Wilson v. Blaylock et al
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 8/31/2016. (PSM)
2016 Sep-01 AM 07:50
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CHIEF G.B. BLAYLOCK, et
Memorandum of Opinion
Plaintiff Darrell Wilson (“Wilson”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging violations of his civil rights and seeking $100 million in damages.
Specifically, Wilson claims that he was “kidnapped” by a series of defendants in
retaliation for his refusal to provide a statement relating to a burglary and that other
defendants assisted in “covering up” that retaliation. Wilson names as defendants
in the action several law enforcement officers, employees of the Alabama Board of
Pardons and Paroles, two state court judges, former Alabama attorney general Troy
King, an employee of the Alabama State Bar, a district attorney, and several other
attorneys. Before this Court is Wilson’s motion to appoint counsel (Doc. 6). For
the reasons stated below, the motion is due to be denied and Wilson’s complaint
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The morning of March 28, 2007, Defendants G.B. Blaylock (“Blaylock”)
and Doug Webb (“Webb”) went to Wilson’s home in Guin, Alabama, to speak
with Wilson about a burglary. (Doc. 6 at 19.) Upon arrival, Blaylock noticed that
the tailgate and right rear fender of Wilson’s pickup truck were damaged and that
the left tail light was broken. (Id.) Blaylock and Webb placed Wilson in a patrol car
(Doc. 1 at 10) and took him to City Hall for questioning (Doc. 6 at 19). Wilson
provided several different explanations to Blaylock about how the damage to his
truck occurred. (Id.) Believing that Wilson was involved in the burglary, Blaylock
asked Wilson about two tool boxes. (Id.) Wilson stated that there was a tool box
“laying by the utility pole in his yard,” and Wilson and Blaylock returned to
Wilson’s home to seize the tool box. (Id.) Later that morning, Blaylock and Webb
also seized Wilson’s truck. (Doc. 1 at 10.) Wilson did not provide a written
statement about the burglary, as Blaylock requested. (Doc. 6 at 20.)
Wilson was arrested and charged with theft and criminal mischief on April 2,
2007. (Doc. 1 at 12.) At the direction of Blaylock and Webb, Marion County
Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Hughes (“Hughes”) transported Wilson to the Marion
In reviewing the complaint for frivolousness, this Court is not required to presume the truth of
the facts alleged. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Rather, it need only weigh the
allegations “in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. The facts as presented are derived from Wilson’s initial
complaint (Doc. 1) and his instant motion to appoint counsel (Doc. 6).
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County Jail. (Id. at 11–12.) Hughes did not present Wilson with a warrant at the
time of the arrest, and Wilson did not appear before a judge after arriving at the jail.
(Id. at 12.) Several days later, on April 11, 2007, Wilson attended a parole hearing
based on what he alleges were falsified documents aimed at “covering up” the
unlawful conduct of Blaylock and Webb. (Id. at 13–14; Doc. 6 at 3.) Wilson’s parole
was revoked in May 2007. (Doc. 1 at 15.)
On September 18, 2007, Wilson was indicted on two counts of theft and one
count of criminal mischief for the March incident. (Doc. 6 at 21–22.) The case
went to trial on June 9, 2008. 2 (Doc. 6 at 6.) Wilson claims that his court-appointed
attorney in the criminal case, Defendant Edward Fowler (“Fowler”), was
“planted” by Judge John Bentley (“Bentley”) to sabotage the case and keep
Wilson in prison. (Doc. 1 at 17; Doc. 6 at 6.) Wilson also asserts that Fowler
“forced” him to enter a guilty plea by not summoning any witnesses or otherwise
aiding in his defense. (Doc. 1 at 18.)
While in prison and awaiting trial, Wilson sought assistance from the
American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (“ACLU”), which informed Wilson
that it did not assist with criminal matters. (Doc. 1 at 8.) Wilson then filed pro se in
In his complaint, Wilson misstates the trial date as June 9, 2007. (Doc. 1 at 17–18.) In his motion
to appoint counsel, however, Wilson corrects the date as June 9, 2008 (Doc. 6 at 6) and provides
documentation verifying 2008 as the correct year (Doc. 6 at 17).
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federal court a civil action very similar to the instant suit that was dismissed as
frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. (Doc. 4 at 4 n.2.) After the dismissal, it
appears that Wilson attempted to file a complaint with the Alabama State Bar
Disciplinary Commission. (Doc. 1 at 6.) Finally, in 2009, Wilson made efforts to
secure counsel, presumably for another civil action based upon these facts. (Doc. 1
at 5, 7, 9.) He was ultimately unsuccessful. The last of the letters that Wilson
received, dated September 8, 2009, declined representation but informed Wilson
“that state and federal laws place a strict time limit on the right to pursue an
action” and that a failure to “file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of
limitation” would “forever bar” Wilson’s claim. (Doc. 1 at 5.)
