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Stevens v. Sixth Judicial District

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

August 16, 2019


         SECTION P




         Plaintiff Greg Stevens, a prisoner at Franklin Parish Detention Center proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed the instant proceeding on May 1');">14, 201');">19, under 42 U.S.C. § 1');">1983. He names the following defendants: Sixth Judicial District, District Attorney9;s Office, District Attorney James David Caldwell, Assistant District Attorney James Trey Phillips, Judge John Crigler, the State of Louisiana, and Attorney Joy Jackson.[1');">1" name="FN1');">1" id= "FN1');">1">1');">1] For reasons that follow, the Court should dismiss Plaintiff9;s claims.


         Plaintiff alleges that, on November 23, 1');">1998, his attorney filed a motion for a speedy trial before the Sixth Judicial District Court, Madison Parish. [doc. # 1');">1, p. 3]. Plaintiff claims that his “constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated on March 23, 1');">1999.” Id. At a hearing on April 1');">15, 1');">1999, the State argued that Plaintiff was responsible for setting the case for trial. Id. The trial judge agreed. Id.

         On November 1');">19, 1');">1999, the Supreme Court of Louisiana vacated the trial judge9;s ruling and remanded the case “for purposes of relieving [Plaintiff] of his bail obligation on the pending charges of second degree kidnapping, La. R.S. 1');">14:44.1');">1, and attempted second degree murder, in violation of La. R.S. 1');">14:27, 1');">14:30.1');">1.” State v. Stevens, 99-1');">161');">14 (La. 1');">11');">1/1');">19/99), 1');">16');">747 So.2d 51');">16, 51');">17. Plaintiff maintains, however, that “the relief granted was never imposed.” Id.

         Plaintiff claims that, because defendants violated his right to a speedy trial, his guilty plea and sentence are invalid or illegal. Id. at 4. The undersigned observes, however, that the Supreme Court of Louisiana cited La. Code Crim. Proc. art. 701');">1(D), which provides that failure to commence trial by the applicable deadline “shall result in the release of the defendant without bail or in the discharge of the bail obligation, if after contradictory hearing with the district attorney, just cause for the delay is not shown.”

         Plaintiff faults Assistant District Attorney James Trey Phillips for the speedy trial violation and for accepting Plaintiff9;s guilty plea even though he knew the charges against Plaintiff “no longer existed because of the speedy trial time limit . . . .” [doc. # 9, p. 2]. He faults District Attorney Caldwell because Caldwell “has direct supervision of the Assistant District Attorneys employed by his office.” Id. Plaintiff faults the State of Louisiana, alleging that the “District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney [] prosecute on behalf . . . of the State of Louisiana.” Id. Plaintiff faults Judge Crigler for accepting the guilty plea even though he knew it was invalid and for imposing a subsequent illegal sentence. Id. Finally, Plaintiff faults his former appointed counsel, Joy Jackson, because Jackson “did nothing to stop this injustice, even though she knew what the prosecution and the court were doing, i.e. accepting a guilty plea to charges that were invalid.” Id.

         Plaintiff seeks $7, 500, 000.00 for his mental anguish and emotional distress. [doc. # 1');">1, p. 5].

         Law and Analysis

         1');">1. Preliminary Screening

         Plaintiff is a prisoner who has been permitted to proceed in forma pauperis. As a prisoner seeking redress from an officer or employee of a governmental entity, his complaint is subject to preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1');">191');">15A.[2] See Martin v. Scott, 1');">156 F.3d 578, 579-80 (5th Cir. 1');">1998) (per curiam). Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, his Complaint is also subject to screening under § 1');">191');">15(e)(2). Both § 1');">191');">15(e)(2)(B) and § 1');">191');">15A(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 on 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, 90 U.S. 31');">19');">490 U.S. 31');">19, 325 (1');">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 on 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). A claim is facially plausible when it contains sufficient factual content for the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Plausibility does not equate to possibility or probability; it lies somewhere in between. Id. Plausibility simply calls for enough factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence to support the elements of the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         Assessing whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, supra. A well-pled complaint may proceed even if it strikes the court that actual proof of the asserted facts is improbable and that recovery is unlikely. Twombly, supra.

         Likewise, a complaint fails to state a claim on 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. In making this determination, the court must assume that all of the plaintiff9;s factual allegations are true. Bradley v. Puckett, 1');">157 F.3d 1');">1022, 1');">1025 (5th Cir. 1');">1998). However, the same presumption does not extend to legal conclusions. Iqbal, supra. A pleading comprised of “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” does not satisfy Rule 8. Id. “[P]laintiffs must allege facts that support the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid claim.” City of Clinton, Ark. v. Pilgrim9;s Pride Corp, 1');">148');">632 F.3d 1');">148, 1');">152-53 (5th Cir. 201');">10). Courts are “not free to speculate that the plaintiff ‘might9; 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. 1');">153, 94');">23 F.3d 94, 97 (5th Cir. 1');">1994).

         A hearing need not be conducted for every pro se complaint. Wilson v. Barrientos, 926 F.2d 480');">926 F.2d 480, 483 n.4 (5th Cir. 1');">1991');">1). A district court may dismiss a prisoner's civil rights complaint as frivolous based upon the complaint and exhibits alone. Green ...

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