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Douglas v. State

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 27, 2017



         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have fourteen (14) days after being served with the attached Report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge which have been accepted by the District Court.




         The pro se plaintiff, an inmate confined at Dixon Correctional Institute (“DCI”), Jackson, Louisiana, filed this proceeding pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Louisiana, the 19th Judicial District Court, the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office, the City of Baton Rouge Police, City Constable Leo Lamotte, Judge Michael Erwin, Judge Laura David, former police chief Jeff Leduff, District Attorney Hillar Moore, Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings, attorney Ettie Sue Bernie, and attorney Chris Alexander complaining that his constitutional rights were violated resulting in a wrongful conviction for rape, due in part to ineffective assistance of counsel. He requests that his conviction be reversed, a new trial be conducted, and that he be compensated for business losses, loss of his freedom and familial relationships, and damage to his reputation.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, this Court is authorized to dismiss an action or claim brought by a prisoner who is proceeding in forma pauperis or is asserting a claim against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity if satisfied that the action or claim is frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. An action or claim is properly dismissed as frivolous if the claim lacks an arguable basis either in fact or in law. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992), citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hicks v. Garner, 69 F.3d 22, 24-25 (5th Cir. 1995).

         A claim is factually frivolous if the alleged facts are “clearly baseless, a category encompassing allegations that are ‘fanciful, ' ‘fantastic, ' and ‘delusional.'” Id. at 32-33. A claim has no arguable basis in law if it is based upon an indisputably meritless legal theory, “such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.” Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998). The law accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim which is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the factual allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, supra, 504 U.S. at 32. Pleaded facts which are merely improbable or strange, however, are not frivolous for purposes of § 1915. Id. at 33; Ancar v. Sara Plasma, Inc., 964 F.2d 465, 468 (5th Cir. 1992). A § 1915 dismissal may be made any time, before or after service or process and before or after an answer is filed, if the court determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue; or the action is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1999 (5th Cir. 1986).

         The plaintiff's claim is barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) because the plaintiff seeks monetary relief. In Heck, the Supreme Court ruled that, in order to recover damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Id. at 486-87

         Accordingly, the Court must consider “whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the Complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated.” Id. at 487. When success in a “ § 1983 damages action would implicitly question the validity of conviction or duration of sentence, the litigant must first achieve favorable termination of his available state, or federal habeas, opportunities to challenge the underlying conviction or sentence.” Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 751 (2004).

         Here, a ruling granting monetary relief on plaintiff's claims would necessarily implicate the validity of his conviction. See Shaw v. Harris, 116 Fed.Appx. 499, 499 (5th Cir. 2004) (claims of ineffectiveness of defense counsel necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction); Pearson v. United States, No. 3:01-CV-1239-M, 2001 WL 1076123, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 10, 2001) (recommendation accepted by District Court) (holding that success on “allegations challenging his counsel's conduct ... would undermine the validity of his conviction”).

         The plaintiff must therefore demonstrate that his conviction or sentence has been reversed, invalidated, or expunged prior to bringing an action under § 1983. He has not made this showing.[1] As such, Heck bars the plaintiff's § 1983 claims and they have no basis in law and should be dismissed as frivolous.

         Finally, to the extent that the plaintiff's allegations may be interpreted as seeking to invoke the supplemental jurisdiction of this court over potential state law claims, a district court may decline the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction if a plaintiff's state law claims raise novel or complex issues of state law, if the claims substantially predominate over the claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction, if the district court has dismissed all claims over which it had original jurisdiction, or for other compelling reasons. 28 U.S.C. § 1367. In the instant case, having recommended that the plaintiff's federal claims be dismissed, the Court further recommends that the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction be declined.

         RECO ...

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