Ray v. City of Jacksonville et al
ORDER dismissing the case without prejudice; directions to the Clerk. Signed by Judge Brian J. Davis on 8/1/2022. (KLC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
LAVARIO C. RAY,
Case No. 3:22-cv-804-BJD-LLL
CITY OF JACKSONVILLE, et al.,
ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE
Plaintiff, Lavario C. Ray, an inmate of the Florida penal system,
initiated this action pro se by filing a complaint for the violation of civil rights
(Doc. 1; Compl.) and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2). Plaintiff
names the following as Defendants: the City of Jacksonville; the State
Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit; an unnamed judge; Robert
Cook, a detective; Richard Mantie, an assistant state attorney; Sheila Lozias,
an assistant state attorney; and Dianne C. Logston, a notary public. Compl. at
2-4, 11, 12. He asserts his constitutional rights were violated during the
investigation that led to his 2004 arrest in Duval County, the resulting
prosecution, and his criminal defense. Id. at 3-4, 12. He contends he contracted
tuberculosis and COVID-19 while incarcerated. Id. at 5. As relief, he seeks “an
injunction rendering [his] judgement [sic] and sentence null and void” and
monetary damages. Id. at 13.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires a district court to
dismiss a complaint if the court determines the action is frivolous, malicious,
or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b)(1). With respect to whether a complaint “fails to state
a claim on which relief may be granted,” the language of the PLRA mirrors the
language of Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, so courts apply the
same standard in both contexts. Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th
Cir. 1997). See also Alba v. Montford, 517 F.3d 1249, 1252 (11th Cir. 2008).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” that amount to “naked
assertions” will not suffice. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Moreover,
a complaint must “contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all
the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal
theory.” Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683 (11th Cir.
2001) (quoting In re Plywood Antitrust Litig., 655 F.2d 627, 641 (5th Cir. Unit
A Sept. 8, 1981)). In reviewing a complaint, a court must accept the plaintiff’s
allegations as true, liberally construing those by a plaintiff proceeding pro se,
but need not accept as true legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to dismissal under the PLRA because he
fails to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” See id. To state a
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that “a person” acting
under the color of state law deprived him of a right secured under the United
States Constitution or federal law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Not only are some of
the Defendants Plaintiff names not subject to suit under § 1983,1 but because
Plaintiff challenges convictions that have not been overturned, his claims are
not cognizable in a civil rights action.
When a prisoner challenges solely his current conviction and sentence,
his proper avenue to seek relief is through a petition for writ of habeas corpus
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, not a civil rights action under § 1983. Nelson v.
Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 643 (2004). In other words, “where an inmate seeks
injunctive relief challenging the fact of his conviction or the duration of his
sentence,” such a claim falls “within the ‘core’ of habeas corpus and [is] thus
Judges and prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity from suit for actions taken in their
official capacities. See Dykes v. Hosemann, 776 F.2d 942, 943 (11th Cir. 1985) (per
curiam); Rivera v. Leal, 359 F.3d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 2004). Additionally, “[s]tate
agencies are not persons under [§] 1983.” Smith v. Deal, 760 F. App’x 972, 975 (11th
Cir. 2019) (citing Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65 (1989)).
not cognizable when brought pursuant to § 1983.” Id. (citing Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489 (1973)). See also Hutcherson v. Riley, 468 F.3d
750, 754 (11th Cir. 2006). The Eleventh Circuit has explained the “line of
demarcation between a § 1983 civil rights action and a § 2254 habeas claim”
When an inmate challenges the “circumstances of his
confinement” but not the validity of his conviction
and/or sentence, then the claim is properly raised in a
civil rights action under § 1983. However, when an
inmate raises any challenge to the “lawfulness of
confinement or [the] particulars affecting its
duration,” his claim falls solely within “the province of
habeas corpus” under § 2254. Simply put, if the relief
sought by the inmate would either invalidate his
conviction or sentence or change the nature or
duration of his sentence, the inmate’s claim must be
raised in a § 2254 habeas petition, not a § 1983 civil
Id. (internal citations omitted).
