United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
LEONARD E. DORSEY, Plaintiff,
22nd JUDICIAL BRANCH, et al., Defendants.
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge
U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a
complaint filed by Leonard E. Dorsey, an indigent inmate
currently incarcerated in the Covington County Jail on
criminal charges pending against him for negotiating
worthless instruments (that is, checks), in violation of
state law. See Ala. Code § 13A-9-13.1. In the
instant complaint, Dorsey challenges the constitutionality of
convictions imposed upon him for negotiating worthless
instruments from 2005 until 2014 and the charges currently
pending against him for this offense before the state courts
of Covington Count, Alabama, which comprise the
22nd Judicial Circuit of Alabama. Doc. 1 at 3;
Doc. 1-1 at 1-2. Dorsey names the 22ndJudicial
Branch/Circuit; Walter Merrell, the District Attorney for
Covington County; Lex Short, a judge for the Circuit Court of
Covington County; and Julie Moody, a judge for the District
Court of Covington County, as defendants in this case. Dorsey
seeks monetary damages from the defendants for the alleged
violations of his constitutional rights and declaratory
relief from both the pending criminal charges for negotiating
worthless instruments and his prior convictions for such
offenses. Doc. 1 at 4.
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)(i), (ii) and (iii).
22nd Judicial Branch
names the 22nd Judicial Branch/Circuit as a
defendant in this case. The state courts of Covington County,
Alabama encompass this judicial circuit. However, state
courts are not persons within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for purposes of suit or liability. Moity v.
Louisiana State Bar Association, 414 F.Supp. 180, 182
(E.D. La 1976), aff'd, 537 F.2d 1141 (5th Cir.
1976). Summary dismissal of the complaint against the
22ndJudicial Branch/Circuit is therefore
appropriate under 28 U.S.C. U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).
Claims Related to Criminal Proceedings
alleges that District Attorney Walter Merrell and Judges Lex
Short and Julie Moody violated his constitutional rights
during criminal proceedings related to his prior convictions
for negotiating worthless instruments and the current
criminal proceedings undertaken with respect to the charges
now pending against him for this criminal offense.
presents the untenable legal theory that the State cannot
prosecute him for negotiating worthless checks because,
ultimately, these charges relate to debts owed those he
provided the worthless instruments, which he contends are
purely civil matters. Doc. 1-1 at 1-2.
Judges Short and Moody.
immunity is an immunity from suit, not just from ultimate
assessment of damages.” Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9, 11 (1991) (internal 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. Fla., Fed.Appx. 841,
843 (11th Cir. 2012). “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); Mireles, 502
U.S. at 11 (holding that “[j]udicial 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 12
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “This
immunity applies to proceedings under 42 U.S.C. §
1983.” Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1172
(5th Cir. 1981).
the allegations made by Dorsey against Judges Short and Moody
clearly emanate from actions taken by these defendants in
their judicial capacity during state court proceedings over
which they had jurisdiction. Judges Short and Moody are
therefore absolutely immune from civil liability for acts
taken pursuant to their judicial authority. 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 a
sentencing hearing after completion of such hearing], he was
entitled to absolute judicial immunity.”);
Stump, 435 U.S. at 356 (holding that where judge was
not acting in the “clear absence of all
jurisdiction” he is entitled to immunity even if
Plaintiff alleges the action taken was erroneous, malicious
or without authority). Consequently, Dorsey's claims
against these judges are “based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory” and fail to state any claim on
which relief may be granted, and, as such, are subject to
summary dismissal pursuant to provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and (iii).