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McHenry v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

June 25, 2018


         SECTION P




         Plaintiff Kevin D. McHenry, an inmate at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed the instant Complaint on February 1, 2018, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He names the following Defendants: the State of Louisiana, Colby Ainsworth, Kirk Robertson, Wilson Rambo, John Spires, Stephen Sylvester, Wendell Manning, Mike Tubbs, and Carl Patrick.[1] For the following reasons, it is recommended that Plaintiff's claims be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


         Plaintiff faults Judge Wilson Rambo for “sid[ing] with false allegations” and “tak[ing] [his] right to make bond” on either August 11, 2015, or August 12, 2015. He claims that two district attorneys, Defendants Sylvester and Spires, “on Aug. 11 or 12 of 2015, ” prosecuted him in the absence of any evidence and took his “right to bond . . . .” He also claims that he presented evidence exculpating him from his current charge, but Defendants Sylvester and Spires refuse to dismiss the charge.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ainsworth and Robertson, two police officers, falsely arrested him on August 8, 2015, and, thereafter, withheld exculpatory evidence. Ainsworth also lied in the arrest report and, at the State's behest, lied at Plaintiff's trial. Plaintiff claims that, on June 22, 2017, Judge Wendell Manning disregarded “any and all evidence in [his] favor” and found him guilty “using pure imaginary evidence.” Plaintiff's claims against Ainsworth and Robertson apparently relate to his June 22, 2017 conviction.

         Plaintiff claims further that Warden Carl Patrick and Sheriff Mike Tubbs refused to respond to his administrative remedy requests. He also faults Warden Patrick for placing him in disciplinary segregation in 2013 or 2014 without a disciplinary hearing, and he adds that Sheriff Mike Tubbs approved the placement.

         Plaintiff claims that he is innocent of both his June 22, 2017 conviction and a pending charge of second degree battery. He maintains that, for the last nine months, he suffered stress and depression. He seeks release from incarceration and the “maximum amount” of compensatory damages. He also asks the Court to discharge Defendant Ainsworth from his position.

         Law and Analysis

         1. Preliminary Screening

         Plaintiff is an inmate who has been permitted to proceed in forma pauperis. As an inmate seeking redress from an officer or employee of a governmental entity, his complaint is subject to preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.[2] See Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 579- 80 (5th Cir.1998) (per curiam). Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, his Complaint is also subject to screening under § 1915(e)(2). Both § 1915(e)(2) (B) and § 1915A(b) provide for sua sponte dismissal of the complaint, or any portion thereof, if the Court finds it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. Courts are also afforded the unusual power to pierce the veil of the factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id.

         A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Likewise, a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it appears that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proven consistent with the allegations of the complaint. Of course, in making this determination, the court must assume that all of the plaintiff's factual allegations are true. Bradley v. Puckett, 157 F.3d 1022, 1025 (5th Cir. 1998).

         A civil rights plaintiff must support his claims with specific facts demonstrating a constitutional deprivation and may not simply rely on conclusory allegations. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 662; Schultea v. Wood, 1427');">47 F.3d 1427, 1433 (5th Cir. 1995). Nevertheless, a district court is bound by the allegations in a plaintiff's complaint and is “not free to speculate that the plaintiff ‘might' be able to state a claim if given yet another opportunity to add more facts to the complaint.” Macias v. Raul A. (Unknown) Badge No. 153, 23 F.3d 94, 97 (5th Cir. 1994).

         A hearing need not be conducted for every pro se complaint. Wilson v. Barrientos, 926 F.2d 480, 483 n.4 (5th Cir. 1991). A district court may dismiss a prisoner's civil rights complaint as frivolous based upon the complaint and exhibits alone. Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1120 (5th Cir. 1986).

         2. Heck v. Humphrey

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ainsworth and Robertson falsely arrested him and withheld exculpatory evidence. He also claims that Ainsworth lied in the arrest report. It appears, however, that Plaintiff's claims all relate to his June 22, 2017, conviction.

         Under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), a successful civil rights action that would necessarily imply the invalidity of a plaintiff's conviction or sentence must be dismissed unless the plaintiff first shows that the conviction or sentence has been reversed, expunged, declared invalid, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.

         Here, prevailing on claims of withholding exculpatory evidence and lying in an arrest report would necessarily imply the invalidity of Plaintiff's conviction. In Shaw v. Harris, 116 Fed.Appx. 499, 500 (5th Cir. 2004), the Fifth Circuit held that Heck barred a Plaintiff's claims of evidence tampering, concealment, and perjury because a decision granting the claims “would necessarily imply that her conviction was invalid.” In Lenoir v. Howard, 579 Fed.Appx. 227, 228 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit held that the plaintiff's “claim that he was wrongly convicted based on constitutional violations at trial, namely the use of perjured testimony, necessarily implies that his conviction was invalid.”[3]

         Likewise, prevailing on the false arrest claim would necessarily imply the invalidity of Plaintiff's conviction. “‘[F]alse arrest . . . claims challenge the existence of probable cause and, thus, by their essence are collateral attacks on a criminal judgment's validity.'” Thomas v. Pohlmann, 681 Fed.Appx. 401, 406 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Cormier v. Lafayette City-Par. Consol. Gov't, 493 Fed. App'x. 578, 583 (5th Cir. 2012)). When a plaintiff pleads guilty to a charge for which he was arrested, allowing him to proceed on his false arrest claim “would necessarily implicate the validity of [his] convictions because the same conduct that formed the probable cause for [his] arrest also provided the basis for [his] convictions.” Id. (citing Wells v. Bonner, 45 F.3d 90, 95 (5th Cir. 1995) (“[The ...

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