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Wade v. Falls

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

May 7, 2019

CORDELL WADE, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON FALLS and LESLIE T. WILSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The magistrate judge filed a report on April 9, 2019, recommending that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), the court dismiss this action without prejudice for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 13). Although the magistrate judge advised the plaintiff of his right to file specific written objections within fourteen days, the court has not received any objections.

         Having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the court file, including the report and recommendation, the court MODIFIES the magistrate judge's report, but ACCEPTS the recommendation to dismiss Plaintiff Cordell Wade's complaint without prejudice.

         First, the magistrate judge recommended dismissing Mr. Wade's due process claims as barred by the statute of limitations. (Doc. 13 at 4-5). But the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense and, as a result, a “dismissal on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate only if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that the claim is time-barred.” Boyd v. Warden, Holman Corr. Facility, 856 F.3d 853, 872 (11th Cir. 2017). In this case, the court cannot tell from the face of the complaint when the statute of limitations began running because the complaint does not state when Mr. Wade became aware of the defendants' alleged wrongful acts. See Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1283 (11th Cir. 2003). Without an accrual date, the court cannot tell when the statute of limitations expired. Accordingly, the court will not dismiss Mr. Wade's due process claims as barred by the statute of limitations.

         However, the court agrees with the magistrate judge that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), bars Mr. Wade's due process claims. (See Doc. 13 at 5-6). Accordingly, the court ACCEPTS that recommendation and WILL DISMISS the due process claims as barred by the Heck doctrine.

         Second, the magistrate judge recommended dismissing Mr. Wade's claim under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) on the basis that Brady claims must be raised in a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus, and Mr. Wade's complaint does not establish that he exhausted his state court remedies, which is a prerequisite to habeas relief under § 2254. (Doc. 13 at 7). The court agrees that it must dismiss Mr. Wade's Brady claim, but modifies the report and recommendation to clarify the basis for that dismissal.

         The Supreme Court has held that district courts “may not recharacterize a pro se litigant's motion as a request for relief under [28 U.S.C.] § 2255-unless the court first warns the pro se litigant about the consequences of the recharacterization, thereby giving the litigant an opportunity to contest the recharacterization, or to withdraw or amend the motion.” Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 382 (2003). The Eleventh Circuit has held that this rule also applies to filings recharacterized as § 2254 petitions. Ponton v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 891 F.3d 950, 953 n.3 (11th Cir. 2018). In this case, the magistrate judge did not comply with the Castro requirements for recharacterizing a filing as a § 2254 petition, so the court cannot dismiss Mr. Wade's Brady claim based on the requirements set out in § 2254.

         But the court concludes that it must dismiss Mr. Wade's Brady claim because the Heck doctrine bars him from raising that claim under § 1983. As the Supreme Court has explained:

A Brady claim, when successful postconviction, necessarily yields evidence undermining a conviction: Brady evidence is, by definition, always favorable to the defendant and material to his guilt or punishment. . . . Accordingly, Brady claims have ranked within the traditional core of habeas corpus and outside the province of § 1983.

Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 536 (2011). Because Mr. Wade cannot assert a Brady claim without necessarily undermining his conviction, such a claim is not cognizable under § 1983. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 483. Accordingly, the court WILL DISMISS Mr. Wade's Brady claim.

         The court ACCEPTS the magistrate judge's report and ADOPTS his recommendations in all other respects. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), the court WILL DISMISS this action WITHOUT PREJUDICE for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         The court will enter a separate order consistent with this opinion.

         DONE ...


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