Wilson filed the instant action on June 30, 2016, accompanied by a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). (Doc. 4 at 1.)
The motion was granted by federal Magistrate Judge T. Michael Putnam on July 1,
2016 (Doc. 4), and the case was reassigned to this Court. Wilson now seeks to have
this Court appoint him counsel to proceed with his action. (Doc. 6.)
Standard of Review
An indigent person seeking to initiate a civil action may ask the court to allow
him to proceed without prepayment of fees by submitting an affidavit describing his
financial situation. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). If the court grants the motion and allows
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the party to prosecute the action in forma pauperis, the court may also appoint
counsel to represent the indigent party. Id. § 1915(e)(1). However, if the court at
any time determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief, the court must dismiss the action. Id. § 1915(e)(2).
An indigent party’s action is considered to be frivolous “if it is ‘without
arguable merit either in law or fact.’” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th
Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)). In an
action brought under § 1983, there must be “a factual and legal basis, of
constitutional dimension, for the asserted wrong.” Clark v. State of Ga. Pardons and
Paroles Bd., 915 F.2d 636, 639 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Harris v. Menendez, 817
F.2d 737, 739 (11th Cir. 1987)). The complaint may be dismissed even before
service of process if this Court concludes that the action “has little or no chance of
success” because “the factual allegations are ‘clearly baseless’” or “the legal
theories are ‘indisputably meritless.’” Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir.
1993) (per curiam) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).
Similarly, a claim based on “fantastic or delusional scenarios” is frivolous. Bilal,
251 F.3d at 1349.
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This Court must also dismiss a complaint if it is “apparent from the face of
the complaint or the court’s records” that an affirmative defense renders the
claims asserted frivolous. Clark, 915 F.2d at 640 & n.2. A defendant’s absolute
immunity from suit, res judicata and collateral estoppel, and the expiration of the
applicable statute of limitation are but a few examples. Id. at 640 n.2.
Wilson’s complaint is due to be dismissed for several reasons. First, the
action is frivolous because the claims alleged are all barred by the applicable statute
of limitation. Even if the claims were not barred, however, many of the defendants
enjoy absolute judicial or quasi-judicial immunity from suit. As to the remaining
defendants, Wilson’s complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted. This Court must therefore dismiss the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
A. Statute of Limitation
If federal law does not provide for a time limitation for a federal cause of
action, this Court adopts the analogous state law limitation period, as long as it is
not inconsistent with federal law. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266–67 (1985).
But see 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a) (adopting a four-year statute of limitation for federal
laws enacted after December 1, 1990). A plaintiff alleging a civil rights violation
under § 1983 must bring his claim within the period proscribed by state law for the
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filing of “personal-injury torts.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007).
Alabama has two statutes that could potentially apply to Wilson’s claims, a six-year
limitation for “[a]ctions for any trespass to person or liberty, such as false
imprisonment,” Ala. Code § 6-2-34(1), and a two-year residual statute of
limitation, Ala. Code § 6-2-38(l). Because Wilson brings his claims under § 1983,
the two-year residual period applies to his suit. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 236
(1989) (“[W]here a state has one or more statutes of limitations for certain
enumerated intentional torts, and a residual statute for all other personal injury
actions . . . the residual or general personal injury statute of limitations applies.”).
The statutory period begins to run “from the time the cause of action
‘accrues.’” Freeman v. Holyfield, 179 So. 3d 101, 105 (Ala. 2015) (quoting Wheeler v.
George, 39 So. 3d 1061, 1084 (Ala. 2009)). “The cause of action ‘accrues’ as soon
as the party in whose favor it arises is entitled to maintain an action thereon.” Id. A
claim for false imprisonment thus “accrues on the date of arrest.” Id. A conspiracy
claim that “rests upon” the underlying wrong of false imprisonment is valid only if
the false imprisonment claim is valid. Id. at 106.
