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Eckerd v. Steele Cannon

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

October 10, 2017

ANDREW WILLIAM ECKERD, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER JENNIFER STEELE CANNON, and JUDGE STEPHEN D. KELLEY, Defendants.[1]

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Hays State Prison located in Trion, Georgia, submitted a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons which follow, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) Further, because Plaintiff's Complaint is frivolous and fails to state a claim, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal. Additionally, I RECOMMEND the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

         BACKGROUND

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff complains about his arrest and subsequent detention due to a probation violation warrant and resulting revocation. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4; doc. 1-2.) Though Plaintiff's Complaint is not the picture of clarity, it appears he alleges that Judge Kelley issued an order on June 17, 2015, for him to be detained at the Probation Detention Center (“PDC”) for 60-120 days followed by twelve months of treatment. (Id.) He contends that he was released from the PDC on August 15, 2015. (Id.) On September 6, 2015, Defendant Officer Jennifer Cannon swore a false warrant for Plaintiff's arrest for his failure to complete a condition of probation which Judge Kelley issued. (Id.) The Clinch County Sherriff's Office arrested Plaintiff on that warrant on October 30, 2015. (Id.) He was then detained in the Clinch County Jail and the Glynn County Jail at least until his probation revocation hearing on December 16, 2015. (Id.) Plaintiff requests, among other things, compensatory damages, declaratory relief, and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets, shows an inability to pay the filing fee, and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “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 plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys[.]”) (citation omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Heck v. Humphrey and the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         Plaintiff's Complaint centers on his arrest on a probation violation warrant and subsequent detention. He does not give the Court any information regarding the status of probation violation case and whether it is still pending. While it appears his probation was revoked, he certainly offers no facts that the revocation has been reversed, expunged, invalidated, called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, or otherwise overturned. (Doc. 1.) Consequently, this Court is precluded from reviewing his claims by the decision in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

         In Heck, a state prisoner filed a Section 1983 damages action against the prosecutors and investigator in his criminal case for their actions which resulted in his conviction. The Supreme Court analogized the plaintiff's claim to a common-law cause of action for malicious prosecution, which requires as an element of the claim that the prior criminal proceeding be terminated in favor of the accused. 512 U.S. at 484. The Supreme Court reasoned:

We think the hoary principle that civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments applies to ยง 1983 damages actions that necessarily require the plaintiff to prove the unlawfulness of his conviction or confinement, just as it has ...

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