Best v. Lake County Courts
OPINION AND ORDER: This case is DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Signed by Judge Philip P Simon on 11/18/2021. (Copy mailed to pro se party, Certified Mail, 7019 1120 0001 9119 7180) (jdb)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
ANTHONY ARMELL BEST,
CAUSE NO. 2:21-CV-351-PPS-JPK
LAKE COUNTY COURTS,
OPINION AND ORDER
Anthony Armell Best, a prisoner without a lawyer, initiated this case by filing a
document titled “Preliminary Injunction” against the Lake County Courts, asking that
this court order his immediate release from prison and a monetary award of five million
dollars for the false imprisonment. ECF 1. He did not file a complaint as required by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 3 (“A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint
with the court.”). Nevertheless, I will construe the Preliminary Injunction as including a
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because “[a] document filed pro se is to be liberally
construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and citations omitted). Here, he names a defendant,
makes clear the relief he seeks from that defendant, and explains why he believes he is
entitled to that relief. Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must review the
merits of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails
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to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
As an initial matter, Best cannot sue the Lake County Courts for either release
from prison or for money damages. When a prisoner is seeking release from prison, the
proper defendant is the person who has custody of him, not the state court that
sentenced him. See Kholyavskiy v. Achim, 443 F.3d 946, 948-49 (7th Cir. 2006). As for
money damages, local government liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is dependent on an
analysis of state law, and under Indiana law a superior court is not an entity that has
the capacity to sue or be sued. See IND. CODE § 36-1-2-10; Sow v. Fortville Police Dep’t, 636
F.3d 293, 300 (7th Cir. 2011). Therefore, the complaint does not state a claim against the
Even if Best had named a proper defendant, the allegations still do not state a
claim upon which relief may be granted. His main argument is that he is falsely
imprisoned because his name on the documents in the state court proceeding is
“ANTHONY ARMELL BEST,” but his true name is “Anthony Armell Best©,” as he is a
“Flesh and Blood Being Trustee Secured Party Creditor of the United States of
America.” ECF 1 at 3. This claim is patently frivolous. The Seventh Circuit has
“repeatedly rejected . . . theories of individual sovereignty, immunity from prosecution,
and their ilk.” United States v. Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 767 (7th Cir. 2011). “Regardless of an
individual’s claimed status of descent, be it as a ‘sovereign citizen,’ a ‘secured-party
creditor,’ or a ‘flesh-and-blood human being,’ [t]hese theories should be rejected
summarily, however they are presented.” Id.
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Best also alleges that he was tried twice for the crime for which he is imprisoned.
As proof, he contrasts the December 14, 2015, trial date on the Chronological Case
Summary, ECF 1-4 at 5, with the May 31, 2016, date listed for his criminal conviction on
the “Cases by Name Listing Report,” ECF 1-5 at 1. However, a review of the Cases by
Name Listing Report shows that it does not say a jury trial was held on May 31, 2016.
Instead, it states that the case was decided by jury trial and that it was statistically
closed on May 31, 2016. The statistical closure date is unrelated to the date of the jury
trial. It cannot be plausibly inferred from these allegations that Best was tried twice.
Finally, to the extent that Best is seeking release from prison, he cannot get that
relief in a case under § 1983. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 490 (1973) (“Congress
has determined that habeas corpus is the appropriate remedy for state prisoners
attacking the validity of the fact or length of their confinement . . ..”). Money damages
are allowed under § 1983. But if he seeks compensation for false imprisonment, such a
claim is barred by Heck v. Humphry, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), which held:
[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 a determination, or called into question by a
federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Id. at 486-87 (footnote omitted). Best’s conviction is still intact. See Best v. State, No.
45A03-1602-CR-447, 69 N.E.3d 951 (Ind. Ct. App. Dec. 20, 2016) (unpublished table
decision) (affirming Best’s conviction of a Level 4 felony dealing in cocaine). Thus, he
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cannot bring any claim that would imply his conviction is invalid while it is still in
“The usual standard in civil cases is to allow defective pleadings to be corrected,
especially in early stages, at least where amendment would not be futile.” Abu-Shawish
v. United States, 898 F.3d 726, 738 (7th Cir. 2018). However, “courts have broad
discretion to deny leave to amend where . . . the amendment would be futile.” Hukic v.
Aurora Loan Servs., 588 F.3d 420, 432 (7th Cir. 2009). For the reasons previously
explained, such is the case here.
For these reasons, this case is DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
ENTERED: November 18, 2021.
/s/ Philip P. Simon
PHILIP P. SIMON, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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