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Bell v. 10th Judicial District Court

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

May 21, 2019

CHRISTOPHER BELL, Plaintiff
v.
10TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, ET AL., Defendants

          DEE D. DRELL JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a civil rights Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by pro se Plaintiff Christopher Bell (“Bell”) (#437232). (Docs. 1, 9). Bell is an inmate in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections, incarcerated at the River Bend Detention Center in Lake Providence, Louisiana. Bell filed his Complaint in the Middle District of Louisiana, which transferred the case to this Court. (Doc. 5). Bell challenges the validity of his conviction in the Tenth Judicial District Court, Natchitoches Parish. Bell seeks a reduction of his sentence to “time served” and a release from custody. (Doc. 1).

         Because a sentence reduction and release from custody cannot be obtained in a civil rights action, Defendants Hawthorn and Kyzer are immune from suit, and the 10th Judicial District Court is not an entity capable of being sued, the Complaint (Docs. 1, 9) should be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Background

         Bell alleges that his sentence for manslaughter imposed in the 10th Judicial District Court is illegal. (Doc. 9, p. 3).

         Bell names as Defendants the 10th Judicial District Court, Judge Dee Ann Hawthorn, and District Attorney Van H. Kyzer. (Doc. 9, p. 5).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Bell's Complaint is subject to screening under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.

         Bell is an inmate who has been allowed to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 12). As a prisoner seeking redress from an officer or employee of a governmental entity, Bell's Complaint is subject to preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 579-80 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, Bell's 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. 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); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

         B. Bell cannot obtain a release from custody or reduction of sentence in a § 1983 suit.

         A prisoner may not challenge the validity of a state criminal proceeding in a § 1983 suit. Such a claim must be raised in a petition for writ of habeas corpus. See Calderon v. Ashmus, 523 U.S. 740, 747 (1998) (claim by a prisoner attacking the validity or duration of his confinement must be brought under the habeas sections of the United States Code); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973) (when an inmate challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and the relief he seeks is immediate or speedier release, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus); Jackson v. Torres, 720 F.2d 877, 879 (5th Cir. 1983); Johnson v. Hardy, 601 F.2d 172, 174 (5th Cir. 1979). A prisoner must fully exhaust state remedies before seeking federal habeas relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b).

         Because Bell requests a sentence reduction and a speedier release from custody in this § 1983 suit, ...


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