United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Christopher L. Ray, United States Magistrate Judge
pro se and in forma pauperis, Howard
Jordan, Jr., brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against
various state agencies and officials involved in his arrest
and prosecution. Doc. 1. The Court granted his request to
pursue his case in forma pauperis (IFP), doc. 3, and
he returned the necessary forms. Docs. 5 & 6. 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
was arrested on October 6, 2017, after Officer Montano
“said” he failed to pull over for speeding. Doc.
1 at 5. He's been in Chatham County Jail since his
arrest, and complains that in two separate hearings Defendant
Judge Freesemann has “refused to correct this
wrong.” Id. Sheriff Wilcher, too, holds him
against his will in collusion with the Judge. Id. He
seeks immediate release and damages for his “mental
anguish, ” and suggests a lien be placed on
defendants' assets until he has “been compensated
and vindicated.” Id. at 6.
construed, plaintiff's Complaint implicates false arrest
or false imprisonment, constitutional torts which afford a
remedy for detention without legal process. See Wallace
v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389 (2007) (a false arrest claim
based on a warrantless arrest is “a species” of a
false imprisonment claim). “A warrantless arrest
without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment and
forms the basis for a section 1983 claim.” Ortega
v. Christian, 85 F.3d 1521, 1525 (11th Cir. 1996) (cite
omitted). Further, “[a] detention on the basis of a
false arrest presents a viable section 1983 action” for
false imprisonment. Id. at 1526. The elements of
such a claim combine “the elements of common law false
imprisonment, ” which include “(1) an intent to
confine, (2) acts resulting in confinement, and (3)
consciousness of the victim of confinement or resulting harm,
” and an allegation that the imprisonment resulted in a
violation of the plaintiff's due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 1526, 1526 n. 2.
Court has an obligation to liberally construe pro se
pleadings. See, e.g., Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976); Gilbert v. Daniels, 624 Fed.Appx.
716, 717 (11th Cir. 2015) (“We liberally construe the
pleadings of pro se parties. . . .”) (citing
Campbell v. Air Jamaica Ltd., 760 F.3d 1165, 1168
(11th Cir. 2014). It also has an obligation to take a
Complaint's allegations as true, at the screening stage.
See supra n. 2. Abiding by those obligation, if not
stretching them to their breaking point, the Court will
construe Jordan's allegation that “Montano
said that[ ] the reason I was being detained was
because I didn't pull over[ ] when he tried to stop me
from speeding, ” doc. 1 at 5 (emphasis added), to
allege that the asserted reasons for his arrest were false.
Further, the Court will construe his allegation that he was
arrested after a traffic stop to imply that he was not
arrested pursuant to a warrant. Id. Given that
(very) liberal construction, the Court concludes that Jordan
has adequately alleged a false arrest claim against Officer
false imprisonment claim against Sheriff Wilcher, however,
fails no matter how liberally the Court construes
Jordan's allegations. In addition to the substantive
elements, § 1983 claims require an allegation of a
causal connection between a defendant's acts or omissions
and the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Zalter v.
Wainwright, 802 F.2d 397, 401 (11th Cir. 1986). Such
claims cannot be based upon theories of respondeat
superior or vicarious liability. See Polk Cnty. v.
Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981); Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691
(1978); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 671 (11th
Cir. 1990). Jordan's Complaint does not include
any allegation connecting Sheriff Wilcher to his
allegedly tortious arrest and confinement. The closest he
comes is his completely conclusory allegation that Wilcher,
“in collusion with Judge . . . Freesemann[, and] for
their own personal interests” detained him. Doc. 1 at
5. That's not enough to state a claim. See, e.g.,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice” to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted). The false imprisonment claim against Sheriff
Wilcher should therefore be DISMISSED.
case of continuing detention (as here), “false
imprisonment ends once the victim becomes held pursuant to
[legal] process - when, for example, he is bound over by a
magistrate or arraigned on charges.” Wallace,
549 U.S. at 389-90; see State v. Jordan, Jr.,
CR17-7260 (felony arraignment held October 9, 2017, and bound
to superior court on December 27, 2017). Once an
arrestee's unlawful detention becomes a product of legal
process, his continued custody may still be unlawful, but any
damages suffered after that point must be recovered under the
“entirely distinct” tort of malicious
prosecution, “which remedies detention accompanied not
by the absence of legal process, but by wrongful
institution of legal process.” Id. at
390. In other words, the torts of malicious prosecution and
false imprisonment are distinct, and the former supplants the
latter after legal process is initiated.
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 Jordan's favor. See doc. 1; see
State v. Jordan, Jr., CR18-0035 (Chatham Super. Ct.)
(felony evading arrest case “open” as of January
14, 2019, with plea hearing set for March 25, 2019).
