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Lee v. ABI-Montgomery Division

United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division

March 24, 2014

DEANDRA M. LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
ABI - MONTGOMERY DIVISION, et al., Defendants.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

WALLACE CAPEL, JUDGE

Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at the Autauga County Metro Jail, in Prattville, Alabama, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on January 31, 2014. As directed by the court, he filed an amendment to the complaint on March 7, 2014. See Doc. Nos. 3, 7. Plaintiff alleges a violation of his constitutional rights with regard to a search and seizure of his jail cell on January 27, 2014, his arrest and detention on a carjacking charge, and the conditions of his confinement. Named as defendants are the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the Autauga County Sheriff’s Department, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, the Honorable Sibley Reynolds, Special Agent Matt Bowman, S.L. Campbell of the Autauga County Sheriff’s Department, Chief Sedinger, and Jim Steel, Narcotics Unit. Plaintiff requests he be totally exonerated of all charges and seeks damages for loss of wages, pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, slander, and defamation of character and reputation. Upon review of the complaint and amendment thereto, the court concludes that dismissal of this case prior to service of process is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).[1]

I. DISCUSSION

A. Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department and Autauga County Sheriff’s Department

The Lowndes County and Autauga County Sheriffs’ Departments are not legal entities subject to suit or liability under § 1983. Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992). The court, therefore, concludes that Plaintiff’s claims for relief against these defendants may be dismissed as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

B. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation [“ABI”] is, likewise, not subject to suit or liability under § 1983. The Eleventh Amendment bars suit directly against a state or its agencies, regardless of the relief sought. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265 (1986); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984). Plaintiff’s claims against the ABI are “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, ” and subject to dismissal as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

C. Judge Sibley Reynolds

i. Damages

Plaintiff alleges that Judge Reynolds issued an illegal warrant authorizing the search of his cell by Defendants Bowman, Campbell, Sedinger, and Steel. The law is settled that 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. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227-29 (1988). This immunity applies even when the judge’s acts are in error, malicious, or were in excess of his or her jurisdiction. Sibley v. Lando, 437 F.3d 1067, 1070 (11th Cir. 2005) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

ii. Non-Final Orders

To the extent Plaintiff seeks relief from adverse decisions or actions of a state court not yet final, he is entitled to no relief on such claims as there is an adequate remedy at law. Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1242 (11th Cir. 2000) (“In order to receive declaratory or injunctive relief, plaintiff[] must establish that there was a [constitutional] violation, that there is a serious risk of continuing irreparable injury if the relief is not granted, and the absence of an adequate remedy at law.”). Specifically, Plaintiff could appeal any non-final order issued or action taken by the state court to the appropriate higher state court. Since state law provides an adequate remedy for Plaintiff to challenge non-final orders, the plaintiff is “not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief in this case.” Id. at 1243. Any claim challenging a non-final order issued or action taken by either the state district or circuit courts of Alabama is subject to summary dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

iii. Final Orders

To the extent Plaintiff seeks declaratory and/or injunctive relief from orders issued by a state court which have become final under state law, this court lacks jurisdiction to render such judgment in an action filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents . . . lower federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by ‘state-court losers’ challenging ‘state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.’” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460 (2006) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). Although “Rooker-Feldman is a narrow doctrine, ” it remains applicable to bar Plaintiff from proceeding before this court as this case, with respect to any claims challenging a final order issued by a state court, is “‘brought by [a] state-court loser[] complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.’” Lance, 546 U.S. at 464 (quoting Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 284); see also D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983) (federal district courts “do not have jurisdiction . . . over challenges to state court decisions in particular cases arising out of judicial proceedings even if those challenges allege that the state court’s action was unconstitutional.”). Moreover, a § 1983 action is inappropriate either to compel or to appeal a particular course of action by a state court. Datz v. Kilgore, 51 F.3d 252, 254 (11th Cir. 1995) (ยง 1983 suit arising from alleged erroneous decisions of a state court is merely a ...


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