Here, Wilson alleges facts that occurred in 2007 and 2008. His claim for
false imprisonment accrued at the time of his arrest on April 2, 2007, so the
applicable statutory period expired on that date in 2009. That he became “entitled
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to maintain an action,” id. at 105, on the facts alleged in this suit upon the date of
his arrest is clear even to Wilson, who filed a similar action while incarcerated in
2007. Wilson asks this Court that he “not be time barred” with respect to the
instant suit (Doc. 6 at 3), but the burden is on Wilson to show that he is entitled to
equitable tolling of the statute of limitation. Booth v. Carnival Corp., 522 F.3d 1148,
1150 (11th Cir. 2008). Equitable tolling is an “extraordinary remedy” that “may be
appropriate,” id., where a plaintiff “has actively pursued his judicial remedies by
filing a defective pleading during the statutory period” or “has been induced or
tricked by his adversary’s misconduct into allowing the filing deadline to pass,”
Irwin v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96 (1990). A suit will not be
equitably tolled where the plaintiff merely “failed to exercise due diligence in
preserving his legal rights.” Id. Wilson “actively pursued his judicial remedies” in
this matter by filing a civil rights action alleging similar facts 3 in 2007, which was
dismissed as frivolous. (Doc. 4 at 4 n.2.) Additionally, he was informed in 2009 of
the need to timely file a complaint but took no action until June 2016. As such,
Wilson is not entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitation. His claims are
thus barred because the applicable statutory period has passed.
To the extent that Wilson makes the same claims against the same defendants as in the 2007
action, those claims are also barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Harmon v. Webster, 263 F.
App’x 844, 845–46 (11th Cir. 2008). This applies to the claims against Defendants Blaylock,
Webb, Rhodes, Hughes, Cashion, and Williams.
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B. Absolute Immunity
A judge is entitled to absolute judicial immunity for actions taken in his
judicial capacity unless the judge “acted in the ‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.’”
Sibley v. Lando, 437 F.3d 1067, 1070 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (quoting Bolin v.
Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir. 2000) (per curiam)). This is true “even when
the judge’s acts are in error, malicious, or were in excess of his or her jurisdiction.”
Id. “Whether a judge’s actions were made while acting in his judicial capacity
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.” Id. (citing
Scott v. Hayes, 719 F.2d 1562, 1565 (11th Cir. 1983)).
Wilson names Alabama state court judges Bentley and Jimmy Cashion
(“Cashion”) as defendants in the action, alleging that Cashion denied him a lawyer
and bail (Doc. 1 at 16) and that Bentley forced him to plead guilty to the theft and
criminal mischief charges (Doc. 1 at 17). Decisions to appoint counsel or grant bail
are likely “normal judicial functions” that “involve a case pending before the
judge.” Similarly, a judge presiding over a criminal trial acts in his judicial capacity.
The acts upon which Wilson bases his claim appear well within the jurisdiction of a
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state court judge. Defendants Bentley and Cashion are therefore entitled to
absolute judicial immunity in the action, even if, as Wilson alleges, their actions
were undertaken for a malicious or otherwise improper purpose.
An analogous “quasi-judicial” immunity is extended to individual members
of a state’s parole board and to parole and probation officers. Holmes v. Crosby, 418
F.3d 1256, 1258 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam). Wilson accuses several employees of
the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles of falsifying documents in order to
revoke his parole, an action within the scope of these employees’ official duties.
The defendant members of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles are
therefore entitled to absolute immunity with respect to Wilson’s claims.
C. Failure to State Claim
Conclusory statements of law that are not supported by concrete factual
allegations are insufficient to state a claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
669 (2009). The complaint must “contain enough information regarding the
material elements of a cause of action to support recovery under some ‘viable legal
theory.’” Am. Fed’n of Labor & Cong. Of Indus. Orgs. v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d
1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253
F.3d 678, 683–84 (11th Cir. 2001)).
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With respect to Defendants Troy King (“King”), Cheryl Rankin
(“Rankin”), and Samuel Masdon (“Masdon”), Wilson makes only a brief
statement that each of those defendants “aided and help[ed] cover for” the other
defendants in the action. (Doc. 1 at 19–21.) Neither the complaint (Doc. 1) nor the
motion to appoint counsel (Doc. 6) elaborates or explains how King, Rankin, or
Masdon participated in the other named defendants’ conduct. These conclusory
allegations do not “allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).
Similarly, Wilson’s General Complaint Form names “District Attorney John
Jackson Bostick” (“Bostick”) as a defendant in the action (Doc. 1 at 1), but Wilson
makes no allegations against Bostick in his complaint or in his motion to appoint
counsel. Simply naming an individual as a defendant is clearly insufficient to state a
claim against that defendant.
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For the reasons stated above, Wilson’s motion to appoint counsel (Doc. 6) is
due to be DENIED and the complaint is due to be DISMISSED. A separate order
consistent with this opinion will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED on August 31, 2016.
L. Scott Coogler
United States District Judge
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