When an inmate seeks damages arising out of an alleged unlawful
conviction or sentence, an action under § 1983 is barred if a judgment in the
inmate’s favor “would necessarily imply the invalidity” of the underlying
conviction. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). See also Christy v.
Sheriff of Palm Bch. Cnty., Fla., 288 F. App’x 658, 666 (11th Cir. 2008). As
such, a plaintiff seeking to recover damages for an ‘allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment’ . . . must first prove that his conviction or sentence
has been invalidated.” Harvey v. United States, 681 F. App’x 850, 853 (11th
Cir. 2017) (quoting Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87). See also Hall v. Santa Rosa Corr.
Inst., 403 F. App’x 479, 480 (11th Cir. 2010) (“A prisoner may not collaterally
challenge the constitutionality of his criminal conviction in a civil suit for
damages under § 1983.” (citing McClish v. Nugent, 483 F.3d 1231, 1250 (11th
As an initial matter, the Court observes that Plaintiff’s claims are
unclear because two pages of his complaint are missing. On the civil rights
complaint form, Plaintiff wrote “see attached” in the section directing him to
set forth his claims and provide supporting facts. Compl. at 5. Plaintiff provides
an attachment, which he numbered. Id. at 11-13. But he omitted two of the five
pages. Id. In the pages provided—only one of which includes information
related to his purported claims—Plaintiff complains that Detective Cook made
“false allegations in an application to procure [a] wiretap order,” and the
prosecuting attorneys and a notary public conspired “to deprive [him] of his
Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment Right[s], by fraudulently
concealing material exculpatory evidence.” Id. at 12.
A review of the Duval County criminal dockets shows Plaintiff was
convicted in 2005 in two cases: case number 2005-CF-5567; and case number
2005-CF-4840. See Clerk Online Resource ePortal (CORE), available at
https://core.duvalclerk.com/ (last visited July 28, 2022). In case number 2005CF-5567, Plaintiff was found guilty on three counts, including two counts of
first-degree murder for which he was sentenced to life. In case number 2005CF-4840, Plaintiff was found guilty on four counts, each of which resulted in a
life sentence. In that case, however, the First District Court of Appeal held the
life sentence imposed on one count (conspiracy to purchase or possession of a
controlled substance with intent to sell/purchase/manufacture/deliver) was
illegal because Florida law “does not permit [habitual felony offender status]
for a felony ‘relating to the purchase or the possession of a controlled
substance.’” Ray v. Florida, No. 1D15-1379 (Fla. 1st DCA Nov. 5, 2015). The
state court thereafter re-sentenced Plaintiff to five years on that count. See
CORE, available at https://core.duvalclerk.com/ (last visited July 28, 2022).
Even though Plaintiff was re-sentenced on one count in the second
criminal case, his convictions and sentences have not been invalidated. Indeed,
the Court takes judicial notice that Plaintiff has a habeas action pending in
this Court in which he challenges his 2005 Duval County convictions. See Case
No. 3:16-cv-1112-TJC-JBT. Moreover, in the pages of the complaint he
submitted, Plaintiff does not state which conviction or sentence he seeks to
challenge through this civil rights action, nor does he provide facts explaining
the basis of his purported claims. See Compl. at 11-13. In this regard, Plaintiff’s
allegations are conclusory and, thus, do not satisfy the federal pleading
standard. More than conclusory and vague allegations are required to state a
cause of action under § 1983 because, “[e]ven under the so-called notice rules
of pleading, a complaint must . . . [provide] sufficient detail . . . so that the
defendant, and the Court, can obtain a fair idea of what the plaintiff is
complaining, and can see that there is some legal basis for recovery.” See
L.S.T., Inc., v. Crow, 49 F.3d 679, 684 (11th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (citing
Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 556 (11th Cir. 1984)).
Because Plaintiff seeks to challenge convictions that have not been
overturned, and because his allegations are incomplete and conclusory, his
complaint is subject to dismissal.
Accordingly, it is
This case is DISMISSED without prejudice.
The Clerk shall enter judgment dismissing this case without
prejudice, terminate any pending motions, and close the file.
DONE AND ORDERED at Jacksonville, Florida, this 1st day of August
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