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Balcom v. Head

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

February 7, 2019

RONALD DEVONE BALCOM, #158439, Plaintiff,
LYNN HEAD, et al., Defendants.




         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed by Ronald Devone Balcom, an indigent state inmate currently incarcerated at the Houston County Jail on a parole revocation. In the instant complaint, Balcom complains that the defendants violated his constitutional rights in deciding to revoke his parole based on new misdemeanor charges and by ordering that he serve an additional six (6) months on the sentence underlying his parole. Doc. 1 at 2.[1] In support of his claim for relief, Balcom maintains that “the two misdemeanor[] offenses are defined as technical violations with the maximum punishment of 45 days in confinement.” Doc. 1 at 2. Balcom names Lynn Head, a member of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Ken Brown and Greg Lee, parole officers in Houston County, Alabama, as defendants in this case. Balcom seeks declaratory relief and monetary damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

         Upon a thorough review of the complaint, the undersigned 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)(ii) and (iii).[2]


         A. Damages Relief

         1. Official Capacity Claims.

         Insofar as Balcom requests monetary damages from the defendants in their official capacities, they are entitled to absolute immunity. Official capacity lawsuits are “in all respects other than name, . . . treated as a suit against the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). As the Eleventh Circuit has held,

the Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from entertaining suits by private parties against States and their agencies [or employees]. There are two exceptions to this prohibition: where the state has waived its immunity or where Congress has abrogated that immunity. A State's consent to suit must be unequivocally expressed in the text of [a] relevant statute. Waiver may not be implied. Likewise, Congress' intent to abrogate the States' immunity from suit must be obvious from a clear legislative statement.

Selensky v. Alabama, 619 Fed.Appx. 846, 848-49 (11th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, a state official may not be sued in his official capacity 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.

Selensky, 619 Fed.Appx. at 849 (citing Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (holding consent is prohibited by the Alabama Constitution). “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)). In light of the foregoing, the defendants are entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for claims seeking monetary damages from them in their official capacities. Selensky, 619 Fed.Appx. at 849; Harbert Int'l, Inc. v. James, 157 F.3d 1271, 1277 (11th Cir. 1998) (holding that state officials sued in their official capacities are protected under the Eleventh Amendment from suit for damages); Edwards v. Wallace Community College, 49 F.3d 1517, 1524 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that damages are unavailable from state official sued in his official capacity).

         2. Individual Capacity Claims.

         To the extent Balcom seeks monetary damages from the defendants in their individual capacities for actions relative to the parole revocation process, he is likewise entitled to no relief. The Eleventh Circuit has long recognized that parole board officials are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity from suits requesting damages based upon decisions to grant, deny or revoke parole. Fuller v. Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole, 851 F.2d 1307 (11th Cir. 1988); Cruz v. Skelton,502 F.2d 1101, 1101-02 (5th Cir. 1974). All of the actions about which Balcom complains arose during proceedings resulting in the revocation of parole. Under these circumstances, the actions of parole officials are inextricably intertwined with their decision-making authority and they are therefore immune from ...

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