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Bailey v. Hendrickson

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

September 24, 2018

JAMES W. BAILEY, #200 587, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLEN HENDRICKSON, et al ., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR., CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, William Bailey, an inmate incarcerated at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint against Dothan Police Officers Shane Ash and Terry Nelson, Hartford Police Officer Allen Hendrickson, Houston County Sheriff's Deputies Scott Langley and Adam Robinson, District Attorney Douglas Valeska, Assistant District Attorney Narieda Bundy, Sheriff Donald Valenza, Daniel Waddington Cox, Heather Lyn Brown, the Hartford Police Department, the Dothan Police Department, the Henry County Sheriff's Department, the Houston County Sheriff's Department, Houston County, Alabama, Geneva County, Alabama, and the City of Dothan, Alabama.[1] Bailey alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments, conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights, and violated state law claims of false imprisonment, physical and mental abuse, negligence, and prosecutorial misconduct. Bailey requests damages and trial by jury. Upon review, the court concludes dismissal prior to service of process is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because Bailey is proceeding in forma pauperis, the court reviews his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).[2] Under § 1915(e) (2), a court is required to dismiss a complaint proceeding in forma pauperis if it determines that an action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. A claim is frivolous when it “has little or no chance of success, ” that is, when it appears “from the face of the complaint that the factual allegations are clearly baseless or that the legal theories are indisputably meritless.”[3] Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993); accord Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (stating that a claim is frivolous “where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact”). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. A claim is frivolous as a matter of law where, among other things, the defendants are immune from suit, id. at 327, the claim seeks to enforce a right that clearly does not exist, id., or there is an affirmative defense that would defeat the claim, such as the statute of limitations, Clark v. Georgia Pardons & Paroles Bd., 915 F.2d 636, 640 n.2 (11th Cir. 1990). Courts are accorded “not only the authority to dismiss [as frivolous] a claim based on indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. A complaint may be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted “only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.” Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); see Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997) (noting that § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)'s language tracks the language of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Bailey's complaint begins with a preliminary statement which appears to be a recitation of jury instructions regarding the elements necessary to find a conspiracy. Doc. 1 at 6-10. Bailey then sets forth a “statement of facts” in which he alleges: (1) Defendants Brown and Hendrickson engaged in a discussion wherein Hendrickson asked Brown if she would work for him to “set [Bailey] up” so Hendrickson could question Bailey about what may have been confided to him by another individual (James Stuckey) regarding a murder; (2) Defendants Nelson, Hendrickson, Langley, and Robinson engaged in an illegal search of Bailey's and Defendant Brown's home in December of 2004; (3) Bailey was removed from the residence prior to a search being conducted while Defendant Brown was allowed to remain; (4) during Bailey's trial, the court found the search warrant invalid but allowed the State to continue under the good faith exception; (5) Bailey has obtained evidence that reflects after he was removed from his residence he was transported to the Houston County Jail where Defendant Donald Valenza choked him during an interrogation; (6) “defendants” withheld evidence that Defendant Hendrickson performed his job poorly, was mentally unstable, and a drug user which made him unsuitable to accuse, charge, or render an opinion regarding any legal matter; (7) District Attorney Valeska and the Sheriff of Houston County violated his constitutional rights by improperly withholding Hendrickson's employment termination letter during inspection of Hendrickson's personnel file; (8) Defendant Bundy engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by removing a transcript between Defendant Brown and Hendrickson from the official file and placing it in a work product folder; and (9) Defendants Donald Valeska, Nelson, Hendrickson, and Cox conspired to obtain privileged attorney-client communications by taking his attorney's phone during a Rule 32 hearing which violated his Sixth Amendment “rights attorney client privilege.” Based on the foregoing, Bailey claims:

1. Defendants Houston County, Douglas Valeska, and Assistant Attorney Narieda Bundy, intentionally withheld documents that clearly show Defendants Hendrickson and Brown conspired to entrap and fraudulently charge Bailey with a fabricated crime.
2. Defendant Bundy violated Bailey's constitutional rights when she instructed Defendant Hendrickson to hide, remove, and/or withhold the transcript between himself and Defendant Brown.
3. Defendant Hendrickson, while employed at the Hartford Police Department, made false and misleading statements that violated attorney-client privilege.
4. Defendants Henry County, Houston County, Dothan Police Department and Hartford Police Department are responsible for the actions of their employees and liable for failing to intervene or stop their violations.

Doc. 1 at 15.

         Bailey's complaint is not a picture of clarity. It sets forth a variety of allegations against seventeen defendants regarding matters which appear to be associated with his state criminal and post-conviction proceedings in the Circuit Courts for Houston and/or Henry Counties, Alabama. Bailey requests damages, “not relief for the charges, ” for what he maintains are “clear violations of [his] constitutional rights.” Doc. 1 at 16.

