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Ellison v. Circuit Court of Autauga County

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

September 4, 2018

VINCENT ELLISON, Plaintiff,
v.
CIRCUIT COURT OF AUTAUGA COUNTY, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed by Vincent Ellison, an indigent inmate confined in the Autauga Metro Jail since July 5, 2017 awaiting trial on six counts of possession of a forged instrument.[1] In the complaint, Ellison complains that his cases have been continued for trial without justification and argues that the cases should be dismissed because there is insufficient evidence to support the charges lodged against him. Doc. 1 at 2. Ellison names as defendants the Circuit Court of Autauga County, Alabama; Ben Fuller, the judge presiding over his state criminal proceedings; and Debra Hill, the Circuit Clerk. Ellison seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief in form of dismissal of the pending criminal charges and monetary damages. Doc. 1 at 2.

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

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Circuit Court of Autauga County, Alabama

         “The law is well settled that state courts are not persons within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983” and, thus, are not subject to suit or liability in such actions. Harris v. Elmore Cnty. District Attorney's Office, 2013 WL 1084294, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Jan. 13, 2013) (unpublished); Foster v. Walsh, 864 F.2d 416, 418 (6th Cir. 1988) (holding that a court is not a “person” within the meaning of that term as used in § 1983); Coopersmith v. Supreme Ct., St. of Colo., 465 F.2d 993, 994 (10th Cir. 1972) (holding that state courts are not proper defendants in 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions); Zuckerman v. Appellate Division, Second Dept., Supreme Ct. of St. of N.Y., 421 F.2d 625, 626 (2d Cir. 1970) (same); Moity v. La. Bar Ass'n, 414 F.Supp. 180, 182 (E.D. La. 1976), affirmed, 537 F.2d 1141 (5th Cir. 1976) (same).

         B. Judge Ben Fuller and Circuit Clerk Debra Hill

         Ellison alleges that Judge Ben Fuller violated his constitutional rights and acted in violation of the Alabama Rules of Court and the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics when he issued orders continuing the trial in Plaintiff's criminal cases for possession of forged instruments. Doc. 1 at 1-2. Ellison also argues that Hill acted in violation of his constitutional rights when she continued his trial in accordance with Judge Fuller's orders. Doc. 1 at 2. The claims against Judge Fuller and Hill entitle Ellison to no relief in this cause of action.

         1. Request for Monetary Damages

         All of the allegations made by Ellison against Judge Fuller emanate from actions taken by this defendant in his judicial capacity during state-court proceedings over which he had jurisdiction, but a state judge is absolutely immune from civil liability for acts taken pursuant to his judicial authority. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227-29 (1988); Paisey v. Vitale, 807 F.2d 889 (11th Cir. 1986); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978). Consequently, Ellison's claims for monetary damages against Judge Fuller 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).

         In as much as Ellison seeks relief from Hill for the continuance of his case, he is likewise entitled to no relief. When a court clerk acts “under command of court decrees or under explicit instructions of a judge” the absolute immunity of the judge extends to the clerk. Williams v. Wood, 612 F.2d 982, 985 (5th Cir. 1980). Thus, Hill is entitled to absolute immunity from damages for the claims lodged against her.

         For these reasons, the claims for damages against Judge Ben Fuller and Debra Hill are due to be summarily dismissed in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).

         2. Request for Relief for Declaratory and ...


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