United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Eugene Barnes filed this complaint against the Cullman County
District Court,  the Cullman County District Attorney
Wilson Blalock, and Cullman County Detention Center Warden
Adam Whitehead. Doc. 1 at 3. Barnes brings his claims
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his
rights under the Constitution and other applicable laws of
the United States after the defendants detained him for a
lengthy period of time without a probable cause hearing. Doc.
1. For the reasons below, the complaint is due to be
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court granted Barnes leave to proceed without prepayment of
the filing fee, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Section
1915 requires a court to dismiss the complaint if it
determines at any time that the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Accordingly, the court may sua sponte dismiss a
complaint, or any portion thereof, prior to service.
dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to §
1915(e)(2)(B) is governed by the same standards applicable to
dismissals for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Mitchell v.
Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997). 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). However, 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).
April 21, 2016, Barnes was arrested and detained in the
Cullman County Detention Center. Doc. 1 at 3. On April 29,
2016, Barnes “sent a message to legal” requesting
his immediate release due to the failure to afford him a
“72-Hour hearing.” Id. at
The reply informed him that his request would have to be
“handled by [his] lawyer through the court.”
Id. at 2. On May 4, 2016, Barnes received notice the
court had appointed counsel to represent him. However, Barnes
did not meet with his counsel until a month later,
id. at 3, 5, and did not receive “any kind of
hearing until [his] pleading date of September 30, 2016,
” id. at 5.
to Barnes, District Attorney Blalock “is responsible
for the proper and timely prosecution of all cases within his
jurisdiction, as well as promptly dropping charges when
warranted.” Id. at 4. Also, the Cullman County
District Court “is responsible for making sure that all
cases under its jurisdiction are promptly and lawfully
handled, ” and must ensure that court officers and law
enforcement follow “the law and proper
procedure.” Id. Additionally, Warden Whitehead
“is responsible for all procedures followed at the
Cullman County Detention Center.” Id. Barnes
seeks twenty-million dollars in damages for pain and
suffering. Id. at 5.
noted above, the court reads Barnes' complaint as
alleging the deprivation of an initial appearance in state
court following his arrest in Cullman County, Alabama. Unlike
a hearing to determine probable cause, an initial appearance
before a neutral magistrate is mandatory for arrests made
with or without a warrant. See Ala. R. Crim. P.
More importantly, for purposes of § 1983, “the
right to an initial appearance is secured by the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Alexander v.
City of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, 766 F.Supp.2d 1214, 1229
(N.D. Ala. Jan. 26, 2011).
Alexander, a judge sitting in this district analyzed
the seminal Seventh and Eighth Circuit cases which
established a criminal defendant's substantive due
process right to an initial appearance before a judicial
officer. The court explained “the information imparted
to a detainee at such an appearance serves to enforce or give
meaning to important individual rights, ” including
notice to the accused of the charges against him, his right
to counsel, and the privilege against self-incrimination.
Alexander, 766 F.Supp.2d at 1231-32 (citing
Coleman v. Frantz, 754 F.2d 719 (7th Cir. 1985)).
Therefore, “an extensive detention without a first
appearance substantially impinges upon and threatens all of
these rights.” Id. at 1232 (quoting
Armstrong v. Squadrito, 152 F.3d 564, 573 (7th Cir.
failure to meet the 72-hour deadline in Rule 4.3 does not,
without more, constitute a violation of Barnes'
constitutional rights. After all, “[s]ection 1983 does
not create a remedy for every wrong committed under the color
of state law, [. . . ].” Knight v. Jacobson,
300 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2002). Rather, to have a valid
constitutional claim, Barnes must present facts demonstrating
a violation of his substantive due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment, and establish the defendants'
deliberate indifference. “Conduct by a government actor
. . . will rise to the level of a substantive due process
violation only if the act can be characterized as arbitrary
or conscience-shocking in a constitutional sense.”
Davis v. Carter, 555 F.3d 979, 982 (11th Cir. 2009).
Accordingly, a Fourteenth Amendment violation occurs where a
person is detained for a period of time without benefit of an
initial appearance, and the totality of the circumstances
demonstrates deliberate indifference which rises to a level
that shocks the conscience. Armstrong, 152 F.3d at
to the specifics here, the court does not need to undertake
the arbitrary or conscience-shocking analysis because Barnes
pleaded guilty and his conviction remains valid. Under
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487-87 (1994), a
§ 1983 claim for damages which would render a conviction
or sentence invalid is not ripe until the conviction or
sentence is overturned on appeal, expunged by executive
order, invalidated by an appropriate state tribunal, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A
review of Cullman County Circuit Court records reveals the
case which matches the circumstances Barnes described,
see doc. 1 at 3, resulted in his guilty plea on
September 30, 2016. As such, Barnes' claims are premature
until such time as Barnes can demonstrate that his conviction
has been overturned or called into question. See Cole v.
Mooney, 626 F. App'x 220, 221-23 (11th Cir. 2015)
(barring claims of a plaintiff who sued the prosecutor in his
state criminal proceeding and the Circuit Clerk of Mobile
County for failing to provide him an initial appearance
within 72-hours of his arrest because the plaintiff pleaded
guilty to the criminal charges in state court.).
Barnes had pleaded factual allegations demonstrating a
violation of his constitutional rights, his claim for damages
against District Attorney Blalock fail. The Supreme Court
has held that prosecutors have absolute immunity from cases
seeking money damages for their prosecutorial actions.
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976). In other
words, a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for all
actions taken while performing her function as an advocate
for the government. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S.
259 (1993). Significantly, Barnes has not alleged that
Blalock acted outside the normal role of prosecutor. To the
contrary, the allegation that Blalock failed to promptly and
timely prosecute ...