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Thompson v. Johnson

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

April 3, 2018

JACKIE JOHNSON, Glynn County District Attorney; and GEORGE BARNHILL, Glynn County Assistant District Attorney, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, who is currently housed at the Glynn County Detention Center in Brunswick, Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain events occurring in Glynn County, Georgia. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion. For these same reasons, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint based on his failure to state a claim, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts he was arrested on March 3, 2017, for making a terroristic threat and simple battery. (Doc. 1-1, p. 2.) Plaintiff contends he was later indicted on these charges. (Id. at p. 3.) At a later time, Plaintiff asserts Defendant Barnhill objected to Plaintiff being provided a bond. (Id. at p. 5.) Plaintiff asserts his bond was revoked without any participation on his part at the hearing. Plaintiff maintains Defendant Barnhill and the judge had an “ex parte (tête-à-tête)” to determine Plaintiff's mother would not testify at this hearing. (Id. at p. 8.) However, Plaintiff contends Judge Lane reversed his decision and once again granted Plaintiff bond, but the appropriate paperwork has not been sent to the Detention Center, ensuring Plaintiff cannot be released on bond.

         On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff asserts his mother provided a statement that he made terroristic threats against her, even though she was not mentioned as a victim of his alleged actions of March 3, 2017. (Id. at p. 11.) According to Plaintiff, Defendants were embarrassed about Judge Lane granting Plaintiff a bond, which resulted in a second indictment against Plaintiff. (Id. at p. 12.)

         Plaintiff maintains Defendants' actions resulted in the violation of his rights under the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at p. 13.) Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief against Defendants, the entry of a declaratory judgment that Defendants are prosecuting him in bad faith, and compensatory damages. (Id. at pp. 14-15.)


         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, 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 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 Younger Abstention

         Insofar as Plaintiff is asking this Court to intervene in the state case's ongoing proceedings, the Younger abstention doctrine bars Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief. Under the Younger abstention doctrine, a federal court must abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a case where there is an ongoing state action. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). While Younger involved a federal suit for injunctive relief of the ongoing state proceedings, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has also indicated that the Younger abstention doctrine extends to cases involving Section 1983 claims for monetary damages. See Doby v. Strength, 758 F.2d 1405, 1405-06 (11th Cir. 1985) (requiring Younger abstention where plaintiff raised Fourth Amendment Section 1983 damages claims related to ongoing state criminal proceedings); see also Kowalski v. Tesmer, ...

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