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Horton v. Martin

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

October 3, 2018

ZYRELL HORTON, #253522, alias, Darrell Matthews, Plaintiff,
JUDGE RAY D. MARTIN, et al., Defendants.




         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed by Zyrell Horton, an indigent state inmate currently serving a twenty-five year sentence for attempted murder imposed upon him in 2007 by the Circuit Court of Chambers County, Alabama. Horton filed this case on August 25, 2018.[1]

         In the instant complaint, Horton advances claims related to his attempted murder conviction. Doc. 1 at 2-3.[2] Horton names Ray D. Martin, the judge who presided over his state criminal proceedings, Larry Clark, a detective for the Lanett Police Department, Matt Young, an officer of the Lanett Police Department, Susan K. Harmon, his trial attorney, Roland L. Sledge, his appellate counsel, E. Paul Jones, the District Attorney for Chambers County at the time of his trial, and the Lanett Police Department as defendants. Horton seeks monetary damages, vacation of the sentence imposed for his attempted murder conviction, a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. Doc. 1 at 4; Doc. 9 at 1.

         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), (ii) and (iii).[3]


         A. Claims Arising from Arrest - Statute of Limitations

         Horton complains that his arrest for attempted murder on December 25, 2005 violated his constitutional rights as the district attorney provided false statements regarding the severity of the victim's injuries in obtaining an arrest warrant. Doc. 9 at 3. Horton also appears to challenge actions of officers Clark and Young in arresting him. Doc. 9 at 7-8.

         The court takes judicial notice of this case action summary and the case action summaries of Horton's Rule 32 proceedings. See Keith v. DeKalb Cnty, 749 F.3d 1034, 1041 n.18 (11th Cir. 2014).

         Any claims related to Horton's arrest in December of 2005 are 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 arrest about which Horton complains occurred on December 25, 2005. By its express terms, the tolling provision of Ala. Code § 6-2-8(a) affords no relief to Horton from application of the time bar.[4] The statute of limitations applicable to Horton's illegal arrest claim therefore began to run on December 26, 2005.[5] The limitations period ran uninterrupted until its expiration on December 26, 2007. Horton filed the instant complaint on August 25, 2018, many years 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, Horton has no legal basis on which to proceed with respect to those claims challenging his arrest on December 25, 2005. As previously determined, the statutory tolling provision is unavailing. Consequently, the governing two-year period of limitations expired over ten years prior to Horton filing the instant complaint. In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that the claims related to Horton's arrest are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and therefore subject to dismissal as frivolous in accordance with the directives of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). See Clark v. Georgia Pardons and Parole Board, 915 F.2d 636 (11th Cir. 1990); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

         B. Miranda[6]

         Horton asserts that Detective Clark, a member of the Lanett Police Department, did not advise him of his Miranda rights at the time of his arrest. Doc. 1 at 3; Doc. 9 at 4. This claim provides no basis for relief as “a claim for a Miranda violation is not cognizable under § 1983. Jones v. Horton, 174 F.3d 1271, 1290-91 (11th Cir. 1999).” Dollar v. Coweta County Sheriff's Office, 446 Fed.Appx. 248, 251-52 (11th Cir. 2011); Wright v. Dodd, 438 Fed.Appx. 805, 807 (11th Cir. 2011) (same). Consequently, the ...

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