Phar v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (14th District Circuit Court)
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: IT IS ORDERED as follows: (1) This matter is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE and STRICKEN from the Court's active docket; (2) Plaintiff's MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis 2 is DENIED AS MOOT. Signed by Judge Joseph M. Hood on 4/4/2017.(KM)cc: COR,Pla via US mail
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CENTRAL DIVISION at LEXINGTON
ROSS “WORD” PHAR,
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, 14TH
DISTRICT CIRCUIT COURT,
Civil Case No.
Plaintiff Ross “Word” Phar has filed a pro se Complaint [DE
1] against the Commonwealth of Kentucky (14th District Circuit
Court), seeking redress for federal constitutional violations that
allegedly occurred while he was incarcerated pending trial on state
criminal charges. 1
Because Plaintiff has also submitted a Motion
to Proceed In Forma Pauperis [DE 2], the Court must conduct an
There is no “14th District Circuit Court” in Kentucky. See Kentucky Court of
Justice, Publications and Resources, Kentucky Judicial Circuit Map and Kentucky
Judicial District Map,
visited April 4, 2017).
Instead, Kentucky has a 14th Judicial Circuit,
consisting of the Woodford Circuit Court, Bourbon Circuit Court, and Scott
It also has a 14th Judicial District, composed of the
Woodford District Court, Bourbon District Court, and Scott District Court. Id.
Because Plaintiff’s allegations relate to his incarceration and treatment during
the pendency of a Woodford Circuit Court case, this Court will construe
Plaintiff’s Complaint as one against the 14th Judicial Circuit, as well as the
Commonwealth of Kentucky.
See Kentucky Court of Justice, CourtNet 2.0,
https://kcoj.kycourts.net/CourtNet/Search/Index (last visited April 4, 2017).
1915(e)(2). 2 If the Court determines that this matter is frivolous
or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 608 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on
other grounds by LaFountain v. Harry, 716 F.3d 944, 951 (6th Cir.
As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that “allegations of
a complaint drafted by a pro se litigant are held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991).
But see Frengler v. Gen.
Motors, 482 F. App’x 975, 976 (6th Cir. 2012) (observing that “this
lenient treatment has limits”).
Because Plaintiff alleges that a
Kentucky court violated his federal constitutional rights, and
requests monetary compensation in connection therewith, the Court
finds it appropriate to construe Plaintiff’s Complaint as an action
for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See Will v. Mich. Dept. of
Although the Complaint indicates that Plaintiff was incarcerated at one time,
he is not still confined.
Thus, the screening requirements of 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a) are inapplicable. See Kane v. Lancaster Cty. Dept. of Corrections,
960 F. Supp. 219, 220 (D. Neb. 1997) (finding that a case was not subject to §
1915A(a) screening requirements, even though the plaintiff was incarcerated at
the time of the incident underlying the case, because he had been released prior
to the filing of his complaint).
When dismissal is appropriate because the plaintiff seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief, courts have treated the
disposition as a dismissal with prejudice. See Armstrong v. Russell, No. 1:14cv-00036, 2014 WL 1317299, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Mar. 28, 2014); Gould v. Suffety,
No. 07-11235-BC, 2007 WL 1599716, at *1 (E.D. Mich. June 4, 2007); Preston v.
Preston, Civ. A. No. 5:11-00170-JBC, 2011 WL 2445967, at *1 (E.D. Ky. June 14,
St. Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65 (1989) (explaining that “Section 1983
provides a federal forum to remedy many deprivations of civil
That being said, Section 1983 “does not provide a federal
forum for litigants who seek a remedy against a State for alleged
deprivations of civil liberties.”
Id. (emphasis added) (holding
that a state is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983).
Under the Eleventh Amendment, “an unconsenting State is immune
from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well
as by citizens of another State.”
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S.
651, 663 (1974).
“[A] State may consent to suit against it in
The Court is not aware of any case law or statute
indicating that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has consented to suits
against it in federal court.
While Congress also “has power with respect to the rights
protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to abrogate the Eleventh
Pennhurst St. Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 (1984)
(quoting Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979)).
Court of the United States has held that “Congress, in passing §
1983, had no intention to disturb the States’ Eleventh Amendment
Id. (citing Quern, 491 U.S. at 66).
To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to sue the 14th Judicial
Circuit, the ultimate conclusion is the same, although the analysis
“[E]ven though a State is not named a party to
the action, the suit may nonetheless be barred by the Eleventh
Edelman, 415 U.S. at 663; see also Regents of the
Univ. of Ca. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997) (explaining that the
Eleventh Amendment “encompasses not only actions in which a State
is actually named as the defendant, but also certain actions
against state agents and state instrumentalities”).
“when the action is in essence one for the recovery of money from
the state, the state is the real substantial party in interest and
is entitled to invoke its sovereign immunity from suit even though
individual officials are nominal defendants.”
Ford Motor Co. v.
Dep’t of Treasury of Ind., 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945).
In determining whether an entity qualifies as an “arm of the
State,” the Supreme Court of the United States has “inquired into
the relationship between the State and the entity in question.”
Doe, 519 U.S. at 429.
The United States Court of Appeals for the
Sixth Circuit has distilled this “arm-of- the-state” analysis into
a four-factor test: (1) the State’s potential liability for a
judgment against the entity; (2) the language by which state
statutes and state courts refer to the entity and the degree of
state control and veto power of the entity’s actions; (3) whether
state or local officials appoint the board members of the entity;
and (4) whether the entity’s functions fall within the traditional
purview of state or local government.
Ernst v. Rising, 427 F.3d
351, 359 (6th Cir. 2005).
Commonwealth shall be vested exclusively in one Court of Justice
which shall be divided into a Supreme Court, a Court of Appeals,
at trial court of general jurisdiction known as the Circuit Court
and a trial court of limited jurisdiction known as the District
It also mandates that the General Assembly shall fix
the compensation for judges presiding over these courts and that
“[a]ll compensation and necessary expenses of the Court of Justice
shall be paid out of the State Treasury.”
Ky. Const. § 120.
Taken together, these statutes suggest that the State would
be liable for a potential judgment against the 14th Judicial
considerable control over the 14th Judicial Circuit, dictating the
types of cases it may hear and financing its activities.
reasons, the Court finds that the 14th Judicial Circuit is an arm
of the state, and thus, is immune from suit under the Eleventh
See Anglin v. Ky. Supreme Court, Civ. A. No. 3:13-33-
GFVT, 2013 WL 6253159, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Dec. 3, 2013) (stating that
the Kentucky Supreme Court “is unquestionably an arm of the state
for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment, and is thus immune from
suit”); Newton v. Ky. St. Police, 2009 WL 648989, at *6 (E.D. Ky.
Mar. 11, 2009) (treating the Franklin Circuit Court as an “arm of
the state” for Eleventh Amendment purposes); McKee v. Fayette
Circuit Court, 68 F.3d 474 (Table), 1995 WL 559331, at *2 (6th
Cir. Sept. 20, 1995) (affirming dismissal of Fayette Circuit Court
on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds). Because the 14th Judicial
District has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, dismissal
of this action is appropriate.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated herein,
IT IS ORDERED as follows:
STRICKEN from the Court’s active docket; and
Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis [DE 2]
is hereby DENIED AS MOOT.
This the 4th day of April, 2017.
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