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Mann v. Ivey

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

January 22, 2018

DAVID MANN, #223653, Plaintiff,
KAY IVEY, et al., Defendants.


          Susan Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION[1]

This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed by David Mann on November 15, 2017.[2] Mann is an indigent Alabama inmate currently incarcerated at the Elmore Correctional Facility.

         In the instant complaint, Mann complains that in May of 2007, state correctional officials transferred him to a private prison in Louisiana in violation of his constitutional rights and state law. Doc. 1 at 5. Mann seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 6.

         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).[3]


         A. Constitutionality of Transfer and Confinement in a Louisiana Prison

         Mann alleges that his transfer in May of 2007 to a private prison in Louisiana violated his constitutional rights. It is clear from the complaint that Mann's claims challenging the constitutionality of actions taken by Alabama correctional officials in May of 2007 are barred by the statute of limitations applicable to a federal civil action filed in this court by an inmate under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

All constitutional claims brought under § 1983 are tort actions, subject to the statute of limitations governing personal injury actions in the state where the § 1983 action has been brought. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-76, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1946-47, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985). [The plaintiff's] claim was brought in Alabama where the governing limitations period is two years. Ala. Code § 6-2-38; Jones v. Preuit & Mauldin, 876 F.2d 1480, 1483 (11th Cir. 1989) (en banc). Therefore, in order to have his claim heard, [the plaintiff is] required to bring it within two years from the date the limitations period began to run.

McNair v. Allen, 515 F.3d 1168, 1173 (11th Cir. 2008).

         The actions about which Mann complains occurred in May of 2007. By its express terms, the tolling provision of Ala. Code § 6-2-8(a) affords no relief to Mann from application of the time bar.[4] Thus, the statute of limitations relevant to the claims presented in the complaint began to run in May of 2007 and ran uninterrupted until its expiration sometime in May of 2009. Mann filed the instant complaint on November 15, 2017. The filing of this civil action therefore occurred over eight years after expiration of the applicable period of limitations.[5]

         Unquestionably, the statute of limitations is generally a matter which may be raised as an affirmative defense. The court notes, however, that in a § 1983 action filed by a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis, it may sua sponte consider affirmative defenses that are apparent from the face of the complaint. Clark v. Georgia Pardons and Parole Board, 915 F.2d 636, 640 n.2 (11th Cir. 1990); see also Ali v. Higgs, 892 F.2d 438, 440 (5th Cir. 1990) (“[I]n an action proceeding under section 1915(d) [- the in forma pauperis statute now codified as § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) -], [a court] may consider, sua sponte, affirmative defenses that are apparent from the record even where they have not been addressed or raised in the district court. In so doing, [the court is] following consistently the special treatment given to section 1915[] suits.”). Consequently, with respect to a complaint filed in forma pauperis, “if the district court sees that an affirmative defense would defeat the action, a section 1915[(e)(2)(B)] dismissal is allowed.” Clark, 915 F.2d at 640. “The expiration of the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense the existence of which warrants dismissal as frivolous.” Id. at n.2 (internal citation omitted).

         In analyzing § 1983 cases, “the court is authorized to test the proceeding for frivolousness or maliciousness even before service of process or before the filing of the answer.” Ali, 892 F.2d at 440. “It necessarily follows that in the absence of the defendant or defendants, the district court must evaluate the merit of the claim sua sponte.” Id.

An early determination of the merits of an IFP proceeding provides a significant benefit to courts (because it will allow them to use their scarce resources effectively and efficiently), to state officials (because it will free them from the burdens of frivolous and harassing litigation), and to prisoners (because courts will have the time, energy and inclination to give meritorious claims the attention they need and deserve). “We must take ...

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