Curtis v. Townslee Corbett et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 1 Complaint filed by Toney Curtis, Sr. Signed by Judge Andrew W. Austin. (td)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
TONEY CURTIS SR.
REVA L. TOWNSLEE CORBETT,
JUDGE CARSON CAMPBELL,
and SHERIFF OTTO H. HAENECK
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The Magistrate Judge submits this Report and Recommendation to the District Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 1(f) of Appendix C of the Local Court Rules of the United
States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to
United States Magistrates, as amended, effective December 1, 2002.
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has been granted leave
to proceed in forma pauperis.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
At the time he filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff was confined in the
the Washington County Jail. Plaintiff complains Judge Reva L. Townslee Corbett denied his request
for bail reduction on July 16, 2015. Relatedly, Plaintiff alleges Judge Carson Campbell denied his
subsequent request to fire court appointed counsel and his request for bail reduction. Finally,
Plaintiff complains Sheriff Otto H. Haeneck is detaining Plaintiff on an excessive bond. Plaintiff
requests that his bond be reduced and he be allowed to fire court appointed counsel. He also seeks
an unspecified amount of monetary damages.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Standard Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
An in forma pauperis proceeding may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
if the court determines the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from suit. A dismissal
for frivolousness or maliciousness may occur at any time, before or after service of process and
before or after the defendant’s answer. Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1119 (5th Cir. 1986).
When reviewing a plaintiff’s complaint, the court must construe plaintiff’s allegations as
liberally as possible. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). However, the petitioner’s pro se status
does not offer him “an impenetrable shield, for one acting pro se has no license to harass others, clog
the judicial machinery with meritless litigation and abuse already overloaded court dockets.”
Farguson v. MBank Houston, N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359 (5th Cir. 1986).
Requests for Monetary Relief
Plaintiff’s requests for monetary relief are frivolous and should be dismissed.
Judges Corbett and Campbell
Judge Corbett and Judge Campbell are entitled to absolute immunity for any acts performed
as a judge. It is well settled law that a judge enjoys absolute immunity from liability for damages
for judicial acts performed within his jurisdiction. Hale v. Harney, 786 F.2d 688, 690 (5th Cir.
1986). The doctrine of absolute judicial immunity protects judges not only from liability, but also
from suit. Mireless v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991). Motive of the judicial officer is irrelevant when
considering absolute immunity. See Mitchell v. McBryde, 944 F.2d 229, 230 (5th Cir. 1991) (“The
judge is absolutely immune for all judicial acts not performed in clear absence of all jurisdiction,
however erroneous the act and however evil the motive.”).
Absolute judicial immunity is overcome in only two rather narrow sets of circumstances:
first, a judge is not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge’s
judicial capacity, and second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in
complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireless, 502 U.S. at 11-12. “A judge’s acts are judicial in
nature if they are ‘normally performed by a judge’ and the parties affected ‘dealt with the judge in
his judicial capacity.’” Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 285 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Mireless, 502
U.S. at 12). In the case at bar, Plaintiff does not complain of any actions taken by Judge Corbett or
Judge Campbell that were nonjudicial in nature nor does he show that they were acting in the clear
absence of all jurisdiction. Accordingly, Judge Corbett and Judge Campbell are therefore protected
by absolute immunity.
The Court must first address whether Plaintiff has stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against Sheriff Haeneck. Section 1983 provides, in pertinent part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in
equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
“The first inquiry in any § 1983 suit, therefore, is whether the plaintiff has been deprived of a right
‘secured by the Constitution and the laws.’” Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979); Green
v. State Bar of Texas, 27 F.3d 1083, 1087 (5th Cir. 1994). “By its terms, of course, the statute
creates no substantive rights; it merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established
elsewhere.” Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985) (citing Baker, 443 U.S. at 140, 144
n.3). Even after the plaintiff has established a deprivation of a constitutional right, he must still show
that the defendant was the “person” who caused the plaintiff’s deprivation. Id. at 817.
Plaintiff’s only allegation made against Sheriff Haeneck is that the sheriff has held him on
excessive bail. As Sheriff Haeneck has no authority to reduce the bail set by the judge in the
Washington County criminal case, Plaintiff’s claim against the sheriff is frivolous.
Requests for Injunctive Relief
Plaintiff requests the Court to reduce his bail and to allow him to fire his court appointed
counsel. Plaintiff’s state criminal case is currently pending. Accordingly, the Court should abstain
from deciding these issues under the Younger abstention doctrine. See Louisiana Debating &
Literary Ass’n v. City of New Orleans, 42 F.3d 1483, 1490 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1145
(1995) (holding that Younger abstention is proper when there is a pending state court action, the state
court action implicates an important state interest, and there is an adequate opportunity in the state
proceeding to raise constitutional challenges).
It is therefore recommended that Plaintiff’s claims for monetary relief be dismissed with
prejudice as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). It is further recommended that Plaintiff’s
claims for injunctive relief be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to the Younger abstention
It is further recommended that the Court include within its judgment a provision expressly
and specifically warning Plaintiff that filing or pursuing any further frivolous lawsuits may result in
(a) the imposition of court costs pursuant to Section 1915(f); (b) the imposition of significant
monetary sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11; (c) the imposition of an order barring Plaintiff
from filing any lawsuits in this Court without first obtaining the permission from a District Judge
of this Court or a Circuit Judge of the Fifth Circuit; or (d) the imposition of an order imposing some
combination of these sanctions.
It is further recommended that Plaintiff be warned that if Plaintiff files more than three
actions or appeals while he is a prisoner which are dismissed as frivolous or malicious or for failure
to state a claim on which relief may be granted, then he will be prohibited from bringing any other
actions in forma pauperis unless he is in imminent danger of serious physical injury. See 28 U.S.C.
In the event this Report and Recommendation is accepted, adopted or approved, it is
recommended that the Court direct the Clerk to e-mail a copy of its order and judgment to the Pro
Se Clerk for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
Within 14 days after receipt of the magistrate judge’s report, any party may serve and file
written objections to the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636
(b)(1)(C). Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations contained
within this report within 14 days after service shall bar an aggrieved party from de novo review by
the district court of the proposed findings and recommendations and from appellate review of factual
findings accepted or adopted by the district court except on grounds of plain error or manifest
injustice. Douglass v. United Servs. Auto. Assoc., 79 F.3d 1415 (5th Cir. 1996)(en banc); Thomas
v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 148 (1985); Rodriguez v. Bowen, 857 F.2d 275, 276-277 (5th Cir. 1988).
To the extent that a party has not been served by the Clerk with this Report and
Recommendation electronically, pursuant to the CM/ECF procedures of this District, the Clerk is
ORDERED to mail such party a copy of this Report and Recommendation by certified mail, return
SIGNED this 19th day of January, 2016.
ANDREW W. AUSTIN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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