecting the finality of judgments or discouraging inappropriate collateral
attacks, judicial immunity also protects judicial independence by insulating judges
from vexatious actions prosecuted by disgruntled litigants. Bradley v. Fisher, 13
Wall. 335, 347, 20 L. Ed. 646 (1872). “[T]he nature of the adjudicative function
requires a judge frequently to disappoint some of the most intense and ungovernable
desires that people can have.” Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 226 (1988). And
indeed, “[i]f judges were personally liable for erroneous decisions, the resulting
avalanche of suits, most of them frivolous but vexatious, would provide powerful
incentives for judges to avoid rendering decisions likely to provoke such suits. The
resulting timidity would be hard to detect or control, and it would manifestly detract
However, judicial immunity does not protect judges from claims of injunctive relief in a
section 1983 action. Bolin, 225 F.3d at 1240 (citing Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522 (1984)). As
such, claims for injunctive relief will be discussed, infra, in Section D.
Page 15 of 24
from independent and impartial adjudication.” Id. at 226-27 (citations omitted).
Perhaps more importantly, there are alternative avenues to challenge decisions made
by judicial officers, or put differently, “suits against judges [are not] the only
available means through which litigants can protect themselves from the
consequences of judicial error.” Id. at 227. Litigants facing unfavorable decisions
may seek relief “through ordinary mechanisms of review, which are largely free of
the harmful side-effects inevitably associated with exposing judges to personal
Accordingly, “[t]he Supreme Court has set forth a two-part test for
determining when a judge is entitled to immunity from money damages liability
when sued under section 1983”: (1) whether the judge dealt with the plaintiff in a
judicial capacity, and (2) whether the judge acted in the clear absence of all
jurisdiction. Simmons, 86 F.3d at 1084-85 (citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S.
349, 362 (1978)). The answer to the judicial capacity inquiry depends on whether:
“(1) the act complained of constituted a normal judicial function; (2) the events
occurred in the judge’s chambers or in open court; (3) the controversy involved a
case pending before the judge; and (4) the confrontation arose immediately out of a
visit to the judge in his judicial capacity.” Sibley v. Lando, 437 F.3d 1067, 1070
(11th Cir. 2005) (citing Scott v. Hayes, 719 F.2d 1562, 1565 (11th Cir. 1983)).
Judge Allred met his burden of establishing that he is entitled to judicial
Page 16 of 24
immunity. As to the first prong, i.e. acting in his judicial capacity, again, Thomas
alleges that Judge Allred sent him to jail during a May 28, 2010 hearing where
Judge Allred performed his normal judicial functions. Judge Allred satisfies this
prong because he held the hearing in open court, the controversy involved a pending
child support case, and the confrontation between Thomas and Judge Allred arose
from Judge Allred’s judicial capacity. See Sibley, 437 F.3d at 1070. With respect to
the second prong, Thomas argues that Judge Allred “acted. . . in absence of all
jurisdiction.” Doc. 71 at 4. However, this statement is a naked assertion,
unsupported by facts and insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. See Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, there is no indication that
Judge Allred lacked jurisdiction over Thomas. In fact, the complaint establishes
jurisdiction existed because, as Thomas points out, he is a resident of Jefferson
County, who was subject to an order to pay child support by the Jefferson County
Family Court. See doc. 49, at 1-5. As a Family Court judge, Judge Allred has
authority to enforce the court’s orders. Therefore, Judge Allred also satisfies the
second prong of the immunity test and is entitled to absolute judicial immunity on
the federal claims. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss the federal claims for money
damages against Judge Allred is due to be GRANTED.
2. State Law Claims
Under Alabama law, absolute judicial immunity also applies to a judge’s acts
Page 17 of 24
performed in his official judicial capacity. City of Bayou La Batre v. Robinson, 785
So. 2d 1128, 1132 (Ala. 2000). Again, as discussed, supra, Judge Allred acted in
his official judicial capacity during the May 28, 2010 hearing. See doc. 49 at 8.
