United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Keith Lamar Williams filed a pro se complaint
seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1), a motion
to proceed without the prepayment of fees (Doc. 2), and a
motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. 3). This action has
been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for
appropriate action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)
and S.D. Ala. GenLR 72(a)(2)(R). After careful review, it is
recommended that pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), this action be dismissed with prejudice
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
STANDARDS OF REVIEW UNDER 28 U.S.C. §
Williams is seeking to proceed in forma pauperis,
the Court is reviewing his complaint (Doc. 1) under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a claim may
be dismissed as “frivolous where it lacks an arguable
basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim is frivolous
as a matter of law where, inter alia, the defendants
are immune from suit, or when the claim seeks to enforce a
right that clearly does not exist. Id. at 327.
Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) “directs the district court
to dismiss the complaint of any plaintiff proceeding in
forma pauperis if the court determines that the
complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may
be granted[.]” Brown v. Johnson, 387 F.3d
1344, 1347 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)). A complaint may be dismissed for failure
to state a claim when, assuming the truth of the factual
allegations of the plaintiff's complaint, there is a
dispositive legal issue which precludes relief.
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 326. Moreover, a complaint must
contain specific factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim for relief that is plausible on its face and to suggest
the required elements of the claim. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Watts v. Florida
Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1296 (11th Cir. 2007).
Under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii), a claim may be dismissed
when it “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who
is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §
considering a pro se litigant's allegations, a
court gives them a liberal construction, holding them to a
more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney.
Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263
(11th Cir. 1998). However, even in the case of pro
se litigants, the court does not have “license to
. . . rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to
sustain an action.” GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cnty. of
Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998)
(citations omitted), overruled on other grounds by
Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709 (11th Cir. 2010).
Moreover, a court treats a plaintiff's factual
allegations as true, but a court is not required to accept
conclusory assertions or formulaic recitations of a cause of
action's elements. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681.
Further, a pro se litigant “is subject to the
relevant law and rules of court, including the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.” Moon v. Newsome, 863 F.2d
835, 837 (11th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S.
initial matter, the Court recognizes that, although Williams
filed his complaint on an outdated Court form for § 1983
prisoner actions, Williams was not a prisoner at the time he
filed this action. Williams asserts claims against Defendants
Paige Howard, Scott Walden, Stephen Billy and Bradley E.
Byrne arising out of state criminal charges that were filed
against him in 2011 and were then nolle prossed in
September 2012. In his complaint, Williams alleges that on
July 22, 2011, Defendant Paige Howell falsely and maliciously
alleged that Williams sold a controlled substance to an
informant and was in possession of controlled substances and
drug paraphernalia, in order to obtain an arrest warrant for
Williams. (Doc. 1 at 4-5). Williams contends that as a result
of these allegations, he was arrested in July 2011 “on
criminal charges that was not supported by probable
cause.” (Id. at 5). As best the Court can
discern, Williams appears to assert that Defendant Stephen
Billy, the Escambia County, Alabama District Attorney,
presented the false information provided by Howell to the
grand jury in order to obtain an indictment, despite
allegedly knowing the information was false. (See
id. at 5-6). Williams also names as a Defendant Escambia
County Circuit Judge Bradley E. Byrne and alleges that Judge
Byrne “sign[ed] off” on the false information
presented to the grand jury. (Id.).
makes a number of § 1983 claims, with varying degrees of
specificity. He asserts violations of the Fourth, Fifth,
Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution. (Id. at 5). To obtain relief under
§ 1983, Williams must show that he was deprived of a
federal right by a person acting under color of state law.
Patrick v. Floyd Medical Ctr., 201 F.3d 1313, 1315
(11th Cir. 2000). This requires “both an
alleged constitutional deprivation ‘caused by the
exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or
by a rule of conduct imposed by the State or by a person for
whom the State is responsible,' and that
‘the party charged with the deprivation must be a
person who may fairly be said to be a state
actor.'” Id. (quoting Am. Mfrs. Mut.
Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999)) (emphasis
Judge Byrne is Entitled to Absolute Immunity.
immunity is an immunity from suit, not just from ultimate
assessment of damages.” Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9, 11 (1991) (citation omitted). “Judges are
entitled to absolute immunity from suits for acts performed
while they are acting in their judicial capacity unless they
acted in ‘complete absence of all
jurisdiction.'” Allen v. Florida, 458
Fed.Appx. 841, 843 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Mireles, 502 U.S. at 12). “A judge will not be
deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error,
was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority;
rather, he will be subject to liability only when he has
acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.”
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see
Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11 (holding that “judicial
immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or
malice”); Allen, 458 Fed.Appx. at 843 (same).
“[T]he relevant inquiry is the nature and function of
the act, not the act itself.” Mireles, 502
U.S. at 13 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“This immunity applies to proceedings [brought] under
42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Wahl v. McIver, 773
F.2d 1169, 1172 (11th Cir. 1985).
case, Williams makes no allegation that Judge Byrne acted in
the “clear absence of all jurisdiction.” See
Allen, 458 Fed.Appx. at 843. Thus, the Court must
determine whether Judge Bryne's actions were taken in his
judicial capacity, that is, actions of the type normally
performed by judges. See Stump, 435 U.S. at 360-62.
As noted supra, Williams contends that Judge Byrne
“sign[ed] off” on the false information presented
to the grand jury. (Doc. 1 at 6). Williams provides no
details to suggest that the challenged actions were not of
the type normally performed by judges, i.e., conducting
criminal proceedings and presiding over a criminal trial.
Rather, as noted supra, Williams takes issue with
the manner in which Judge Byrne handled his criminal
proceedings. “Disagreement with the action taken by the
judge, however, does not justify depriving that judge of his
immunity.” Stump, 435 U.S. at 363. Because
Williams' allegations against Judge Byrne clearly arise
from actions allegedly taken by him in his judicial capacity
during Williams' criminal court proceedings, over which
Judge Byrne clearly had jurisdiction, Judge Byrne is
absolutely immune from civil liability for acts taken
pursuant to his judicial authority. See Hyland v.
Kolhage, 267 Fed.Appx. 836, 840-41 (11th Cir. 2008)
(holding that because judge's “actions were taken
within his judicial capacity and he did not act in the
absence of all jurisdiction [in altering minutes of
sentencing hearing after completion of such hearing], he was
entitled to judicial immunity”); Stump, 435
U.S. at 356-57 (holding that where judge was not acting in
the “clear absence of all jurisdiction, ” he was
entitled to immunity even if Plaintiff alleged that the
action taken was erroneous, malicious, or without authority).
Consequently, Williams' claims against Judge Byrne are
“based on an indisputably meritless legal theory”
and are, therefore, subject to summary dismissal in
accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (iii). See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at
The Prosecutor is Entitled to Immunity.
claims against Stephen Billy, the Escambia County prosecutor,
should also be dismissed, because Billy's role as a
prosecutor entitles him to immunity. “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.'” Mikko v. City of Atlanta,
Ga., 857 F.3d 1136, 1142 (11th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31 (1976)).
This absolute immunity shields prosecutors from liability for
“actions taken . . . in their role as
advocates[.]” Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356,
363 (2012). “The prosecutorial function includes the
initiation and ...