THOMAS et al v. Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit et al
ORDER granting 18 MOTION for Leave to File Motion for Permission to LEAVE to Amend, In Forma Pauperis and Affidavit Dated 01/06/2014 filed 01/08/2014 filed by JAMES R THOMAS, JR. REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION re 1 Complaint, filed by SABRINA R THOMAS, JAMES R THOMAS, JR. After review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1915(e), it is recommended that Plaintiffs' Complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Ordered by US Magistrate Judge STEPHEN HYLES on 10-2-14. (mpm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
JAMES R. THOMAS, JR.,
SABRINA R. THOMAS,
CIRCUIT, et al.,
CASE NO. 4:14-CV-9-CDL-MSH
ORDER GRANTING IFP
AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiffs James and Sabrina Thomas bring this action against Defendants
Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Attorney
General Samuel Olens, Clerk of the Superior Court of Chattahoochee County Laura
Marion, Kia Autosport of Columbus, Inc. (“Kia Autosport”), Rogers, Towers, Bailey,
Jones & Gay, SunTrust Bank, The Firm of Dickenson Gilroy, LLC, and unnamed John
and Jane Does.
(Compl. 1, ECF No. 1). Along with the filing of his Complaint,
Plaintiffs moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this action (ECF No.
2). The Court denied Plaintiffs’ motion to proceed IFP on January 8, 2014 (ECF No. 4),
which denial was vacated and remanded by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on
September 9, 2014 (ECF No. 16).1 For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs’ renewed
The Eleventh Circuit’s opinion remanded the case “for proceedings consistent with this
opinion, including, if appropriate, review for whether the Thomases’ complaint is frivolous or
motion to proceed IFP (ECF No. 18) is granted. Since the Court is granting Plaintiffs’
motion to proceed IFP, the Court has reviewed Plaintiffs’ Complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and recommends dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims.
Plaintiffs’ Complaint purports to allege violations of their constitutional rights
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various Georgia state laws.
Although rambling and
sometimes inconsistent, it appears that the crux of Plaintiffs’ Complaint centers around
the handling of a civil action brought by Plaintiffs against SunTrust Bank and Kia
Autosport in the Superior Court of Chattahoochee County.
Plaintiffs purchased a vehicle from Kia Autosport in September 2009. (See Pls.’
Aff., Ex. 23A-D, ECF No. 1-2.) Soon after their purchase, Plaintiffs apparently found
that they could not afford the down payment or monthly payments and attempted to
return the vehicle to Kia Autosport, but were refused. (Id.) Plaintiffs also concluded that
Kia Autosport had changed the information that Plaintiffs had provided in their credit
application so that they would be approved for the car loan. (Id.) Plaintiffs claim that at
some point, SunTrust Bank, the lender on the car loan, called them and stated that it was
a crime to make fraudulent statements on a credit application, which perceived threat
allegedly caused mental anguish and the exacerbation of both of Plaintiffs’ physical
ailments. (Id.) Eventually, the car was repossessed and Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against
both Kia Autosport and SunTrust Bank for fraud, identity theft, and civil conspiracy in
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).” The Court,
therefore, has conducted the review contained herein.
the Superior Court of Chattahoochee County. (Id.)
Plaintiffs’ Complaint then describes their understanding of the actions taken by the
Superior Court with regard to that lawsuit.
Plaintiffs state that the judges of the
Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit (“CJC”) violated Plaintiffs’ rights in the handling of that
case. They allege, without factual support, that a conspiracy was undertaken in which
Superior Court Judge Frank J. Jordan, Jr. allied with court staff and the attorneys for Kia
Autosport and SunTrust Bank to knowingly and maliciously deprive Plaintiffs of their
“Protected Rights” in the proper consideration of their case, and that the other judges of
the CJC allowed Judge Jordan to do so. Finally, Plaintiffs allege that they brought their
complaints about the case to the attention of Governor Deal and Attorney General Olens,
but both abdicated their responsibilities under the Georgia Constitution by failing to do
anything about the injustice committed against them.
Plaintiffs seek millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages against
all Defendants and also seek declaratory and permanent injunctive relief to remedy the
violation of their “Protected Rights.”
Motion to Proceed IFP
Plaintiffs move to proceed in this action IFP. (ECF No. 18.) Title 28, Section
1915 of the United States Code provides that a court may authorize a person who is
unable to pay court fees to proceed in her action so long as that person is “unable to pay
such fees or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1); see Martinez v. Kristi
Kleaners, Inc., 364 F.3d 1305, 1306 n.1 (explaining that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) “applies
to all persons requesting leave to proceed IFP”). Plaintiffs have established that they are
indigent for the purpose of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Therefore, their motion to proceed IFP is
Review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), “a district court must dismiss an in forma
pauperis action if the court 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.” Thibeaux v. U.S. Attorney Gen., 275 F.
