Thomas v. State of Florida et al
ORDER for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Clerk is directed to close the case. Signed by Judge Gregory A. Presnell on 4/11/2018. (TKW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
LARRY JAMES THOMAS,
Case No: 6:18-cv-495-Orl-31GJK
STATE OF FLORIDA, SECRETARY,
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
and DEBRA S. NELSON,
Plaintiff Larry James Thomas (“Plaintiff”), a prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1915A(b),
the Court is required to perform a judicial review of certain civil suits brought by
prisoners to determine whether the suit should proceed:
Ground for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable
claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if
the complaint (1)
is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted; or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
Thus, the Court is obligated to screen prisoners’ civil rights complaints as soon as
practicable and to dismiss those actions which are frivolous or malicious or fail to state a
claim for relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). A complaint is frivolous if it is without arguable merit
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either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Cofield v. Alabama Public
Service Com’n, 936 F.2d 512, 515 (11th Cir. 1991); Prather v. Norman, 901 F.2d 915 (11th Cir.
1990). Additionally, the Court must read the plaintiff’s pro se allegations in a liberal
fashion. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Miller v. Stanmore, 636 F.2d 986, 988 (5th Cir.
Plaintiff alleges that on March 30, 1997, he was convicted by a jury in state court
case number 96-2456-CFA of six felony offenses and subsequently sentenced to a fiftyyear term of imprisonment. (Doc. 1 at 9-10.) According to Plaintiff, the state court granted
him a new trial on October 23, 2002. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff complains that he was never
retried or convicted, but Defendant Judge Debra S. Nelson “entered a fraudulent
judgment and sentence” on November 6, 2002. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff has filed various
motions and petitions in the state courts and the federal courts regarding the matter. (Id.
at 11-13.) Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendants for false imprisonment, malicious
prosecution, fraud, and denial of access to courts. (Id. at 9.)
Plaintiff’s claims are subject to dismissal for numerous reasons. First, Plaintiff has
filed documents with his complaint indicating that he was not granted a new trial on all
counts, but only as to count two, which the State chose to nol pros.1 See Doc. Nos. 1-4 at 24; 1-5 at 2-9. The state court dismissed count two and entered a new judgment reflecting
the deletion of that count. (Id.) Thus, Plaintiff’s contention that he is being imprisoned
without a trial is without merit.
This Court previously noted this fact in denying Petitioner’s habeas action. See
Case No. 6:03-cv-1526-Orl-31KRS, Doc. 17 at 2, n.1.
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The Supreme Court of the United States Supreme Court has held as follows:
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness
would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove
that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal
authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal
court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. ' 2254. A claim for
damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not
been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state
prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider
whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the
invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be
dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or
sentence has already been invalidated.
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (footnotes omitted).
A judgment in favor of Plaintiff in this action would necessarily imply the
invalidity of his convictions. Plaintiff seeks damages directly attributable to his
convictions. Plaintiff has not demonstrated that his convictions or sentence has been
invalidated; consequently, his claims for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and
fraud are not cognizable under section 1983 and must be dismissed with prejudice.
Furthermore, even accepting the veracity of Plaintiff’s allegations, Florida’s fouryear statute of limitations applies to a claim of deprivation of rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1283 (11th Cir. 2003). The limitations period for a
claim of false imprisonment begins to run on the date “legal process [is] initiated” against
the individual. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 390 (2007). The time to file a claim for
malicious prosecution runs from the date of termination of the criminal proceeding in
favor of the plaintiff. See Olson v. Johnson, 961 So. 2d 356, 359-360 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2007) (the
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right to maintain a suit for malicious prosecution arises upon termination of the
prosecution favorably to the plaintiff). Pursuant to Plaintiff’s allegations, his limitation
period would have begun to run on his claims at the latest on November 6, 2002, when
Defendant Nelson entered a new judgment. Therefore, his claims are time barred.
In addition, the Eleventh Amendment generally prohibits “federal courts from
exercising subject matter jurisdiction over private party suits filed against a state or state
officials.” Tennant v. Florida, 111 F. Supp. 2d 1326, 1330 (S.D. Fla. 2000). The State of Florida
has not waived its immunity from suit in federal courts. See id. (dismissing civil rights
claim against the State of Florida based on the Eleventh Amendment); see also McBrearty
v. Koji, 348 F. App’x 437, 440 (11th Cir. 2009) (applying Eleventh Amendment immunity
to a Florida District Court of Appeal); Zabriskie v. Court Admin., 172 F. App’x 906, 908–09
(11th Cir. 2006) (affirming dismissal of plaintiff’s claims for monetary damages against
Florida circuit court administrators and employees, finding that defendants were part of
the state court system and therefore an arm of the state entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity). Consequently, Plaintiff cannot proceed on a claim against the State of Florida
because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Likewise, “[f]ew doctrines were more solidly established at common law than the
immunity of judges from liability for damages for acts committed within their judicial
jurisdiction . . . . This immunity applies even when the judge is accused of acting
maliciously and corruptly.” Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-54 (1967); see also Bolin v.
Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir. 2000) (“Judges are entitled to absolute judicial
immunity from damages for those acts taken while they are acting in their judicial
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capacity unless they acted in the ‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.’ This immunity applies
even when the judge’s acts are in error, malicious, or were in excess of his or her
jurisdiction.”). Thus, Defendant Debra S. Nelson is cloaked with immunity for her alleged
improper activities associated with Plaintiff’s criminal proceeding.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED as follows:
This case is DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment, terminate any pending
motions, and close this case.
DONE and ORDERED in Orlando, Florida on April 11, 2018.
Copies furnished to:
Larry James Thomas
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