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Crochet v. Russell

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 9, 2019

DONALD GERARD CROCHET, Plaintiff
v.
KRISTINE RUSSELL, ET AL., Defendants

         SECTION: “E”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SUSIE MORGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Report and Recommendation issued by Magistrate Judge Michael North recommending Plaintiff Donald Crochet's complaint, insofar as it can be construed as a request for habeas corpus relief, be dismissed without prejudice, and further recommending Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 be dismissed with prejudice.[1] Petitioner objected to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation.[2]For the reasons that follow, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation as its own and hereby DISMISSES Plaintiff's complaint.[3]

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Donald Gerard Crochet, pro se, was confined at the Lafourche Parish Detention Center[4] following his conviction in August 2018 for possession of child pornography and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in the Seventeenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lafourche. On January 28, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant complaint, filled out on a form to be used by a prisoner in filing a complaint under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [5] against Defendants, Lafourche Parish District Attorney Kristine Russell, Assistant District Attorney Rene Gautreaux, Detective Jeff Chamberlain of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, Deputy Clay Blanchard of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, Frank Garcia of the Louisiana State Police, and former District Attorney Camille Morvant, II.[6] In his complaint, Plaintiff complains of the legality of the searches that uncovered the physical evidence that led to his conviction[7] and the thoroughness and withholding of the State's forensic computer analysis.[8] He further complains of the effectiveness of his attorney, the presentation of false testimony, and the sufficiency of the evidence that was presented at his trial.[9] Defendants have not filed an answer.

         The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation was filed on February 5, 2019.[10] Plaintiff filed an objection to the Report and Recommendation on March 14, 2019. In his objection, Plaintiff reviews many of his chief complaints, and, with respect to his complaint regarding the legality of the searches that uncovered the physical evidence that led to Plaintiff's conviction, adds: “confidential informant . . . rented my room from me and set me up knowing I never sold drugs [and] never had a history of selling drugs.”[11]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         In reviewing the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations, the Court must review de novo any of the Magistrate Judge's conclusions to which a party has specifically objected.[12] The Court needs only to review the portions of the report to which there are no objections to determine whether they are clearly erroneous or contrary to law.[13]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Habeas Corpus Relief

         The Court's “first task is to determine if [Plaintiff's] suit, although labeled a § 1983 action, is in reality a habeas corpus action subject to the exhaustion requirements of 28 U.S.C. s 2254(b).”[14] “While a complainant in a § 1983 action who is not eligible for habeas corpus relief is not generally required to exhaust state remedies, [the Fifth Circuit] has made clear that when the suit in reality is challenging the validity of the conviction it amounts to a habeas corpus action and the party must have exhausted state remedies.”[15]

         “When a state prisoner attacks the fact or length of his confinement, the appropriate cause of action is a petition for habeas corpus, even though the facts of the complaint might otherwise be sufficient to state a claim under § 1983.”[16] The Supreme Court has explained: “by allowing a prisoner to challenge his confinement under a § 1983 suit in federal court, Congress' intent that the states be given the first chance to decide such suits would be frustrated.”[17] Therefore, “[a]lthough a state prisoner may generally bring a claim for damages under § 1983 without first exhausting state remedies, ‘where the basis of the claim goes to the constitutionality of the state court conviction', habeas corpus is the exclusive cause of action and the attendant requirement of exhaustion of state remedies controls.”[18] “[T]he exhaustion requirement is satisfied if a claim has ‘been presented once to the state's highest court'”[19] and “the habeas corpus applicant must ‘present his claims before the [state] courts in a procedurally proper manner according to the rules of the state courts.'”[20]

         As the Magistrate Judge stated, “Plaintiff's allegations against the named Defendants, which include accusations of improprieties by law enforcement officials, the prosecutors, and his counsel, clearly challenge the fact and duration of his confinement, ”[21]and therefore must initially be pursued on habeas corpus grounds, but only after Plaintiff has exhausted available state-court remedies with respect to such allegations.[22] Because Plaintiff indicates on the face of his complaint he has not initiated any other lawsuits in state or federal court dealing with the same facts that are involved in this action or otherwise relating to his imprisonment, [23] insofar as the instant matter can be construed as a request for habeas corpus relief, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice for failure to exhaust available state-court remedies.[24]

         II. Section 1983 Claims

         The Court next determines whether any valid § 1983 claims are raised by Plaintiff's complaint. The Supreme Court has explained:

[I]n order to recover damages for 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, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district 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.[25]

         In this case, Plaintiff has not made the requisite showing that his conviction or sentence has already been invalidated by a state or federal tribunal authorized to make such a determination. Accordingly, none of ...


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