Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Saffold v. D.A.-Montgomery Al

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

May 29, 2019

DERRICK EUGENE SAFFOLD, Plaintiff,
v.
D.A.-MONTGOMERY AL, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GRAY M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at the Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama, files this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the District Attorney of Montgomery County, Alabama, and The Honorable J.R. Gaines. He seeks to challenge the constitutionality of state-court criminal proceedings pending against him in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Alabama. Plaintiff requests that his case be “naturalized” and that he be released from custody. Upon review, the court concludes that dismissal of this case prior to service of process is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).[1]

         I. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff alleges that his trial on pending criminal charges has been rescheduled since July 2018. He contends, however, that the State of Alabama does not have enough evidence to bring him to trial, that the “defendant” testified under oath she could not identify Plaintiff from a line-up, and that the available evidence reflects that he is innocent of the charges. Doc. 1.

         A. Claims Against Judge Gaines

         1. Non-Final Orders

         To the extent Plaintiff seeks relief from non-final adverse rulings Judge Gaines has made in his judicial capacity during state-court criminal proceedings over which he has jurisdiction, Plaintiff is not entitled to relief from this court on these claims because there is an adequate remedy at law. Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1242 (11th Cir. 2000) (“In order to receive declaratory or injunctive relief, plaintiff[] must establish that there was a [constitutional] violation, that there is a serious risk of continuing irreparable injury if the relief is not granted, and the absence of an adequate remedy at law.”). Specifically, Plaintiff could appeal orders issued by the state court to the appropriate higher state court. Since state law provides an adequate remedy for Plaintiff to challenge non-final orders, Plaintiff is “not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief in this case.” Id. at 1243.

         2. Final Orders

         To the extent Plaintiff seeks to challenge the constitutionality of orders issued by Judge Gaines that have become final under state law, this court lacks jurisdiction over such an action filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents . . . lower federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by ‘state-court losers' challenging ‘state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.'” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460 (2006) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). Although “Rooker-Feldman is a narrow doctrine, ” it bars Plaintiff from proceeding before this court on any claims challenging final orders issued by the state court because these claims are “‘brought by [a] state-court loser[] complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.'” Lance, 546 U.S. at 464 (citation omitted); D.C. Ct. of App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983) (holding that federal district courts “do not have jurisdiction . . . over challenges to state court decisions in particular cases arising out of judicial proceedings even if those challenges allege that the state court's action was unconstitutional”). Moreover, a § 1983 action is not an appropriate avenue to compel or to appeal a particular course of action by a state court. Datz v. Kilgore, 51 F.3d 252, 254 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that § 1983 suit arising from alleged erroneous decisions of a state court is a prohibited appeal of the state-court judgment); see also Rolleston v. Eldridge, 848 F.2d 163 (11th Cir. 1988).

         In light of the foregoing, the court concludes that dismissal of the request for relief from final actions undertaken by Judge Gaines during proceedings related to Plaintiff's state-court criminal case is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). See Clark v. St. of Ga. Pardons & Paroles Bd., 915 F.2d 636 (11th Cir. 1990); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

         B. Claims Against the District Attorney

         Plaintiff names the District Attorney for Montgomery County, Alabama, as a defendant. He complains the State has insufficient evidence on which to bring him to trial. Doc. 1. However, “a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for all actions he takes while performing his function as an advocate for the government.” Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); Jones v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1281 (11th Cir. 1999) (“A prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from allegations stemming from the prosecutor's function as advocate.”); Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 342 (2009) (holding in a § 1983 action that “the immunity that the law grants prosecutors [for actions intimately associated with initiation, prosecution and punishment in a criminal case] is ‘absolute'”); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 420 (1976) (“[A] prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from § 1983 suits for damages when he acts within the scope of his prosecutorial duties.”); Rowe v. Fort Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271, 1279 (11th Cir. 2002) (“A prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for all actions he takes while performing his function as an advocate for the government.”). The absolute immunity afforded prosecutors protects against “impair[ing] the performance of a central actor in the judicial process.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 343 (1986). Absolute immunity from § 1983 liability is afforded to all conduct of a prosecutor that is “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process, ” and this includes the prosecutor's representation of the State's interests during the sentencing phase of a criminal aciton. Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 486 (1991) (citing Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430-31). Furthermore, this immunity is applicable even where the prosecutor acts “maliciously, unreasonably, without probable cause, or even on the basis of false testimony or evidence.” Henry v. Farmer City St. Bank, 808 F.2d 1228, 1238 (7th Cir. 1986); accord Prince v. Wallace, 568 F.2d 1176, 1178-79 (5th Cir. 1978).

         Plaintiff's challenge to the actions of the District Attorney for Montgomery County in initiating and prosecuting criminal charges against him arises from this defendant's role “as an ‘advocate' for the state” and relates to actions that are “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.” Mastroianni v. Bowers, 60 F.3d 671, 676 (11th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). The defendant prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for this conduct. Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273; Burns, 500 U.S. at 493. Further, Plaintiff is entitled to no declaratory or injunctive relief in this § 1983 complaint for any adverse action taken during the state-court criminal proceedings related to his conviction or sentence. See Feldman, 460 U.S. at 486-87; Newman v. Alabama, 683 F.2d 1312 (11th Cir. 1982).

         C. Challenge to Plaintiff's Pending ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.