Springfield v. Commonwealth of Kentucky et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION by Chief Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr on 7/2/12; The Court will enter a separate order dismissing this action.cc:HCA, Plaintiff (pro se), Atty General (JBM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
ALBERT THOMAS SPRINGFIELD, SR.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:12CV-P22-M
THE COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY et al.
Plaintiff Albert Thomas Springfield, Sr., filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. This matter is before the Court on initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). For the
reasons that follow, the complaint will be dismissed.
Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee currently incarcerated in the Hopkins County Jail. As
Defendants, he names the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the City of Madisonville, and Hopkins
County. He alleges a void indictment and malicious prosecution “by the Commonwealth of
Kentucky Hopkins County Circuit Court Madisonville, Kentucky.”
Factually, Plaintiff reports that on August 30, 2011, the “Commonwealth of Kentucky
Hopkins County Madisonville Kentucky” indicted him on charges of first-degree trafficking in a
controlled substance and first-degree persistent felony offender (Indictment No. 11-CR-239).
On September 15, 2011, he was arrested and placed in Hopkins County Jail. Plaintiff claims that
the Commonwealth failed to summon or subpoena the confidential information; that “there is no
event stated on case history that a grand jury hearing was set for the plaintiff to be listed for the
session”; that there are no transcripts of the grand jury; and that the indictment was returned by
the grand jury when no court was in session. The only witnesses listed, reports Plaintiff, were
law enforcement agents. Plaintiff alleges that the “Commonwealth of Kentucky and Public
Advocacy of Hopkins County Madisonville, Kentucky are conspiring together to maliciously
prosecute the Plaintiff in Hopkins County Circuit Court.”
As relief, Plaintiff seeks “release from malicious prosecution, dismissal of indictment,
release from custody from void indictment” and $500,000 in damages.
Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers,
and/or employees, this Court must review the instant action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under
§ 1915A, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of
the complaint, 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 § 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore, 114 F.3d at 604.
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 trial 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. In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a
claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[A]
district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take
all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d
478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009)
(citations omitted)). “But the district court need not accept a ‘bare assertion of legal
conclusions.’” Tackett, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d
1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).
Although this Court recognizes that pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent
standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), the
duty “does not require us to conjure up unpled allegations,” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19
(1st Cir. 1979), or to create a claim for a plaintiff. Clark v. Nat’l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518
F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise would require the Court “to explore
exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district
court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the
strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton,
775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
“Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for
deprivations of rights established elsewhere.” Flint ex rel. Flint v. Ky. Dep’t of Corr., 270 F.3d
340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). Two allegations are required to state a claim under § 1983. Gomez v.
Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). First, “a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured
by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988), and
second, he “must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under
color of state law.” Id. “Absent either element, a section 1983 claim will not lie.” Christy v.
Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 1991).
A. Commonwealth of Kentucky
The Court will dismiss the claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky on two bases.
First, a state is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police,
491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). Second, the
Eleventh Amendment1 bars the claims. A state may not be sued in federal court, regardless of
the relief sought, unless the state has waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment or Congress has overridden it. Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf &
Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89,
124 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). The Commonwealth of Kentucky has
not waived its immunity, see Adams v. Morris, 90 F. App’x 856, 857 (6th Cir. 2004), and in
enacting § 1983, Congress did not intend to override the traditional sovereign immunity of the
states. Whittington v. Milby, 928 F.2d 188, 193-94 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440
U.S. 332, 341 (1979)).
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: “The Judicial power
of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or
prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of
any Foreign State.” Although the Eleventh Amendment does not address the situation where a state’s
own citizen initiates suit against it, case law has interpreted the amendment to foreclose that
possibility. Barton v. Summers, 293 F.3d 944, 948 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Hans v. Louisiana, 134
U.S. 1 (1890)).
B. City of Madisonville and Hopkins County
Municipalities, such as the City of Madisonville and Hopkins County, are persons subject
to suit under § 1983. Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978)
(“Congress did intend municipalities and other local government units to be included among
those persons to whom § 1983 applies.”).
When a § 1983 claim is made against a municipality, the Court must analyze two distinct
issues: (1) whether Plaintiff’s harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) if so,
whether the municipality is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker Heights,
Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The Court will address the issues in reverse order.
“[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor – or, in
other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.”
Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 1994); Berry v.
City of Detroit, 25 F.3d 1342, 1345 (6th Cir. 1994). “[T]he touchstone of ‘official policy’ is
designed ‘to distinguish acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, and
thereby make clear that municipal liability is limited to action for which the municipality is
actually responsible.’” City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 138 (1988) (quoting
Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986)) (emphasis in original). To demonstrate
municipal liability, a plaintiff “must (1) identify the municipal policy or custom, (2) connect the
policy to the municipality, and (3) show that his particular injury was incurred due to execution
of that policy.” Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 815 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Garner v. Memphis
Police Dep’t, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993)).
In the instant case, Plaintiff’s bare and conclusory assertion that the “Commonwealth of
Kentucky and Public Advocacy of Hopkins County Madisonville, Kentucky are conspiring
together to maliciously prosecute the Plaintiff in Hopkins County Circuit Court” fails to establish
any policy or custom, especially given that the Department of Public Advocacy is not a
municipal department and is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983.2 Plaintiff has not
alleged a policy or custom implemented or endorsed by either the City of Madisonville or
Hopkins County or that anyone acted pursuant to a governmental policy or custom in causing his
alleged harm. The complaint, therefore, fails to establish a basis of liability against the City of
Madisonville and Hopkins County and fails to state a cognizable § 1983 claim.
C. Immediate release
To the extent Plaintiff seeks immediate release, a § 1983 claim cannot lie. Rather, “when
a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the
relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release
from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). Because Plaintiff has not yet been convicted, he must file
a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, to the extent applicable, following
exhaustion of available state remedies. See generally Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Ct. of Ky.,
410 U.S. at 489-91 (stating in a § 2241 action that “[t]he exhaustion doctrine is a judicially
crafted instrument which reflects a careful balance between important interests of federalism and
The Department of Public Advocacy is an independent agency of state government, see Ky.
Rev. Stat. Ann. § 31.010, and 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 County 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.”).
the need to preserve the writ of habeas corpus as a ‘swift and imperative remedy in all cases of
illegal restraint or confinement.’”).
For the reasons set forth more fully above, the Court will enter a separate Order
dismissing this action.
July 2, 2012
Plaintiff, pro se
Hopkins County Attorney
Attorney General, Commonwealth of Kentucky
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