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Daniel v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

March 2, 2015



T. MICHAEL PUTNAM, Magistrate Judge.

On March 13, 2014, Joseph Anthony Daniel, hereinafter referred to as the plaintiff, filed a pro se alleging that rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him under the Constitution or laws of the United States were abridged while he was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainee at Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama. ( Id. at 4).[1] On April 14, 2014, the plaintiff filed a "Motion to Submit[] Additional Evidentia[ry] Material in Support of, (sic) the Statement of Claim, " which the undersigned shall construe as a motion to amend the complaint. (Doc. 5). The court GRANTS the motion to amend the complaint.

The plaintiff names the United States of America as the sole defendant, and seeks monetary damages for the "emotional and psychological" injury he has "suffered through his excessive and lengthy detention." (Doc. 1 at 4; Doc. 5 at 4). He also demands "equitable, including injunctive relief." (Doc. 5 at 4). In accordance with the usual practices of this court and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the complaint was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a preliminary report and recommendation. See McCarthy v. Bronson, 500 U.S. 136 (1991).

I. Standard of Review

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-134, § 804, 110 Stat. 1321, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, requires the court to screen complaints filed by prisoners against officers or employees of governmental entities and to dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint it determines is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. Where practicable, the court may sua sponte dismiss a prisoner's complaint prior to service. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

A dismissal pursuant to § 1915A (b)(1) for failure to state a claim is governed by the same standards as dismissals for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face"" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). A plaintiff must assert "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not" suffice. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Because "[p]ro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys[, ]" they are liberally construed. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006).

II. Factual Allegations

On June 26, 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals entered a final removal order against the plaintiff. (Doc. 1, "Ex. 7" at 42). He has been continually detained for over two years while awaiting deportation to Grenada. (Doc. 1 at 5-7). Due to various improprieties by ICE, he has been denied release pending removal. ( Id. ). The plaintiff contends the reasons for his extended detention are "unconstitutional" on due process grounds and "retaliation... for filing complaints against ICE officers." ( Id. ). In his amended complaint, the plaintiff lists the "Fifth Amendment Due process/Equal Protection Clause, " and the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment as grounds for relief. (Doc. 5 at 3). He also claims false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, which this court will construe as Fourth Amendment violations. ( Id. ). He demands monetary damages and injunctive relief. ( Id. at 5).

III. Analysis

A. United States of America

Because the plaintiff is an alien demanding monetary damages and injunctive relief for constitutional violations in connection with his lengthy post-removal detention by ICE, this case clearly is being brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 402 U.S. 388 (1971). In Bivens, the United States Supreme Court "recognized for the first time an implied private action for damages against federal officers" for violations of certain constitutional rights. Corrections Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 66 (2001). The plaintiff names the United States of America ( e.g., the Federal Government) as the sole defendant. However, neither the United States of America nor ICE, as a federal agency, is subject to liability in a Bivens action. ( Id. at 70) (holding that Bivens does not "imply a damages action against a federal agency"); F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 474 (1994) ("Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit."). As such, a Bivens claim may only be brought against "federal officers." ( Id. ).

The plaintiff has not named any federal officer(s) as defendant(s). Nonetheless, for the reasons that follow, even if he were to identify proper Bivens defendants, presumably ICE officers, he nonetheless fails to state any claims upon which relief may be granted.

B. No available remedy

The sole source of all the plaintiff's constitutional claims is the propriety of his detention following entry of a final order of removal from the country. However, Bivens "is not an available remedy because any award in the plaintiff's favor would necessarily imply' the invalidity of his conviction." Skinner v. Switzer, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 131 S.Ct. 1289, 1292 (2011) (citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994)). Admittedly, the plaintiff is not challenging a conviction. However, the Sixth Circuit has considered the question of whether Heck v. Humphrey precludes an alien detainee's Bivens claim that federal agents "falsified and failed to file immigration forms related to his pending immigration case, thereby causing him to be denied release on bond." Cohen v. Clemens, 321 Fed.Appx. 739, 740 (10th Cir. 2009). In an opinion this court finds persuasive, the Tenth Circuit ...

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