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McAdams v. King

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

October 25, 2017

JOSEPH BERNARD McADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
JULIAN M. KING, Talladega County Senior Judge, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          L. Scott Coogler United States District Judge.

         The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on July 27, 2017, recommending that this action be dismissed without prejudice for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). (Doc. 12). The plaintiff was notified of his right to file objections within fourteen (14) days of the report and recommendation (id.), and on August 14, 2017, the court received the plaintiff s objections.[1] (Doc. 13).

         In his objections, the plaintiff concedes that defendants Judge Jeb Fannin and Clerk Clarence Haynes are due to be dismissed. (Doc. 13 at 4). While the plaintiff does not make the same concession as to defendants Circuit Clerk Brian York, Assistant District Attorney David Argo, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Alabama Attorney General, the Governor of Alabama, and the Chief Justice of Alabama, he fails to object to the magistrate judge's determination that the amended complaint (doc. 10) failed to allege any facts specifically associating these defendants with any constitutional violation. (See Doc. 12 at 8-9, 20, 21).

         I. Objections Based on the Validity of the Arrest Warrant

         The plaintiffs objections focus on whether the complaint and arrest warrant issued by Patricia Davenport on November 6, 2015, was based on probable cause and whether she had authority to issue it.[2] The plaintiffs first series of objections concern whether a Circuit Clerk has the authority to determine probable cause for arrest. (Doc. 13 at 1-2, 21-22, 24). The law is well established that state court clerk office employees can and do regularly issue warrants. Under Alabama law, state court circuit clerks have the authority to "sign and issue all summons, subpoenas, writs, executions, and other processes, under the authority of the court." § 12-17-94(a)(1), Code of Alabama 1975, as amended. Moreover, district court clerks may be designated as magistrates and are provided the authority to issue arrest warrants. See Ala. Code § 12-17-251 (b) and (c). The plaintiffs assertion that defendant Davenport lacked the authority to issue an arrest warrant is without merit.

         Although the plaintiff cites Shadwickv. City of Tampa, 407 U.S. 345 (1972), in support of his belief that defendant Davenport could not issue a warrant, that case states that "it has never been held that only a lawyer or judge could grant a warrant, regardless of the court system .... The Court frequently has employed the term 'magistrate' to denote those who may issue warrants .... Historically, a magistrate has been defined broadly as 'a public civil officer, possessing such power ... as the government appointing him may ordain." Id., at 348-349 (citations omitted). Shadwick undermines the plaintiffs assertion that only a judge can determine probable cause for purposes of the issuance of a warrant.[3] The plaintiffs objections on the basis that defendant Davenport lacked authority to issue and arrest warrant is OVERRULED.

         The plaintiff next argues that the arrest warrant issued for him on November 6, 2015, was not based on probable cause and was therefore invalid. (Doc. 13 at 3). However, the plaintiffs basis for this conclusion is his mistaken belief that he is entitled to have a judge determine whether probable cause for his arrest exists prior to the issuance of a warrant. (Id. at 3, 5, 7). The state court records reflect that Patty Davenport, as Magistrate, signed a Complaint based on the statement of Officer Michael Smith.[4] State of Alabama v. McAdams, DC-2017-100719.00 (Talladega County, Ala.). Officer Smith stated under oath that he had probable cause for believing that the plaintiff, "[d]id, in the course of committing a theft of, to-wit: Ladies Purse (sic), the property of Carolyn Ann McGrady, by use of force or threaten the imminent use of force against the person of Carolyn Ann McGrady, or another person present, with the intent to overcome his/her physical resistance ... in violation of § 13A-8-43 of the Alabama Criminal Code ...." Id. Such a statement is sufficient to establish probable cause for a warrant to issue. See e.g., Sada v. City of Altamonte Springs, 434 Fed.Appx. 845, 849 (11th Cir. 2001) (holding that various witnesses' statements were sufficient to establish probable cause). The constitution requires no more than this for Fourth Amendment purposes. Under Alabama law too, this is sufficient. See e.g., Hunt v. State, 659 So.2d 933, 947-48 (Ala.Crim.App.1994) (finding substantially similar complaint adequate to establish probable cause).

         The plaintiffs general assertions that probable cause was not established, with no specific factual support (see e.g., doc. 13 at 7), do not require a finding otherwise. See e.g., Dalrymple v. Reno, 334 F.3d 991, 996 (11th Cir. 2003) (something more than mere conclusory notice pleading is required in civil rights complaints, especially where the defense of qualified immunity is involved). The plaintiffs objections in this regard are OVERRULED. To the extent the plaintiff is actually challenging the sufficiency of the evidence against him, such claims are within the realm of habeas proceedings and outside the province of § 1983 action. See McDowell Bey v. Vega, 588 Fed.Appx. 923, 926 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005)).