App’x 889, 892 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). An
action is frivolous when the complaint “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Additionally, “[a] case is frivolous if the
factual allegations are clearly baseless, or if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal
theory.” Johnson v. Wilbur, 375 F. App’x 960, 963 (11th Cir. 2010).
Here, Plaintiffs have brought this action alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and state laws. However, the Court is unable to find any factual allegations that could be
construed as sufficient to state a claim for a violation of the United States Constitution.
At best, Plaintiffs have alleged violations of state law, over which this Court has no
jurisdiction without an accompanying cause of action arising under the Constitution or
federal law. “To state a claim for relief in an action brought under § 1983, [a plaintiff]
must establish that they were deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of
the United States, and that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state
law.” Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999).
Plaintiffs frequently state in their Complaint that actions by Defendants
“deprive[d] the Thomases’ [sic] of their ‘Protected Rights’ in violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1983.” (Compl. 18.) These “Protected Rights” are “rights to access the court; to be
heard by an impartial judicial officer; liberty and property interests in procedural,
substantive due process and equal protection; the right to be protected against statecreated dangers,” all of which are supposedly “secured and guarantee[d] by the 14th
Amendment to the United States Constitution and [various provisions of] the State of
Georgia Constitution.” (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiffs conclusory statements that the actions of
Defendants violated their rights, however, are not factual allegations but merely legal
conclusions. Plaintiffs give no factual support for their conclusions that some widespread
conspiracy was undertaken by all of the judges of the CJC, the court staff, and the
attorneys representing Kia Autosport and SunTrust Bank to deprive Plaintiffs of their
access to the courts or any of the other supposed Fourteenth Amendment rights Plaintiffs
allege were violated. “[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal
conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd.
v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002).
The “facts” that Plaintiffs frequently cite come from the short snippet of transcript
from one hearing, the court’s scheduling orders, and some letters from opposing counsel
in their state court case, none of which support their conclusion.2 The hearing transcript
For the purposes of this review, the Court considers the allegations contained in the body
of Plaintiffs’ Complaint along with the exhibits attached thereto. Exhibits attached to a
Complaint are properly considered part of the pleadings for all purposes. Solis–Ramirez v. U.S.
Dep't of Justice, 758 F.2d 1426, 1430 (11th Cir. 1985).
does not show, as Plaintiffs contend, that there “was no need for words between Judge
Jordan and [Kia Autosport’s counsel] Ms. Lange, because they were already on the same
mind link, and the only link was the Conspiracy.” (Compl. 13.) Instead, the hearing
transcript shows that Judge Jordan stated his understanding of the other defendant’s
position on the issue being raised at that hearing and Ms. Lange responded that she
agreed with his interpretation and then pointed out some case law in support of her
motion to compel arbitration. (Compl. Ex. 8B at 13, ECF No. 1-2.) This shows a typical
exchange between the court and counsel, not a clear conspiracy to deprive Plaintiffs of
their access to the court. Furthermore, the other exhibits show typical communications
between defense counsel and a pro se litigant and between defense counsel and the court
in a matter in which the court has compelled arbitration and stayed discovery. (See Id. at
Ex. 9-12B at 19-24.) Plaintiffs’ conclusions are pure conjecture that some improper
agreement was made, apparently based upon Plaintiffs’ misunderstanding of the
procedures of the court and their disagreement with the rulings made. Plaintiffs have
simply failed to state any factual allegations supporting the broad conspiracy that they
allege deprived them of their constitutional rights.
Plaintiffs further allege that Governor Deal and Attorney General Olens
discriminated against them due to their race, but again give no factual support for this
contention other than to state that both men are white and Plaintiffs are black. (Id. at 18.)
Furthermore, Plaintiffs allegations against Governor Deal and Attorney General Olens
are based upon their alleged failure to fulfill the constitutional duties of their state offices,
which would not stem from violations of the federal Constitution or federal law, and thus
not support a § 1983 claim.
Consequently, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and the Court does not have supplemental jurisdiction to hear the claims brought alleging
state law violations. “Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), a district court has the discretion to
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over pending state law claims if the district
court has dismissed all federal claims prior to trial.” Bus. Realty Inv. Co. v. Insituform
Techs., Inc., 564 F. App'x 954, 957 (11th Cir. 2014). The Complaint should therefore be
dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
For the reasons discussed above, Plaintiff’s motion to proceed IFP (ECF No. 18) is
granted. Furthermore, it is recommended that Plaintiff’s Complaint be dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i). Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Plaintiff may file objections to this
Recommendation in writing with the United States District Judge within fourteen (14)
days after being served with a copy hereof.
SO ORDERED and RECOMMENDED, this 2nd day of October, 2014.
/s/ Stephen Hyles
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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