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Bright v. Howell

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

June 5, 2019

ROY BOONE BRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
MIKE HOWELL, et al., Defendants.

         Proceedings Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Before the U.S. Magistrate Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Mike Howell and Kimberly Cadwell.[1] (Doc. 4). It is RECOMMENDED that the motion be GRANTED, and that this action in its entirety be DISMISSED without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Roy Boone Bright is currently under indictment in the Superior Court of Douglas County, Georgia, on charges of burglary and theft by taking. (Doc. 4-4). The record indicates that Plaintiff was convicted of these charges in 2015, (Doc. 1-1, p. 2), but the trial court later vacated its own judgment of conviction based on the failure to conduct a Faretta hearing.[2] (Doc. 4-5, p. 2). See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). The record indicates that Plaintiff's retrial is delayed pending the outcome of an appeal. (Doc. 4-6, p. 2; Doc. 4-7, p. 2).

         Plaintiff commenced this civil action in the Baldwin County Superior Court in July 2018. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiff contends that nearly every individual associated with his arrest and subsequent prosecution committed some type of wrongful act, including falsification of warrants, perjury, destruction of evidence, planting false evidence, and conspiracy to bring false charges. See (Doc. 1-1, pp. 8-11; Doc. 1-6, pp. 4-24). Plaintiff's filings do not satisfy Rule 8's requirement that pleadings contain a “short and plain statement” of any claim for relief, so as to “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal punctuation omitted). Nonetheless, the Defendants have construed Plaintiff's complaint as raising claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution, (Doc. 4-1, pp. 10-11), and Plaintiff has not contested that construction. (Doc. 8). Accordingly, this Recommendation will treat Plaintiff's complaint as raising claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution.

         Although the Defendants removed Plaintiff's suit to this Court, the Defendants now challenge venue. (Doc. 4-1, p. 12). Venue is proper, as the state action was pending within this district prior to removal. See Hollis v. Fla. State Univ., 259 F.3d 1295, 1299-1300 (11th Cir. 2001). The Defendants also challenge service of process. (Doc. 4-1, pp. 11-12). Because the record indicates that Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, see (Doc. 101, pp. 13-16), Plaintiff may be entitled to rely upon the United States Marshals Service to perfect service on his behalf. See, e.g., Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1448 (“Process after removal”). Therefore, it is not clear that service is a proper ground for dismissal.

         Finally, the Defendants argue both that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief and that this Court should abstain from interfering in Plaintiff's ongoing criminal prosecution in the courts of the State of Georgia pursuant to the doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982). (Doc. 4-1, pp. 6-11). As discussed below, these arguments by the Defendants warrant a dismissal of this action, in its entirety.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         The same standard applies to judicial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (“Screening”), which requires the Court to review any complaint by a “prisoner” seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer or employee, and to dismiss the complaint, or any portion of it, that “fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” See, e.g., Hollins v. Samuals, 540 Fed.Appx. 937, 938 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007)). Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, when considering the grounds raised by Defendants Howell and Cadwell in their motion to dismiss, the Court may also consider whether those same grounds warrant the dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against the remaining Defendants, who are not yet properly before the Court.

         ANALYSIS

         For two reasons, it is recommended that the Defendant's motion to dismiss be granted and that this action, in its entirety, be dismissed without prejudice. First, Plaintiff is currently facing prosecution on criminal charges in the courts of the State of Georgia. Pursuant to the longstanding doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982), federal courts generally “should not enjoin a state criminal prosecution begun prior to the institution of the federal suit.” Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 69 (1971). This general rule applies in Plaintiff's case, and the Court must therefore abstain from considering Plaintiff's requests for equitable relief such as “an immediate … Habeas hearing, ”[3] (Doc. 6-1, p. 3), or “a dismissal and immediat[e] release from pending charge(s) in Douglas County.” (Doc. 6-2, p. 3).

         Second, insofar as Plaintiff also seeks monetary damages on his false arrest and malicious prosecution claims, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief. The facts underlying Plaintiff's claims are as follows. A GPS tracker privately attached to appliances stolen from a house under construction in Douglasville, Douglas County, Georgia, led officers to obtain a warrant to search Plaintiff's residence in East Point, Georgia, located in Fulton County. (Doc. 4-2, p. 2; Doc. 8-1, pp. 2-4). That search occurred on August 12, 2014. (Doc. 8-5, p. 6). The search revealed the presence of the stolen appliances, but upon questioning, Plaintiff reported that “someone else brought them there.” (Id.). Plaintiff maintains that the search of his home was conducted based on “retaliatory motives” stemming from a “check point road block” he was involved in three weeks before. (Doc. 8, p. 3). Plaintiff further appears to maintain that officers fabricated the warrant to search his home:

         The results from that roadblock caused several white sheriffs from Douglas County dressed in plain clothes and driving plain cars/trucks to enter East Point, Atlanta without permission[. They] then made forced entry into Plaintiff's home without authority or warrants [and] then seized many personal items … illegally. These items are not stolen or under any investigation nor on the face of any warrant. In fact, the sheriffs saw concerned neighbors recording the burglary on their cell phones and that's when a search warranted was type[d] on their (Douglas ...


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