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Bailey v. Hobbs

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

February 6, 2017

MATTHEW BAILEY, #290472, Plaintiff,
v.
TRUMAN M. HOBBS, JR., et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Susan Russ Walker Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed by Matthew Bailey (“Bailey”), a state inmate. In this complaint, Bailey challenges the constitutionality of a sentence imposed upon him by the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama on March 28, 2016. Bailey names Truman M. Hobbs, Jr., the sentencing judge, and Sherri Mazur, the Assistant District Attorney assigned to his case, as defendants in this cause of action. Bailey seeks a declaratory judgment, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and monetary damages.

         Upon review of the complaint, the court concludes that this case is due to be summarily dismissed prior to service of process in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii) and (iii).[1]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Judge Truman M. Hobbs, Jr.

         Bailey alleges that Judge Hobbs violated his constitutional rights with respect to the sentence imposed upon him on March 28, 2016. The claims against Judge Hobbs entitle Bailey to no relief in this cause of action.

         1. The Request for Monetary Damages. All of the allegations made by Bailey against Judge Hobbs emanate from actions taken by this defendant in his judicial capacity during state court proceedings over which he had jurisdiction. The law is well settled that a state judge is absolutely immune from civil liability for acts taken pursuant to his judicial authority. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227-229 (1988); Paisey v. Vitale in and for Broward County, 807 F.2d 889 (11th Cir. 1986); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978). In light of the foregoing, Bailey's claims for monetary damages against Judge Hobbs are “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory” and are therefore due to be summarily dismissed in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

         2. Request for Declaratory/Injunctive Relief from State Court Action. To the extent that Bailey seeks declaratory and/or injunctive relief from a final sentencing order issued by Judge Hobbs, this court lacks jurisdiction to render such judgment in an action filed pursuant to 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.' Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005).” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460, 126 S.Ct. 1198, 1199 (2006). Although “Rooker-Feldman is a narrow doctrine, ” it remains applicable to bar Bailey from proceeding before the 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.' 544 U.S. at 284, 125 S.Ct. [at] 1517.” Lance, 546 U.S. at 464, 125 S.Ct. at 1201. 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) (§ 1983 suit arising from alleged erroneous decisions of a state court is merely a prohibited appeal of the state court judgment); see also Rolleston v. Eldridge, 848 F.2d 163 (11th Cir. 1988).

         In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that summary dismissal of any requests seeking declaratory or injunctive relief from the 2016 sentencing order issued by Judge Hobbs in Bailey's state criminal case is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). See Clark v. State of Georgia Pardons and Paroles Board, 915 F.2d 636 (11th Cir. 1990); see also Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

         B. Assistant District Attorney Sherri Mazur

         The law is well settled that “a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for all actions [she] takes while performing [her] function as an advocate for the government.” Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); Jones v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1281 (11th Cir. 1999) (“A prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from allegations stemming from the prosecutor's function as advocate.”); Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 342 (2009) (In a § 1983 action, “the immunity that the law grants prosecutors [for actions intimately associated with initiation, prosecution and punishment in a criminal case] is ‘absolute.'”); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 420 (1976) (“[A] prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from § 1983 suits for damages when [she] acts within the scope of [her] prosecutorial duties.”); Rowe v. Fort Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th Cir. 2002) (“A prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for all actions [she] takes while performing [her] function as an advocate for the government.”). The absolute immunity afforded prosecutors protects against “impair[ing] the performance of a central actor in the judicial process.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 343 (1986). Absolute immunity from § 1983 liability is afforded to all conduct of a prosecutor that is “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process, ” which includes representing the State's interests during the sentencing phase of the process. Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 486 (1991) (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430-431).

         The claims presented by Bailey relate solely to actions undertaken by the Assistant District Attorney while she engaged in activities intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process, conduct for which Ms. Mazur is entitled to absolute immunity. Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273; Burns, 500 U.S. at 493. Thus, Bailey's claims against Assistant District Attorney Mazur are due to be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii). In addition, Bailey is entitled to no declaratory or injunctive relief against defendant Mazur for any alleged adverse action related to the sentence imposed upon him by the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama. See supra at 2-3; see also infra at 5-7.

         C. The Challenge to ...


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