United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
TECUMSEH M. MAYES, Plaintiff,
MARY BECKER WINDOM (Court of Appeals), and ATTORNEY GENERAL (State of Alabama), Defendants.
Techumseh H. Mayes, filed a pro se complaint on
September 27, 2018, and named as defendants the Attorney
General of the State of Alabama and Mary Becker Windom, who
is a judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal
Appeals.Mayes neither paid the filing fee nor
submitted a motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. His case would be due to dismissed on those
even if plaintiff had moved for and been granted in forma
pauperis status, the court would have engaged in a
review of his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), and found it apparent that plaintiff did
not state a claim upon which relief might be granted.
asserts that Judge Windom and the Attorney General violated
his due process rights by denying his request to proceed
in forma pauperis when he appealed his state court
convictions for misdemeanor charges to the Alabama Court of
Criminal Appeals, even though he had been appointed counsel
due to his indigent status during his state court trial
proceedings. All of those claims are barred by
Few doctrines were more solidly established at common law
than the immunity of judges from liability for damages for
acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction.”
Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 199, 106 S.Ct.
496, 88 L.Ed.2d 507 (1985). The immunity applies even when
the judge's conduct “was in error, was done
maliciously, or was in excess of his authority . . . .”
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57, 98 S.Ct.
1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978).
This absolute immunity is intended “for the benefit of
the public, whose interest it is that the judges should be at
liberty to exercise their functions with independence and
without fear of consequences.” Pierson v. Ray,
386 U.S. 547, 554, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967). A
judge has a duty to decide all cases brought before [her],
including those cases that are controversial and that may
“arouse the most intense feelings in the
litigants.” Id. A judge's “errors
may be corrected on appeal, but [s]he should not have to fear
that unsatisfied litigants may hound [her] with litigation
charging malice or corruption. Imposing such a burden on
judges would contribute not to principled and fearless
decision-making but to intimidation.” Id.;
see also Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 226-27,
108 S.Ct. 538, 98 L.Ed.2d 555 (1988) (“If judges were
personally liable for erroneous decisions, the resulting
avalanche of suits, most of them frivolous but vexatious,
would provide powerful incentives for judges to avoid
rendering decisions likely to provoke such suits. The
resulting timidity would be hard to detect or control, and it
would manifestly detract from independent and impartial
adjudication.” (citation omitted)).
Stevens v. Osuna, 877 F.3d 1293, 1301 (11th Cir.
2017) (alterations supplied). In applying judicial immunity,
the court must determine whether the judge “acted in
[her] judicial capacity and, if so, whether [s]he acted in
the ‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.'”
Id. at 1304 (citing Stump, 435 U.S. at
356-57) (alterations supplied). An action is
“judicial” for purposes of immunity when: (1) it
is an act normally performed by judges; and (2) the
complaining party dealt with the judge in her judicial
capacity. Stevens, 874 F.3d at 1304 (citing
Stump, 435 U.S. at 362).
it is beyond question that Judge Windom was acting in a
judicial capacity during the events about which plaintiff
complains. Deciding a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis is an action normally performed by judges, and
Judge Windom's decision not to grant plaintiff's
motion occurred within the context of an appellate case over
which Judge Windom was presiding. Moreover, Judge Windom
possessed jurisdiction to rule on such a motion. Accordingly,
Judge Windom is entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity.
difficult to discern from plaintiff's complaint what role
the Alabama Attorney General would have played in preventing
plaintiff from attaining indigent status for his state court
appeal. Even if the Attorney General were involved in that
decision, however, he would be entitled to the benefits of
A prosecutor is immune from liability under § 1983 for
his actions “in initiating a prosecution and in
presenting the State's case, ” and for actions that
are “intimately associated with the judicial phase of
the criminal process.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424
U.S. 409, 430-31, 96 S.Ct. 984, 995, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976).
That includes “actions preliminary to the initiation of
a prosecution and actions apart from the courtroom.”
Buckley[ v. Fitzsimmons], 509 U.S. [259, ] 272, 113
S.Ct. [2606, ] 2615[ (1993)].
v. City of Atlanta, Georgia, 857 F.3d 1136, 1142 (11th
Cir. 2017) (alterations supplied). See also Mastroianni
v. Bowers, 173 F.3d 1363, 1366-67 (11th Cir. 1999)
(holding that two employees of the Georgia Attorney
General's office were entitled to prosecutorial
immunity). To the extent that the Alabama Attorney General
was involved in any decision to deny plaintiffs right to
proceed in forma pauperis on appeal from his state
court convictions, that involvement would have been part of
his prosecutorial duties as an advocate for the State.
Accordingly, plaintiffs claims against the Attorney General
are barred by prosecutorial immunity.
accordance with the foregoing, all of plaintiffs claims are
due to be dismissed with prejudice. A separate judgment will
be entered contemporaneously herewith.