Holloman v. Jefferson Co. et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION by Judge John G. Heyburn, II on 1/22/13; The complaint will be dismissed by separate order.cc:Plaintiff (pro se), Defendants, JCA (JBM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
JAMES W. HOLLOMAN, Jr.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:12-CV-P726-H
JEFFERSON COUNTY et al.
Plaintiff, James W. Holloman, Jr., filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). For the reasons set forth below,
the action will be dismissed.
I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
Plaintiff, a convicted prisoner housed at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex,
sues Jefferson County, Kentucky, and, in their individual and official capacities, state-court
judge Jeffrey P. Morris and Mike Buckens, “DPA attorney.”1 The complaint cites to the Fifth,
Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff’s claims involve his state-court criminal
conviction. He alleges that the judge should not have let him plead to an agreement about which
he knew nothing. He further alleges he was subjected to double jeopardy and that he should
have been allowed to have his own doctor evaluate him. He alleges that his sentence was illegal
and that the state court knew of its illegality. He attaches as an exhibit a Kentucky Department
of Corrections Resident Record Card, which details that Plaintiff has been incarcerated since
1999 for convictions of first-degree rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse.
The Court assumes Plaintiff is referring to the Department of Public Advocacy, the state
agency which provides public defender services.
As relief, Plaintiff requests $20,000,000 in monetary and punitive damages. He also
requests injunctive relief in the form of “release.”
When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity,
officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action, if the court
determines that it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The Court may,
therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory
or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. When determining whether a
plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the
complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true.
Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must
liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam),
to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Here, Plaintiff’s claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Under the
Heck doctrine, a state prisoner may not file a § 1983 suit for damages or equitable relief
challenging his conviction or sentence if a ruling on his claim would render the conviction or
sentence invalid, until and unless the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by Executive Order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or has been called into
question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Heck,
512 U.S. at 486-87; Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) (“[A] state prisoner’s § 1983
action is barred (absent prior invalidation) – no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable
relief), no matter the target of the prisoner’s suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal
prison proceedings) – if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of
confinement or its duration.”).
Moreover, his claims against Judge Morris are barred by the doctrine of judicial
immunity. A judge performing judicial functions is absolutely immune from suit seeking
monetary damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991) (per curiam). Judicial immunity is
available even if the judge acts maliciously, corruptly, or in bad faith. Id. at 11. Because
Plaintiff complains only about conduct that comprises the very core of Judge Morris’s official
duties, the Court concludes that absolute judicial immunity bars the claims for monetary
damages against this Defendant. See id. at 9.
Plaintiff also sues Judge Morris in his official capacity. The official-capacity claims
brought against a state-court judge are deemed claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky
itself. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff
must allege that a “person” acting under color of state law deprived the plaintiff of a right
secured by the Constitution or federal law. See § 1983. States, state agencies, and state officials
sued in their official capacities for money damages are not “persons” subject to suit under
§ 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Thus, Plaintiff’s claims for
money damages from Judge Morris in his official capacity fail to allege cognizable claims under
Similarly, Plaintiff’s claims against attorney Buckens fail to state a claim. It is firmly
established that a defense attorney, regardless of whether he is a public defender or private
attorney, is not a state actor for purposes of § 1983. Polk Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325
(1981) (“[A] public defender does not act under color of state law when performing a lawyer’s
traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding.”); Otworth v.
Vanderploeg, 61 F. App’x 163, 165 (6th Cir. 2003) (“[A] lawyer representing a client is not, by
virtue of being an officer of the court, a state actor under color of state law within the meaning of
§ 1983.”). Thus, Plaintiff also fails to state a claim under § 1983 against defense counsel
regarding any performance of a traditional lawyer function.
Finally, to the extent Plaintiff seeks release from confinement, such relief is not available
in a § 1983 action. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973).
For the foregoing reasons, the complaint will be dismissed by separate Order.
January 22, 2013
Plaintiff, pro se
Jefferson County Attorney
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