         To the extent that the plaintiff is arguing that a "form complaint-unaccompanied by a separate affidavit" (doc. 13 at 8) is invalid, no legal support for such a claim exists. However, even if the warrant was invalid, "it does not follow that the arrest was invalid." Rennow v. State, 255 So.2d 602, 603 (Ala.Crim.App.1971). An arrest not in compliance with Alabama statutes is not a per se violation of the federal Constitution. See Knight v. Jacobson, 300 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2002) ("there is no federal right not to be arrested in violation of state law") (citations omitted); Wilcox v. Ford, 813 F.2d 1140, 1145 n.7 (11th Cir. 1987) (a federal court is not concerned with violations of state law unless the violation raises federal constitutional problems).

         The content of the complaint and warrant for the plaintiffs arrest were within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment.[5] The facts set forth in the complaint were sworn to by defendant Smith, which provided a reasonable basis for the warrant to issue.[6] See Harris v. Falls, 920 F.Supp.2d 1247, 1260 (N.D. Ala. 2013). The plaintiffs general assertions that probable cause was not established, with no specific factual support, do not require a finding otherwise. The plaintiffs objections based on the lack of a separate affidavit are OVERRULED.

         II. Objections Concerning Defendants Smith, Kimbrough, and Moore

         Woven through the plaintiffs arguments concerning the actions of Davenport is the plaintiffs allegation that defendant Mike Smith, an Investigator with the Sylacauga Police Department, should have known better than to rely on the arrest warrant issued by "a Circuit Court Clerk." (Doc. 13 at 16). However, as previously stated, Alabama law clearly allows for duly appointed magistrates to issue arrest warrants. Given that the warrant was properly issued, defendant Smith was entitled to rely on it. The plaintiffs objections on this basis are OVERRULED.

         Muddying the plaintiffs objections are his arguments mixing his arrest on October 2, 2015, with the arrest warrant issued on November 6, 2015, for robbery. (See e.g., Doc. 13 at 5-6). Defendant Officers Kimbrough and Moore arrested the plaintiff on October 2, 2015, for Attempting to Elude a Police Officer, causing the probation violation arrest warrant to issue.[7] Nothing in the state court records suggests either of these Sylacauga police officers had any involvement with the execution of the warrant on November 6, 2015. Moreover, at the time of the November 6, 2015, warrant, the plaintiff was already in the Talladega County Jail, awaiting a hearing on probation revocation. Although the plaintiff also asserts the October 2, 2015, arrest was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights (doc. 13 at 4), he states no factual basis in his complaint or objections for this assertion. Thus, all of the plaintiffs allegations against Officers Kimbrough and Moore concerning reliance on the November 6, 2015, arrest warrant are misplaced and his objections on this basis are OVERRULED.

         III. Objections Based on Immunity of Probation Officers

         The plaintiff next argues that defendant Probation Officer Tim Hall, and defendant Stacy Vogel as his supervisor, were responsible for an "objectively unreasonable arrest of the plaintiff, without a reasonable judicial determination of probable cause." (Doc. 13 at 4, 23). According to the plaintiff, these defendants acted in bad faith, exceeded their authority, and violated his Fourth Amendment rights by failing to establish probable cause because the arrest warrant issued by defendant Davenport was invalid.[8] (Id., at 5- 6). Even if this argument had some factual basis, probation officers are entitled to complete immunity for actions they take in their role as probation officers. Hughes v. Chesser, 731 F.2d 1489, 1490 (11th Cir. 1984). See also Holmes v. Crobsy, 418 F.3d 1256, 1258 (11th Cir. 2005) (probation officers are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity). This immunity extends to the function of issuing violator arrest warrants. Dorman v. Simpson, 893 F.Supp. 1073, 1081 (N.D.Ga. 1995). The plaintiffs objections to the magistrate's report and recommendation concerning Tim Hall and Stacy Vogel are therefore OVERRULED.

         Additionally, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not allow a plaintiff to hold supervisory officials liable for the actions of their subordinates under either a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Belcher v. City of Foley, 30 F.3d 1390, 1396 (11th Cir. 1994). See also Cottone v. Jenne,326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir. 2003) (a supervisory official is liable only if he "personally participate[d] in the alleged unconstitutional conduct or [if] there is a causal connection between [his] actions ... and the alleged constitutional deprivation."). Because the ...


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