Accordingly, he does not state a claim for malicious
prosecution and any such claim against any of the named
defendants should be
Jordan has sued a panoply of individuals and entities not
subject to § 1983 liability under any theory. Judges,
like Judge Freeseman, 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). The State of Georgia and its
agencies, including the Superior Court and Highway Patrol,
are indisputably immune from suit as well. Polite v.
Dougherty County School Sys., 314 Fed.Appx. 180, 184
(11th Cir. 2008) (“Sovereign immunity extends to the
state and all of its departments and agencies and can be
waived only by a legislative act specifically delineating the
waiver.” (citing Ga. Const. Art. I, § 2, ¶
IX(e)).”); Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214
(11th Cir. 1992) (sheriff and police departments not usually
considered legal entities subject to suit); Bennett v.
Georgia Dept. of Public Safety, 2010 WL 11595156 at * 2
(N.D.Ga. Feb. 16, 2010) (“Eleventh Amendment immunity
clearly applies to plaintiff's . . . § 1983 claims
against the Georgia State Patrol”). Accordingly, all
claims against Judge Freeseman, the Georgia State Patrol, the
State of Georgia Superior Court, and the State of Georgia
should be DISMISSED.
disposed of the defective claims, only the false arrest claim
against Officer Montano remains. Jordan states that Montano
is sued in his “private and official capacity.”
Doc. 4 at 2. An official capacity claim is barred, however,
because such suits are “not a suit against the official
but rather . . . against the official's office” and
the “offices” are not “persons”
within the meaning of § 1983. Will v. Michigan Dept.
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Accordingly,
the false arrest claim against Officer Montano, in his
official capacity, should be DISMISSED.
leaves the false arrest claim against Officer Montano in his
“private, ” or individual, capacity. However,
that claim too must be reined in. Jordan's Complaint
states that he seeks “the maximum monetary compensation
for false imprisonment, and mental anguish that these parties
have injected upon my livelihood.” Doc. 1 at 6. The
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), however, provides that
“[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner
. . . for mental or emotional injury suffered while in
custody without a prior showing of physical injury or the
commission of a sexual act.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e).
The Eleventh Circuit has construed that provision to include
“lawsuits that claim injuries suffered during custodial
episodes, ” as defined in the Miranda context.
See Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 532-33 (11th
Cir. 2002); see also Napier v. Preslicka, 331 F.3d
1189, 1195-96 (11th Cir. 2003) (Barkett, J. dissenting from
denial of rehearing en banc) (noting that
panel's interpretation of the statute would preclude
prisoners “from seeking recovery for mental injury
stemming from humiliating, torturous, or otherwise illegal
pre-detention searches and interrogations, as well as from,
inter alia, false imprisonment, . . ., malicious
prosecution, . . ., and many similar claims.”). Since
Jordan alleges no physical injury from his false arrest, and
he is precluded from seeking damages for “mental
anguish” while incarcerated, he has a viable claim for
nominal damages only. See, e.g. Jackson v. Hill, 569
Fed.Appx. 697, 699 (11th Cir. 2014) (concluding that district
court erred in failing to consider whether prisoner, subject
to PLRA, was entitled to nominal damages for constitutional
violation unaccompanied by allegation of physical injury).
summary, Jordan's claims against defendants Penny Haass
Freeseman, John Wilcher, the Georgia State Patrol, the State
of Georgia Superior Court, and the State of Georgia should be
DISMISSED. His claims against Officer Zach
Montano should be DISMISSED in part.
extent that his Complaint alleges that Montano arrested him
without probable cause, and implicitly seeks nominal damages,
it requires a response from Montano. Since the Court has
authorized Jordan to pursue this case IFP, he is entitled to
have the United States Marshal serve his Complaint upon
Defendant Montano. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)
(“The officers of the court shall issue and serve all
process” in cases proceeding IFP); Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(c)(3)
(stating that “[t]he court must . . . order” that
“service be made by a United States marshal or deputy
marshal . . . if the plaintiff is authorized to proceed in
forma pauperis”). Accordingly, the Clerk is
DIRECTED to forward a copy of this Order and
Report and Recommendation, along with plaintiff's
Complaint and Amended Complaint, to the Marshal for service
upon Officer “Zach Montano.” Jordan's Amended
Complaint alleges that Officer Montano is stationed at
“Post 42.” Doc. 4 at 1.
the Court sees no apparent basis upon which the deficient
claims could be amended, Jordan's opportunity to object
to this Report and Recommendation within 14 days affords him
an opportunity to resuscitate them. He may submit a Second
Amended Complaint during that period if he believes it would
cure the legal defects discussed above. See Willis v.
Darden, 2012 WL 170163, at * 2 n.3 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 19,
2012) (citing Smith v. Stanley, 2011 WL 1114503, at
* 1 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 19, 2011)). To state a claim, ...