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Bicknell v. Wetumpka Sheriff's Dept.

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

October 3, 2018

JOHN BARRETT BICKNELL, GDC #928390, Plaintiff,




         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is before the court on a complaint filed by John Barrett Bicknell, an indigent inmate, on August 20, 2018.[1] In the instant complaint, Bicknell alleges that a deputy used excessive force against him on October 15, 2013 during his arrest for various criminal offenses.[2] Bicknell seeks monetary damages and an investigation of his claim. Doc. 1 at 8.

         Upon thorough review of the complaint, the court concludes that this case is due to be summarily dismissed pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).[3]


         Bicknell challenges the constitutionality of force used against him on October 15, 2013. This claim is barred by the statute of limitations applicable to a federal civil action filed 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 complaint relates to a use of force which occurred on October 15, 2013. By its express terms, the tolling provision of Ala. Code § 6-2-8(a) affords no relief to Bicknell from application of the time bar.[4] The statute of limitations applicable to Bicknell's use of force claim therefore began to run on October 16, 2013.[5] The limitations period ran uninterrupted until its expiration on October 16, 2015. Bicknell filed the instant complaint on August 20, 2018. The filing of this civil action occurred well after expiration of the applicable period of limitations.

         Unquestionably, the statute of limitations is usually a matter which is raised as an affirmative defense. The court notes, however, that when a plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis in a civil action 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 (5th Cir. 1990). “[I]f the district court sees that an affirmative defense would defeat the action, a section 1915[(e)(2)(B)(i)] 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 (citing Franklin v. State of Oregon, 563 F.Supp. 1310, 1330, 1332 (D.C. Oregon 1983).

         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 advantage of every tool in our judicial workshop.” Spears [v. McCotter], 766 F.2d [179, 182 (5th Cir. 1985)].

Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1120 (5th Cir. 1986).

         Based on the facts apparent from the face of the present complaint, Bicknell has no legal basis on which to proceed with respect to the claim alleging use of excessive force on October 15, 2013. As previously determined, the statutory tolling provision is unavailing. Consequently, the governing two-year period of limitations expired on October 16, 2015, over two years and ten months prior to Bicknell filing the instant complaint. In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that the excessive force claim which forms the basis for the instant complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations and therefore subject to dismissal as frivolous in accordance with the ...

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