Further, Thomas alleges that Judge Allred held another hearing on October 19, 2009
and “lock[ed] [Thomas] up in the county jail for three months and ten days.” Doc.
49 at 7. As such, Judge Allred was also acting in his official capacity during the
October 19, 2009 hearing and is entitled to absolute judicial immunity. Thus, the
motion to dismiss the state law claims against Judge Allred is also due to be
Only the false imprisonment claim against Judge Barclay falls within the
statute of limitations. As it relates to Judge Barclay, Thomas alleges that sometime
prior to January 30, 2008, Judge Barclay, along with an unknown prosecutor,
“conspired, planned, and agreed to bring up a closed Child Support case against
[Thomas] and used the Family Court system to falsify documents that would make it
appear that [Thomas] owed Child Support,” and that “Judge Elise Barclay set up
several fake hearings, but each time that she would see plaintiff’s witness she would
cancel the hearing.” Doc. 49 at 6. However, the prison sentences that form the
basis for the false imprisonment claim occurred on October 19, 2008 and May 28,
2010, and allegedly stemmed from orders issued by Judge Allred. Doc. 49 at 7-8.
Page 18 of 24
Critically, Thomas makes no contention that Judge Barclay had any involvement in
the decisions. Therefore, the false imprisonment claim fails as a matter of law.
Alternatively, even if Judge Barclay was involved, she is entitled to absolute
judicial immunity, even if she acted maliciously or in error to resurrect the allegedly
closed child support case, because she acted in her official judicial capacity. See
City of Bayou La Batre, 785 So. 2d 1128, 1133 (Ala. 2000) (citing Almon v. Gibbs,
545 So. 2d 18, 20 (Ala. 1989); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. at 362, and Scott v.
Dixon, 720 F.2d 1542 (11th Cir. 1983)). Accordingly, the motion to dismiss the
state law claim of false imprisonment against Judge Barclay is due to be
In support of the federal claims, Thomas contends that Leotis Williams, a
private attorney, knew Judge Allred and acted in concert with him (and other
defendants) to defraud Thomas of money. See doc. 49 at 9-10. Allegedly,
“Williams knew Judge Allred used a false name,” and was “in a position to put an
end to [the] violation of [Thomas’s] Constitutional and State Rights but he refused
to do so.” Id. This is the quintessential naked assertion that cannot survive a
motion to dismiss. See Chadasama, 123 F.3d at 1359 and Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
There is simply nothing in the complaint to show that Williams had any
involvement in the May 28, 2010 hearing or the resulting imprisonment. Moreover,
Page 19 of 24
Thomas cannot raise any claims against Williams, a private attorney, under § 1983
action because “the conduct complained of must have been committed by a person
acting under color of state law and must result in a deprivation of rights, privileges,
or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Bendiburg,
909 F.2d at 468 (11th Cir. 1990) (emphasis added). Where, as here, Thomas
presents no facts that Williams acted under color of state law, the motion to dismiss
the federal claims against Williams is due to be GRANTED.
Likewise, as to the state law claims, there is no evidence that Williams played
any role in Thomas’s prosecution, arrest, or imprisonment. In fact, Thomas alleges
only that Williams visited him after Judge Allred imprisoned Thomas. Doc. 49 at 9.
In short, Thomas has alleged no facts to state a claim for relief against Williams. As
such, the motion to dismiss the state law claims against Williams is also due to be
The only claim against Jack Wallace that falls within the statute of limitations
is the state law false imprisonment claim. Regarding this claim, Thomas alleges that
Wallace “joined the conspiracy when he conspired with a lady at DHR to fabricate
the record to make it appear that [Thomas] owed money for Child Support,” and that
Wallace “prosecuted [Thomas] before Judge H. Allred, knowing that he was using a
false name on October 19, 2009.” Doc. 49 at 7-8. The United States and Alabama
Page 20 of 24
Supreme Courts have held that prosecutors have absolute immunity for their
prosecutorial actions in cases seeking money damages. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424
U.S. 409, 424 (1976); Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); Bogle v.
