United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Alton Surles, an inmate incarcerated at the Lee County
Detention Center in Opelika, Alabama, files this 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action alleging a violation of his constitutional
rights regarding his criminal proceedings before the Circuit
Court for Lee County, Alabama. Surles requests injunctive
relief and names as defendants the Lee County Circuit Courts,
District Attorney Brandon Hughes, Detective Nicholas Helms,
attorney Andrew Stanley, and Assistant District Attorney
Jessica Ventiere. Upon review, the court concludes this case
is due to be summarily dismissed prior to service of process
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Lee County Circuit Court
names the Lee County Circuit Court as a defendant, but courts
are not persons within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Moity v. La. St. Bar Assoc, 414 F.Supp. 180, 182
(E.D. La. 1976), aff'd, 537 F.2d 1141 (5th Cir.
1976). The dismissal of Surles' complaint against the Lee
County Circuit Court is therefore appropriate under 28 U.S.C.
The State Prosecutors
prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for all actions
he takes while performing his 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) (holding that, 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 he acts
within the scope of his prosecutorial duties.");
Rowe v. Fort Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th
Cir. 2002) ("A prosecutor is entitled to absolute
immunity for all actions he takes while performing his
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 a
criminal case. Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 486
(1991) (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430-31).
Further, this immunity is applicable even where the
prosecutor acts "maliciously, unreasonably, without
probable cause, or even on the basis of false testimony or
evidence." Henry v. Farmer City St. Bank, 808
F.2d 1228, 1238 (7th Cir. 1986); accord Prince v.
Wallace, 568 F.2d 1176, 1178-79 (5th Cir. 1978).
challenge to the actions of District Attorney Hughes and
Assistant District Attorney Ventiere in initiating and
prosecuting criminal charges against him arise from these
defendants' roles "as  'advocate[s]' for
the state," and these actions are "intimately
associated with the judicial phase of the criminal
process." Mastroianni v. Bowers, 60 F.3d 671,
676 (11th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). For this reason,
Defendants Hughes and Ventiere are entitled to absolute
immunity from damages for this conduct. Buckley, 509
U.S. at 273; Burns, 500 U.S. at 493. Further, Surles
is entitled to no declaratory or injunctive relief in this
§ 1983 complaint for any adverse action taken during the
state-court proceedings related to his criminal proceedings
before the Circuit Court for Lee County, Alabama. See
Dist of Columbia Ct. of App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462,
486-87 (1983); Newman v. Alabama, 683 F.2d 1312
(11th Cir. 1982). Surles' claims against these defendants
are due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §
Defendant Andrew Stanley, Esq.
brings suit against his attorney, Andrew Stanley, challenging
counsel's performance regarding matters arising from
Surles' criminal proceedings before the Circuit Court for
Lee County. However, an essential element of a 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action is that a person acting under color of
state law committed the constitutional violation about which
the plaintiff complains. Am. Manuf. Mut. Ins. Co. v.
Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40 (1999); Parratt v.
Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981); Willis v. Univ. Health
Servs., Inc., 993 F.2d 837, 840 (11th Cir. 1993). Lo
state a viable claim for relief under § 1983, a
plaintiff must assert "both an alleged constitutional
deprivation . . . and that 'the party charged with the
deprivation [is] a person who may fairly be said to be a
state actor.'" Am. Manuf., 526 U.S. at 50.
An attorney who represents a defendant in criminal
proceedings does not act under color of state law. Polk
Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981); Mills v. Crim.
Dist. Ct. No. 3, 837 F.2d 677, 679 (5th Cir. 1988)
("[P]rivate attorneys, even court-appointed attorneys,
are not official state actors and ... are not subject to suit
under section 1983."). The complaint against Stanley is
due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § l9l5(e)(2)(B)(i).
Neitzke, 490 U.S. 319, 327(1989).
The Pending Charges
extent Surles seeks the dismissal of criminal charges pending
against him, this court must refrain from issuing that
relief. In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971),
the Supreme Court held that federal courts should abstain
from entertaining civil actions by individuals seeking to
enjoin criminal prosecutions against them in state court.
Id. at 44-45. "Attentive to the principles of
equity, comity, and federalism, the Supreme Court has
recognized that federal courts should abstain from exercising
jurisdiction in suits aimed at restraining pending state
criminal prosecutions." Jackson v. Georgia, 273
Fed.Appx. 812, 813 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Younger,
401 U.S. at 37). Younger, therefore, directs federal
courts to abstain from granting injunctive or declaratory
relief that would interfere with ongoing state criminal
proceedings except under limited circumstances.
Younger, 401 U.S. at 43-45. The Younger
abstention doctrine is premised upon a fundamental
"public policy against federal interference with state
criminal prosecutions." Id. at 43.
order to decide whether the federal proceeding would
interfere with the state proceeding, [the court] look[s] to
the relief requested and the effect it would have on the
state proceedings. The relief sought need not directly
interfere with an ongoing proceeding or terminate an ongoing
proceeding in order for Younger abstention to be
required." 31 Foster Children v. Bush, 329 F.3d
1255, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). Abstention
is required under Younger when a state judicial
proceeding is pending, the proceedings implicate important
state interests, and the state proceedings provide an
adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges.
Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden St. Bar
Assoc, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982); 31 Foster
Children, 329 F.3d at 1274.
the elements for Younger abstention is present here.
First, Surles is awaiting trial on criminal charges before
the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama. Second, enforcement
of the law is an important state interest. Finally, Surles
may raise his claims in the pending state-court proceedings
by filing appropriate motions with the trial court and, if
unsuccessful on these motions, by petitioning the Alabama
Court of Criminal Appeals for review of any adverse decision.
In addition, if Surles is convicted of the offenses lodged
against him, he may present his claims on direct appeal
before the state appellate courts or in a state
post-conviction petition pursuant to Rule 32 of the Alabama
Rules of Criminal Procedure. Although exceptions to
Younger abstention are permitted where (1)
irreparable injury because of the prosecution is both
"great and immediate"; (2) the state law flagrantly
and patently violates the Constitution of the United States;
(3) there is a showing of bad faith or harassment; or (4)
other unusual circumstances exist that require issuance of
the requested relief, Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S.
225, 230 (1972), Surles presents no credible basis for
invoking these exceptions. The mere fact that Surles must
defend himself in state criminal proceedings does not
demonstrate irreparable harm. Younger, 401 U.S. at
46 ("[T]he cost, anxiety, and inconvenience of having to
defend against. . . criminal prosecution, [is not] considered
'irreparable' in the special legal sense of that
term."). Surles' conclusory allegations of
insufficient evidence to arrest ...