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Smith v. Schrader

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

July 17, 2014

AUSTIN GARRICK SMITH, Gwinnett Cnty. ID # 97002391, Plaintiff,



JUSTIN S. ANAND, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Gwinnett County Detention Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia, has submitted pro se a civil rights complaint seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1), an Ex Parte Motion For DFACS Records (Doc. 4), a Motion for Custodian to Provide Filing and Service (Doc. 5), and Supplemental Pleadings for 42 USC 1983 Action (Doc. 6).[1] Plaintiff has received leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. 2-3). IT IS RECOMMENDED that his complaint be DISMISSED as frivolous and his motions be DENIED.

I. The Legal Framework

To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 737 (11th Cir. 2010). Title 28 U.S.C. § 1915A requires a federal court to conduct an initial screening of a prisoner complaint seeking redress from a governmental entity, or from an officer or employee of such an entity, to determine whether the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. A complaint is frivolous when it "has little or no chance of success"-for example, when it appears "from the face of the complaint that the factual allegations are clearly baseless[, ] the legal theories are indisputably meritless, " or "the defendant's absolute immunity justifies dismissal before service of process." Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993) (internal quotations omitted). 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) (internal quotations omitted). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " and "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives." Id. at 678-79. To be plausible, the complaint must contain "well-pleaded facts" that "permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct." Id. at 679.

II. The Complaint and Supplemental Pleadings

Plaintiff sues (1) Gwinnett County District Attorney ("DA") Daniel J. Porter; (2) Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney ("ADA") Karen West; (3) Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader; (4) Gwinnett County Recorder's Court Judge Michael Greene; (5) Gwinnett County Police Department Narcotics Officer Keith Karlsen; (6) an unknown Gwinnett County Police Department officer; and (7) Gwinnett County as a municipality (Doc. 6 at 3 (Am. Attachm. A)). Plaintiff recounts a series of Gwinnett County court proceedings and alleges a litany of constitutional violations in connection with those proceedings, as outlined below.

On February 8, 2013, Plaintiff accepted a plea bargain before Judge Shrader on charges of possession of a controlled substance and driving under the influence of alcohol, reduced to the lesser included offense of misdemeanor reckless driving. ( Id. at 4-5 (Am. Attachm. B ¶ 1); see Doc. 1-1 at 3, 21). Although the plea apparently required the suspension of Plaintiff's driver's license by force of law, Plaintiff claims that to induce him to "plead out, " his retained counsel "intentionally misled" him to believe that he would be able to continue to use it. (Doc. 6 Am. Attachm. B ¶ 1). Plaintiff received a sentence of four years, the first four months to be served in home confinement and the remainder on probation. (Doc. 1-1 at 3, 23). Plaintiff acknowledged that he understood "that for the entire period of time that [he is] on probation, [he], [his] house, [his] car, [and his] belongings are subject to a search by a probation officer or a police officer searching for contraband without a warrant." ( Id. at 9, 16).[2]

Plaintiff alleges that on February 20, 2013, without "reasonable cause, " Officer Karlsen "led a 4th amendment waivered search" of his home, "detained [him] for approximately three hours during this illegal search, against [his] will, and subjected [him] to malicious oppression." (Doc. 6 Am. Attachm. B ¶ 2). He alleges that Defendant West has failed to investigate his claim of bad faith ( id. ¶ 2a); Officer Karlsen failed to act on Plaintiff's tip about a "pill mill" that had "most likely" caused the death of his children's stepfather ( id. ¶ 3); and Gwinnett County "does not prosecute pill mill' doctors because it is too hard of a case to make.'" ( id. ¶ 3a).

On April 3, 2013, Plaintiff was arrested for driving on a suspended license by two Gwinnett County police officers who are not named Defendants in this case. ( Id. ¶ 4). Plaintiff states, "This is in violation of the 5th, 8th and 14th amendments as I was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment of a predatory nature on behalf of the State since I was intentionally mislead [sic] about the status of my license." ( Id. ). On April 4, 2013, Officer Karlsen issued an arrest warrant "for manufacturing marijuana based on [Plaintiff's claimed] legitimate indoor growing hobby... and the illegally seized evidence found at [his] residence on February 20, 2013." ( Id. ¶ 5 (citing ( Plaintiff asks the Court to "note [that] the District Attorney is proceeding under a lesser charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute." ( Id. ).

On April 5, 2013, Plaintiff was arrested at his home on the marijuana charge. An unknown Gwinnett County police officer "contacted Department of Family and Children Services, Child Protective Services [and] told them a lie that resulted in [his] children being taken out of school and placed into foster care. The lie was uncovered at a deprivation hearing in front of Judge Robert Rodatus at Gwinnett County Juvenile Court the next week." ( Id. ¶ 6). "Stipulations were also put in place where [his] mother had to stay at [his] house with [his] children [as] opposed to moving them in with her in Cobb County. This was to maintain jurisdiction under Gwinnett County's branch of DFACS." ( Id. ). Plaintiff alleges that "[t]he false report given by Unknown Officer related to a restraining order on behalf of the children against their mother." ( Id. ¶ 6a).

Plaintiff's ongoing detention at the Gwinnett County Detention Center began on April 5 "without reasonable bail being set." ( Id. ¶ 7). He further alleges that he was brutally assaulted on June 13, 2013, but he does not claim direct involvement by any of the six Defendants other than to allege that the assault occurred while he was "unlawfully incarcerated by Officer Karlsen." ( Id. ¶ 8). He also complains about Judge Schrader's denial of bail in his marijuana case on November 15, 2013. ( Id. ¶¶ 11-12).

Plaintiff further complains about the selection and performance of appointed counsel for his marijuana case, alleging a conflict of interest based on counsel's representation of the mother of his children in an ongoing child custody dispute between the mother and Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶¶ 9, 12a). He notes that he filed a post-conviction habeas petition on October 8, 2013, challenging his February 8, 2013 convictions, which caused his inmate account to be frozen, allegedly depriving him of access to the courts ( id. ¶ 10); and he states that he is currently exhausting his remedies on his access to courts claim before adding it to his complaint ( id. ¶ 10a).

Plaintiff alleges that on December 10, 2013, at a bench trial on the charge of driving with a suspended license, Judge Greene did not allow him to challenge the convictions underlying the suspension, thereby violating "the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendments." ( Id. ¶ 13). He states that "[i]t appears Gwinnett County practices selective enforcement of the law for O.C.G.A. § 40-5-75(b) and 40-5-54(b) [concerning the suspension of driver's licenses in Georgia] and collects profit from this practice." ( Id. ¶ 13a). He notes that he has been ...

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