Galanos, 503 So. 2d 1217, 1219 (Ala. 1987). The prosecutorial function includes
the initiation and pursuit of criminal prosecution, and all appearances before the
court, including examining witnesses and presenting evidence. See Imbler, 424
U.S. at 424; Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 492 (1991). Under these principles, even
if a prosecutor knowingly proffers perjured testimony and fabricated exhibits, the
prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity from liability. Rowe v. Lauderdale, 279
F.3d 1271, 1280 (11th Cir. 2002). Here, because Thomas acknowledges that
Wallace acted in his official prosecutorial role when he “prosecuted” Thomas,
Wallace is entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity. Accordingly, the motion to
dismiss Thomas’s monetary relief claim for false imprisonment against Jack
Wallace is due to be GRANTED.
Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
Thomas also seeks an injunction to “1. Not bring up a closed Child Support
case against plaintiff and fabricate evidence to make it appear that the case is live.
2. Order defendants to refund to plaintiff all money that [has] been illegal[ly] taken
under a pretense of Child Support. 3. Order defendants to refund to plaintiff all
Page 21 of 24
costs for litigating against these false charges”8 and to issue a declaratory judgment
stating that “DHR of Columbus, Georgia closed the Child Support Case 92-1660-5
against plaintiff in 1997 and that Defendants of Alabama reopen the case to defraud
plaintiff out of his money.” Doc. 49 at 13-14. In other words, Thomas wants this
court to review and reverse a state court order. The court declines to do so because
federal courts have limited jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Among the restrictions placed on federal courts is
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which prohibits federal district courts from exercising
jurisdiction over “cases brought by state court losers complaining of injuries caused
by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced
and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” McGee v. Kell,
335 Fed. Appx. 3, 4 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic
Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). In short, under Rooker-Feldman, this
court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Thomas’s claims because
Thomas had his opportunity to contest the propriety of the Family Court’s rulings
through the state appellate process. Accordingly, the motions to dismiss Thomas’s
claim for declaratory and injunctive relief are due to be GRANTED.
Moreover, even absent the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, no jurisdiction exists
The second and third prayers for relief Thomas seeks go beyond injunctive relief and
asks the court for fees and damages.
Page 22 of 24
because the complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief fails to allege a case or
controversy. It is axiomatic that those who seek to invoke the jurisdiction of the
federal courts must satisfy the threshold requirement imposed by Article III of the
Constitution by alleging an actual case or controversy. City of Los Angeles v.
Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101 (1983) (citations omitted). The Supreme Court has held
that past wrongs do not in themselves amount to a real and immediate threat of
injury necessary to make out a case or controversy. Id. at 103. Plaintiffs must
demonstrate a “personal stake in the outcome” in order to “assure that concrete
adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues” necessary for the proper
resolution of constitutional questions. Id. at 124 (citation omitted). Abstract injury
is not enough. The plaintiff must show that he “has sustained or is immediately in
danger of sustaining some direct injury” as the result of the challenged official
conduct and the injury or threat of injury must be both “real and immediate,” not
“conjectural” or “hypothetical.” Id. at 102.
Although, here, Thomas claims that he suffered from alleged unconstitutional
practices, “[p]ast exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case
or controversy regarding injunctive relief ... if unaccompanied by any continuing,
present adverse effects.” Id. (citation omitted). Past wrongs are evidence bearing
on “whether there is a real and immediate threat of repeated injury,” but the prospect
of future injury rests on the likelihood that Thomas will again be charged with
Page 23 of 24
violations related to his child support case and will again be subjected to a trial or
hearing, or sentencing before the judicial defendants. Id. The court does not find a
case or controversy in these remote circumstances. In sum, Thomas has no valid
claim for declaratory and injunctive relief.
For the reasons stated herein, the motions to dismiss are due to be
DONE this 26th day of October, 2012.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Page 24 of 24
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?