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Johnson v. Tilley

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

December 20, 2017




         Plaintiff, currently housed at Coffee County Jail in Douglas, Georgia, filed this cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contesting certain conditions of his confinement and the criminal proceedings against him. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) Furthermore, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Doe and Hue, DISMISS without prejudice the remainder of Plaintiff's Complaint, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.[1]


         Plaintiff filed this cause of action on October 25, 2017, along with a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Docs. 1, 2.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts several unrelated claims. Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee, alleges that he was denied due process by Defendants when he was indicted without being served warrants. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-5.) While Plaintiff was being held at Ben Hill County Jail during March 2016, he asserts that he was attacked several times by unnamed officers and inmates, and verbally assaulted by an unnamed Captain and Major. (Id. at p. 5.) Plaintiff also alleges that inmates attacked him and states that these attacks left him with severe neck and back trauma. (Id. at p. 5.) Plaintiff filed no grievance, but Plaintiff explains he “did not file a grievance because [his] matter was not with the jail [but with] the county, so it was not grievable.” (Id. at pp. 7, 8.) As relief, Plaintiff requests monetary damages for the physical and emotional harm he suffered. (Id. at p. 5.)


         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 and 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).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 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 F. App'x 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 . . . .”) (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.”).


         I. Dismissal under Judicial Immunity

         Judicial immunity bars Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Hue. Congress did not abrogate the doctrine of judicial immunity when it enacted Section 1983. Judicial immunity is an absolute immunity, and it applies even when a judge acts maliciously. Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir. 2000) (“Judges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity from damages for those acts taken while they are acting in their judicial capacity unless they acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.”); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978) (holding judicial immunity doctrine applies in Section 1983 actions). Absolute immunity not only protects against liability but also against a case going to trial at all. Harris v. Deveaux, 780 F.2d 911, 914 (11th Cir. 1986) (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)). To determine whether a judge is entitled to absolute immunity from money damages under Section 1983, a two-part test was established in Stump: 1) whether the judge dealt with the plaintiff in a judicial capacity; and 2) whether the judge acted in the “clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Id. (quoting Stump, 435 U.S. at 357). The second prong of this test is “only satisfied if a judge completely lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” Id. at 916.

         Plaintiff ostensibly complains about the actions of Defendant Hue in his capacity as a judicial official in a case that was pending before him in which Plaintiff was a named party. Nevertheless, Plaintiff fails to make any claim whatsoever that Defendant Hue acted in the clear absence of jurisdiction, especially in light of the fact Plaintiff alleges he was actually indicted. Consequently, the Court should DISMISS with prejudice Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims against Defendant Hue based on judicial immunity principles.

         II. Dismissal under ...

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