United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHRISTOPHER L. RAY, JUDGE.
pro se and in forma pauperis, James Willis
Brown, Jr., brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against
the officers, district attorneys, public defenders, and
judges involved in his state criminal
prosecution. Doc. 1. The Court granted plaintiff's
request to pursue his case in forma
pauperis (IFP), doc. 6, and he returned the
necessary forms. Docs. 7 & 8. The Court now screens the
Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires
the immediate dismissal of any pro se complaint that
fails to state at least one actionable claim against a
governmental entity or official.
was arrested on September 5, 2016, after he struck a scooter
with his truck in an intersection. Doc. 1 at 6-7. The police
report included a diagram of the vehicles in the crash, which
forms the evidentiary basis of Sgt Fandrich's various
“lies” on the stand and the State's allegedly
illegal prosecution. Id. at 6-9; see State v.
Brown, Jr., CR162218 (Chatham Cty. Super. Ct.)
(reflecting charges of vehicular homicide in the first and
second degree and felony hit and run). Brown seeks nominal
and punitive damages for a litany of “constitutional
violations, ” that Sgt. Fandrich be “strip[ped]
of her duties as a law officer[ ], ” and for prompt
release from custody. Id. at 14.
construed, Brown's Complaint alleges malicious
prosecution. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 390
(2007) (the tort of malicious prosecution “remedies
detention accompanied . . . by wrongful institution
of legal process.”). The Eleventh Circuit “has
identified malicious prosecution as a violation of the Fourth
Amendment and a viable constitutional tort cognizable under
§ 1983.” Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872,
881 (11th Cir. 2003). But an essential element of a malicious
prosecution claim is the termination of the criminal
prosecution in the plaintiff's favor. Id. at
882. And there is no allegation that the Chatham County
criminal case has been resolved in Brown's favor.
See doc. 1; see also Brown, Jr., CR162218.
Brown has sued a panoply of individuals not subject to §
1983 liability. State judges, for example, are absolutely
immune from civil liability for acts taken pursuant to their
judicial authority, see, e.g., Forrester v. White,
484 U.S. 219, 227-29 (1988), even when the judicial acts are
done maliciously or corruptly. Stump v. Sparkman,
435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978); Harris v. Deveaux, 780
F.2d 911, 914 (11th Cir. 1986). As are district attorneys,
where their alleged malfeasance stemmed entirely from their
“function as advocate.” Jones v. Cannon,
174 F.3d 1271, 1281 (11th Cir. 1999) (“[A]bsolute
immunity extends to a prosecutor's ‘acts undertaken
. . . in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings
or for trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an
advocate for the State. . . .'”); see Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976); Jackson v.
Capraun, 534 Fed.Appx. 854, 859 (11th Cir. 2013)
(prosecutor entitled to absolute immunity for initiating
prosecution even if he did so with malicious intent). Sgt.
Fandrich, too, is entitled to absolute immunity for her
witness testimony in the underlying state court proceeding.
Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 333 (1983) (doctrine
of witness immunity protects witness, including law
enforcement officers testifying in criminal proceedings, from
subsequent civil liability for the testimony they give,
perjured or otherwise), cited in Franklin v. Brunswick
Police Dep't, 2017 WL 4448236 * 4 n. 4 (S.D. Ga.
Oct. 5, 2017). And public defenders cannot be sued at all
under § 1983, because they are not state actors.
Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981).
Simply put, even had Brown named a viable defendant, he
cannot state a claim for damages until his (hypothetical,
future) conviction is overturned. His Complaint should be
a pro se prisoner normally should be given an
opportunity to amend his complaint at least once, see,
e.g., Johnson v. Boyd, 568 Fed.Appx. 719, 724 (11th Cir.
2014); Duff v. Steub, 378 Fed.Appx. 868, 872 (11th
Cir. 2010), “a district court need not allow amendment
if the amended complaint would still be subject to
dismissal.” Jenkins v. Walker, 620 Fed.Appx.
709, 711 (11th Cir. 2015). Plaintiff's malicious
prosecution claim against immune defendants is dead on
arrival, and does not appear amendable.
order of business remains. Stymied by “jail
policy” that access to the law library is not permitted
without a “court order, ” Brown has also sent
this Court a letter seeking permission to utilize Chatham
County Jail's library resources. Doc. 6. Prisoners and
detainees proceeding pro se are representing
themselves, and therefore have a right to meaningful access
to the courts, including some right to legal research
material. See Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828
(1977); Bowens v. Sikes, 2017 WL 486266 at *4 (S.D.
Ga. Jan. 4, 2017); see also Bass v. Singletary, 143
F.3d 1442, 1445 (11th Cir. 1998) (deprivation of that right
may be actionable where “the prison official's
actions which allegedly infringed on an inmate's right of
access to the courts [ ] frustrated or impeded the
inmate's efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous legal
unclear both on what basis Chatham County detainees are being
denied access to the law library, and what relief Brown seeks
through his letter motion. The Court cannot provide him with
an Order to increase his law library privileges beyond what
Chatham County Jail deems adequate, even if his Complaint
were authorized for service, as that type of relief is
outside the scope of his current lawsuit alleging he has been
subjected to excessive force. See doc. 1. His motion
is therefore DENIED.
James Willis Brown's Complaint should be
DISMISSED without prejudice and his request
for library access is DENIED. Meanwhile, it
is time for plaintiff to pay his filing fee. His PLRA
paperwork reflects $50.30 in average monthly deposits over
the six month period prior to the date of his Prison Account
Statement. Doc. 5. He therefore owes an initial partial
filing fee of $10.06. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(b)(1) (requiring an initial fee assessment “when
funds exist, ” under a specific 20 percent formula).
Plaintiff's custodian (or designee) shall remit the
$10.06 to the Clerk of Court and set aside 20 percent of all
future deposits to his account, then forward those funds to
the Clerk each time the set aside amount reaches $10.00,
until the balance of the Court's $350.00 filing fee has
been paid in full.
Report and Recommendation (R&R) is submitted to the
district judge assigned to this action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and this Court's Local Rule 72.3.
Within 14 days of service, any party may file written
objections to this R&R with the Court and serve a copy on
all parties. The document should be captioned
“Objections to Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendations.” Any request for additional time to
file objections should be filed with the Clerk for
consideration by the assigned district judge.
the objections period has ended, the Clerk shall submit this
R&R together with any objections to the assigned district
judge. The district judge will review the magistrate
judge's findings and recommendations pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The parties are advised that
failure to timely file objections will result in the waiver
of rights on appeal. 11th Cir. R. 3-1; see Symonett v.
V.A. Leasing Corp., 648 Fed.Appx. 787, 790 (11th Cir.
2016); Mitchell v. United States, 612 Fed.Appx. 542,
545 (11th Cir. 2015).
ORDERED AND REPORTED AND RECOMMENDED