Williams v. Colorado Springs Police Department et al
ORDER Of Dismissal. The Prisoner Complaint and the action are dismissed. Leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal is denied without prejudice. The Colorado Springs Police Department's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 6 ) is DENIED as moot. By Judge Lewis T. Babcock on 5/7/2014. (klyon, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 14-cv-00987-BNB
ANTONIO DWAN WILLIAMS,
COLORADO SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT,
EL PASO COUNTY, and
THE STATE OF COLORADO,
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
Plaintiff, Antonio Dwan Williams, is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado
Department of Corrections at the Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterling, Colorado. Mr.
Williams has filed pro se a Prisoner Complaint (ECF No. 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 claiming that his rights under the United States Constitution have been violated.
The Court must construe the Prisoner Complaint liberally because Mr. Williams is
not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972);
Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). If the Prisoner Complaint
reasonably can be read “to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, [the
Court] should do so despite the plaintiff’s failure to cite proper legal authority, his
confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his
unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. However, the Court
should not be an advocate for a pro se litigant. See id.
Mr. Williams claims that his constitutional rights were violated in July 2007 when
he was arrested by police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on a defective arrest warrant.
Although not entirely clear, Mr. Williams apparently contends that identifying information
in the arrest warrant relates to another individual named Antonio Xavier Williams. Mr.
Williams maintains that he has sought “[j]ustice through the criminal courts with no
[e]ffect, so now the Petitioner files a civil action for 7 million dollars plus damages from
the false arrest and false imprisonment d[ue] to the violation of the Petitioner’s [F]ourth,
[F]ifth, and [F]ourteenth Amendment [r]ights to Due Process.” (ECF No. 1 at 3.) For the
reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss the action.
Mr. Williams’ claims for damages implicate the validity of his conviction and
sentence, and they are barred by the rule in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
Pursuant to Heck, if a judgment for damages necessarily would imply the invalidity of a
criminal conviction or sentence, the action does not arise until the conviction or
sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared
invalid by an authorized state tribunal, or called into question by the issuance of a
federal habeas writ. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. In short, a civil rights action filed by
a state prisoner “is barred (absent prior invalidation) – no matter the relief sought
(damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner’s suit (state conduct
leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings) – if success in that action would
necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.” Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005).
It is apparent that Mr. Williams believes his false arrest and false imprisonment
claims implicate the validity of his conviction and sentence. For one thing, Mr. Williams
specifically asserts that he is seeking damages for the false arrest and false
imprisonment caused by the alleged constitutional violations. In addition, Mr. Williams
previously has raised the same false arrest claim in habeas corpus actions filed in the
District of Colorado in which he directly challenged the validity of his conviction and
sentence. See Williams v. Chapdlaine, No. 11-cv-02643-LTB (D. Colo. Jan. 4, 2012)
(habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 claiming false arrest pursuant to
defective arrest warrant dismissed as procedurally barred); Williams v. Fauclk, No. 13cv-02146-LTB (D. Colo. Aug. 15, 2013) (§ 2254 habeas corpus action claiming
sentence is illegal because of a false arrest pursuant to defective arrest warrant
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction), appeal dismissed, 535 F. App’x 763
(10th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S. Ct. 1287 (2014).
It also is apparent that Mr. Williams has not invalidated the validity of his
conviction and sentence. Therefore, Mr. Williams’s claims for damages which implicate
the validity of his conviction and sentence are barred by the rule in Heck and must be
dismissed. The dismissal will be without prejudice. See Fottler v. United States, 73
F.3d 1064, 1065 (10th Cir. 1996).
Any false arrest claim that is not barred by the rule in Heck is barred by the
statute of limitations. Although the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, see
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c)(1), the Court may dismiss a claim sua sponte on the basis of an
affirmative defense if the defense is “obvious from the face of the complaint” and “[n]o
further factual record [is] required to be developed in order for the court to assess the
[plaintiff’s] chances of success.” Yellen v. Cooper, 828 F.2d 1471, 1476 (10th Cir. 1987);
see also Fratus v. DeLand, 49 F.3d 673, 676 (10th Cir. 1995) (stating that dismissal
under § 1915 on the basis of an affirmative defense is permitted “when the claim’s
factual backdrop clearly beckons the defense”).
It is obvious on the face of the Prisoner Complaint that any false arrest claim not
barred by the rule in Heck accrued in 2007 and is time-barred because the relevant
statute of limitations is only two years. See Blake v. Dickason, 997 F.2d 749, 750-51
(10th Cir. 1993) (two-year statute of limitations applies to § 1983 claims in Colorado).
Mr. Williams did not file the instant action until April 2014. Therefore, any false arrest
claim not barred by the rule in Heck must be dismissed.
Even if the false arrest and false imprisonment claims were not barred by the rule
in Heck and the statute of limitations, the Eleventh Amendment prevents Mr. Williams
from suing the State of Colorado for damages. See Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). “It is well established that absent an unmistakable
waiver by the state of its Eleventh Amendment immunity, or an unmistakable abrogation
of such immunity by Congress, the amendment provides absolute immunity from suit in
federal courts for states and their agencies.” Ramirez v. Oklahoma Dep’t of Mental
Health, 41 F.3d 584, 588 (10th Cir. 1994). The State of Colorado has not waived its
Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Griess v. Colorado, 841 F.2d 1042, 1044-45 (10th
Cir. 1988), and congressional enactment of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 did not abrogate Eleventh
Amendment immunity. See Ellis v. Univ. of Kan. Med. Ctr., 163 F.3d 1186, 1195-96
(10th Cir. 1998). Therefore, Mr. Williams’s claims against the State of Colorado must be
Mr. Williams also may not sue the Colorado Springs Police Department because
the Colorado Springs Police Department, which is not a separate legal entity from the
City of Colorado Springs, is not a person subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See
Stump v. Gates, 777 F. Supp. 808, 814-16 (D. Colo. 1991), aff'd, 986 F.2d 1429 (10th
Even construing the Prisoner Complaint liberally as asserting a claim against the
City of Colorado Springs, Mr. Williams may not sue a municipality like the City of
Colorado Springs or El Paso County in a civil rights action pursuant to § 1983 unless he
can demonstrate he suffered an injury caused by a municipal policy or custom. See
Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dept., 717 F.3d 760, 769-71 (10th Cir. 2013)
(discussing Supreme Court standards for municipal liability); Dodds v. Richardson, 614
F.3d 1185, 1202 (10th Cir. 2010). Mr. Williams fails to allege that the false arrest in 2007
was caused by a municipal policy or custom of either the City of Colorado Springs or El
Paso County. Therefore, Mr. Williams’s claims against those Defendants also will be
dismissed for that reason.
Finally, the Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal
from this order would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status
will be denied for the purpose of appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438
(1962). If Plaintiff files a notice of appeal he also must pay the full $505 appellate filing
fee or file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis in the United States Court of Appeals
for the Tenth Circuit within thirty days in accordance with Fed. R. App. P. 24.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that the Prisoner Complaint and the action are dismissed for the
reasons stated in this order. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal is
denied without prejudice to the filing of a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma
pauperis on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 6) is DENIED as moot.
DATED at Denver, Colorado, this
BY THE COURT:
s/Lewis T. Babcock
LEWIS T. BABCOCK, Senior Judge
United States District Court
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