United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
January 28, 2015
TEWAN WILSON, Plaintiff,
STATE OF ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WALLACE CAPEL, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Tewan Wilson ("Wilson"), a convicted inmate confined at the Lee County Detention Center, challenges the constitutionality of a conviction imposed upon him by the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama. Specifically, Wilson challenges the jury selection process and lack of issuance of a Miranda  warning at the time he surrendered to police. Complaint - Doc. No. 1 at 3. He names the State of Alabama, the Lee County Detention Center, and the Circuit Court of Lee County as defendants in this cause of action. Wilson seeks dismissal of his conviction and monetary damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Id. at 4.
Upon review of the complaint, the court concludes that dismissal of this case prior to service of process is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii).
A. State of Alabama
The law is well-settled that the State of Alabama is absolutely immune from suit. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265 (1986) (Unless the State consents to suit, the plaintiff cannot proceed against such defendant as the action is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment and "[t]his bar exists whether the relief sought is legal or equitable."). Moreover, "a State is not a person' within the meaning of § 1983." Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65 (1989). Any claims lodged against the State of Alabama are therefore frivolous as such claims are "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). Consequently, the claims presented by Wilson against the State of Alabama are subject to dismissal as frivolous in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
B. Lee County Detention Center
A county detention facility is not a legal entity subject to suit or liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992). In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that the plaintiff's claims against the Lee County Detention Center are due to be dismissed. Id.
C. Circuit Court of Lee County
A state court is not a person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Moity v. La. State Bar Ass'n, 414 F.Supp. 180, 182 (E.D. La. 1976), aff'd, 537 F.2d 1141 (5th Cir. 1976). Summary dismissal of the claims against this defendant is therefore appropriate under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
D. Miranda Claim
Wilson asserts that when he "turned [himself] in to the Opelika Police Department... Officer Mike Rogers accepted [him] but did not read [him his] Miranda rights." Complaint - Doc. No. 1 at 3. This claim provides no basis for relief as "a claim for a Miranda violation is not cognizable under § 1983." Dollar v. Coweta Cnty. Sheriff's Office, 446 F.Appx. 248, 251-52 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Jones v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1270, 1290-91 (11th Cir. 1999)); Wright v. Dodd, 438 F.Appx. 805, 807 (11th Cir. 2011) (same).
E. Challenges to Conviction
The claims presented by Wilson go to the constitutionality of a criminal conviction imposed upon him by the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama. Wilson is currently incarcerated pursuant to the sentence imposed upon him for this conviction. Under well settled law, the claims raised by Wilson regarding the validity of his conviction provide no basis for relief in this cause of action. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646 (1997); Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973).
In Heck, the Supreme Court held that a claim for damages challenging the legality of a prisoner's conviction or confinement is not cognizable in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action "unless and until the conviction or sentence is reversed, expunged, invalidated, or impugned by the grant of a writ of habeas corpus" and complaints containing such claims must therefore be dismissed. Heck, 512 U.S. at 483-89. The relevant inquiry is "whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence." Id. at 487; Balisok, 520 U.S. at 646-48. "It is irrelevant that [the plaintiff] disclaims any intention of challenging his conviction; if he makes allegations that are inconsistent with the conviction's having been valid, Heck kicks in and bars his civil suit." Okoro v. Callaghan, 324 F.3d 488, 490 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Balisok, 520 U.S. at 646-48).
The law is well settled that "habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a... prisoner who challenges" the basis for his incarceration. Heck, 512 U.S. at 481; Balisok, 520 U.S. at 645 (The "sole remedy in federal court" for a prisoner challenging the constitutionality of his confinement is a petition for writ of habeas corpus.); Okoro, 324 F.3d at 490 ( Heck directs that a state inmate "making a collateral attack on his conviction... may not do that in a civil suit, other than a suit under the habeas corpus statute."). The rule of Heck is not limited to a request for damages but is equally applicable to an inmate's request for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief. An inmate "cannot seek to accomplish by a section 1983 declaratory judgment what he must accomplish solely through a writ of habeas corpus." Jones v. Watkins, 945 F.Supp. 1143, 1151 (N.D. Ill. 1996); Miller v. Ind. Dep't of Corrs., 75 F.3d 330, 331 (7th Cir. 1996) (Under Heck, "[t]he [determinative] issue... is not the relief sought, but the ground of the challenge."). In Balisok, the Supreme Court again emphasized "that a claim either is cognizable under § 1983 and should immediately go forward, or is not cognizable and should be dismissed." Id. at 649.
It is clear that Wilson's conviction which forms the basis for his incarceration has not been reversed, expunged, impugned or invalidated in an appropriate state or federal action. Heck and its progeny therefore bar Wilson's use of any federal civil action, other than an application for habeas corpus relief, to mount a collateral attack on his conviction. 512 U.S. at 489 ("Even a prisoner who has fully exhausted [all] available... remedies has no cause of action under § 1983 unless and until the conviction... is reversed, expunged, invalidated, or impugned by the grant of a writ of habeas corpus."); Abella v. Rubino, 63 F.3d 1063, 1066 n.4 (11th Cir. 1995) (" Heck clarifies that Preiser is a rule of cognizability, not exhaustion."). Consequently, claims seeking relief from the conviction and sentence recently imposed upon Wilson by the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama are prohibited from review and subject to summary dismissal in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Accordingly, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that:
1. The plaintiff's claims against the State of Alabama, the Lee County Detention Center and the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama be dismissed with prejudice in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
2. To the extent the plaintiff presents claims challenging the constitutionality of his conviction by the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama, these claims be dismissed in accordance with the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) as such claims are not cognizable in the instant civil action.
3. This case be dismissed prior to service of process in accordance with the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii).
It is further
ORDERED that the parties are DIRECTED to file any objections to the said Recommendation on or before February 11, 2015. Any objections filed must specifically identify the findings in the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation to which the party is objecting. Frivolous, conclusive, or general objections will not be considered by the District Court. The parties are advised that this Recommendation is not a final order of the court and, therefore, it is not appealable.
Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations in the Magistrate Judge's report shall bar the party from a de novo determination by the District Court of issues covered in the report and shall bar the party from attacking on appeal factual findings in the report accepted or adopted by the District Court except upon grounds of plain error or manifest injustice. Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404 (5th Cir. 1982); see Stein v. Reynolds Securities, Inc., 667 F.2d 33 (11th Cir. 1982); see also Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206 (11th Cir. 1981) ( en banc ) (adopting as binding precedent all of the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981).