United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
PEDRO G. BENNETT, Plaintiff,
THE STATE OF ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY JUDGE
U.S.C. § 1983 action is before the court on a complaint
filed by Pedro G. Bennett, an indigent inmate confined at the
Elmore County Jail on pending state criminal charges for
first degree robbery, first degree assault and first degree
burglary. Doc. 1 at 1. “[A] 70 year old woman was shot
in these alleged offenses.” Doc. 1 at 1. In this
complaint, Bennett alleges that Randall V. Houston, the
District Attorney for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit of
Alabama, committed “libel of defamation” during a
television interview addressing these criminal charges. Doc.
1 at 1.
thorough review of the complaint, the court concludes that
this case is due to be dismissed prior to service of process
in accordance with the directives of 28 U.S.C. §
The State Alabama
names the State of Alabama as a defendant. The law is
well-settled that the State of Alabama is absolutely immune
from suit. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265 (1986)
(Unless the State of Alabama consents to suit or Congress
rescinds its immunity, a plaintiff cannot proceed against the
State as the action is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment
and “[t]his bar exists whether the relief sought is
legal or equitable.”).
“[T]he Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from
entertaining suits by private parties against States and
their agencies [or employees].” Alabama v.
Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed.2d 1114
(1978). There are two exceptions to this prohibition: where
the state has waived its immunity or where Congress has
abrogated that immunity. Virginia Office for Prot. &
Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 131 S.Ct. 1632,
1637-38, 179 L.Ed.2d 675 (2011). “A State's consent
to suit must be ‘unequivocally expressed' in the
text of [a] relevant statute.” Sossamon v.
Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 131 S.Ct. 1651, 1658, 179 L.Ed.2d
700 (2011) (quoting Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67
(1984)). “Waiver may not be implied.”
Id. Likewise, “Congress' intent to
abrogate the States' immunity from suit must be obvious
from ‘a clear legislative statement.'”
Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 55,
116 S.Ct. 1114, 134 L.Ed.2d 252 (1996) (quoting
Blatchford v. Native Vill. of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775,
786, 111 S.Ct. 2578, 115 L.Ed.2d 686 (1991)).
Selensky v. Alabama, 619 Fed.Appx. 846, 848-49 (11th
Cir. 2015). Thus, the State of Alabama may not be sued unless
the State has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, see
Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465
U.S. 89, 100 (1984), or Congress has abrogated the
State's immunity, see Seminole Tribe v. Florida,
517 U.S. 44, 59 (1996).
Neither waiver nor abrogation applies here. The Alabama
Constitution states that “the State of Alabama shall
never be made a defendant in any court of law or
equity.” Ala. Const. art. I, § 14. The Supreme
Court has recognized that this prohibits Alabama from waiving
its immunity from suit. Pugh, 438 U.S. at 782, 98
S.Ct. 3057 (citing Ala. Const. art. I, § 14.)
Selensky, 619 Fed.Appx. at 849. “Alabama has
not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in § 1983
cases, nor has Congress abated it.” Holmes v.
Hale, 701 Fed.Appx. 751, 753 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing
Carr v. City of Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d 1521, 1525
(11th Cir. 1990)). Consequently, any claims lodged against
the State of Alabama are frivolous as these claims are
“based on an indisputably meritless legal theory[,
]” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327
(1989), and are therefore due to be dismissed with prejudice
pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
The Libel/Defamation Claim
bases his complaint on a claim of libel/defamation. This
claim provides no basis for relief.
In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must demonstrate that the complained of
“conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States.” Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535,
101 S.Ct. 1908, 1913, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981), overruled on
other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327,
330-31 (1986). A person's reputation by itself, however,
is not a “liberty” or “property”
interest that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and
its due process principles. Moncrieffe v. Broward Cnty.
State Attorney's Office, 516 Fed.Appx. 806, 807
(11th Cir. 2013) (unpublished). “[N]o constitutional
doctrine [exists] converting every defamation by a public
official into a deprivation of liberty within the meaning of
the Due Process Clause of the Fifth or Fourteenth
Amendment.” Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 702,
96 S.Ct. 1155, 1161, 47 L.Ed.2d 405 (1976). That is,