         Although Bailey identifies no specific charges or offenses regarding the claims presented, the court takes judicial notice of its own records, [4] the online Alabama Trial Court System (www.alacourt.com), and the Alabama Department of Corrections' website (www.doc.state.al.us) which show Bailey was convicted of murder in the Circuit Court for Henry County, Alabama, on November 19, 2008, and sentenced on December 19, 2008, to life imprisonment without parole. See Keith v. DeKalb Cnty., 749 F.3d 1034, 1041 n.18 (11th Cir. 2014) (“We take judicial notice of [the state's] Online Judicial System.”) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 201); see also Bailey v. Patterson, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv7-WHA-TFM (M.D. Ala.) (stayed). Prior to that conviction, a jury before the Circuit Court for Houston County convicted Bailey on May 14, 2008, for trafficking in methamphetamine, first degree unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance, and possession of precursor materials. See Bailey v. Patterson, Civil Action No. 1:11-CV-321-WHA-TFM (M.D. Ala. 2014). For those offenses, the trial court sentenced Bailey on June 17, 2008, as a habitual offender to concurrent sentences of life imprisonment for the trafficking and manufacturing convictions and a consecutive sentence of eighteen years imprisonment for possessing precursor materials. Id.

         As noted, Bailey names numerous defendants to this cause of action including district attorneys, police departments, sheriff's departments, counties, a city, private actors, and police officers. The gist of Bailey's complaint appears to be an attempt to challenge the named defendants' involvement or association with matters related to his state court criminal proceedings and/or his efforts to dispute the validity thereof.

         A. District Attorney Douglas Valeska and Assistant District Attorney Narieda Bundy

         Bailey alleges Defendants Douglas Valeska and Narieda Bundy withheld documents which reflected Defendants Hendrickson and Brown engaged in a conspiracy to entrap and charge Bailey with a fabricated crime. To the extent Bailey challenges these defendants' conduct in initiating and prosecuting criminal charges against him, he is entitled to no relief. “A 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). “The prosecutorial function includes the initiation and pursuit of criminal prosecution, Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 424, 96 S.Ct. 984, 992, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976), and all appearances before the court, including examining witnesses and presenting evidence. See Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 492, 111 S.Ct. 1934, 1942 (1991).” Rowe v. Fort Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Mastroianni v. Bowers, 60 F.3d 671, 676 (11th Cir. 1998). 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 State Bank, 808 F.2d 1228, 1238 (7th Cir. 1986); accord, Prince v. Wallace, 568 F.2d 1176, 1178-79 (5th Cir. 1978).

         To the extent Bailey's complaint against Defendants Douglas Valeska and Bundy concern actions which arise from these defendants' roles “as [] advocate[s]' for the state, ” such actions are “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.” Mastroianni, 60 F.3d at 676 (citations omitted). Defendants Douglas Valeska and Bund are, therefore, “entitled to absolute immunity for that conduct.” Id. Further, the court notes Bailey would not be entitled to 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 Courts for Houston and Henry Counties. See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486-87 (1983); Newman v. Alabama, 683 F.2d 1312 (11th Cir. 1982). In light of the foregoing, Bailey's complaint for damages against Defendants Douglas Valeska and Bundy is subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) & (iii). Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

         B. Sheriff's Departments and Police Departments

         Bailey names as defendants the Dothan Police Department, the Hartford Police Department, the Henry County Sheriff's Department, and the Houston County Sheriff's Department. To allege a viable § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must name as a defendant an entity subject to being sued. Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992). The capacity of a party to be sued is “determined by the law of the state in which the district court is held.” Id. Both federal and state law are well settled that a county sheriff's department is not a legal entity subject to suit or liability. Id.; White v. Birchfield, 582 So.2d 1085, 1087 (Ala. 1991). The Alabama Supreme Court has made it equally clear that other “departments and subordinate entities of municipalities, counties and towns[, ]” such as police departments, “lack[ ] the capacity to sue or be sued.” Ex parte Dixon, 55 So.3d 1171, 1172 n.1 (Ala. 2010). Based on the foregoing, the court concludes that the Dothan Police Department, the Hartford Police Department, the Henry County Sheriff's Department, and the Houston County Sheriff's Department are not legal entities subject to suit. Bailey's complaint against these defendants is due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).

         C. The City of Dothan and Geneva and Houston Counties

         Bailey names the City of Dothan, Geneva County, and Houston County as defendants.[5]Section 1983 imposes liability on a municipality only if it deprives a plaintiff of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law under an official municipal policy. Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Additionally, governmental entities such as cities and counties cannot be held liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on a theory of respondeat superior. Id. at 694; Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989) (“[A] municipality can be found liable under § 1983 only where the municipality itself causes the constitutional violation at issue. Respondeat superior or vicarious liability will not attach under 19§83.”). Here, Bailey does not sue the City of Dothan, Geneva County, or Houston County for any policy, practice, or custom that violated his civil rights nor may these defendants be held liable under § 1983 simply because they employ a tortfeasor. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. Further, other than naming the City of Dothan and Geneva County as defendants, Bailey makes no allegations against these entities. Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir. 2008) (holding that a court properly dismisses defendants where a prisoner, other than naming the defendant in the caption, states no allegations that associate the defendants with the alleged constitutional violation); Potter v. Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974) (per curiam). Bailey's claims against the City of Dothan, Geneva County, and Houston County are due to be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         D. Sheriff Donald Valenza

         Bailey alleges that after he was removed from his residence on December 22, 2004, he was taken to the Houston County Jail and has obtained evidence “that shows the appearance of [his] claim that Donald Valenza did choke [him] during an interrogation in violation of [his] [F]ourth [A]mendment constitutional rights.” Doc. 1 at 13. Bailey's reference to having obtained evidence which shows the appearance of Sheriff Valenza subjecting him to excessive force is ...


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