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Haney v. Schwab

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 5, 2019

DUSTIN EVERETTE HANEY
v.
CARL TRACY SCHWAB ET AL.

         SECTION “A” (2)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH C. WILKINSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Dustin Everette Haney, is a prisoner currently incarcerated in Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, Louisiana. He filed this complaint pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) against Carl Tracy Schwab; Anthony P. Champagne; Ivan J. Thompson; District Attorney Joseph L. Waitz, Jr.; Assistant District Attorney Dennis J. Elfert; Judge John R. Walker; Robert J. Pastor; Yolanda Cezar; the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (“LADB”); the Louisiana State Bar Association (“LSBA”); Detectives Robert Lottinger, Keith Craft, Jared Matherne, Andy Scott and Joe Lodrigue; Officer Chad Cunningham; and Houma Chief of Police Dana Coleman.

         Haney alleges generally that he wrongfully was arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder and “trying to sell. . . crystal methamphetamines.” Record Doc. No. 1 at ¶ IV, pp. 7-20. Specifically, he alleges that he was denied constitutional and civil rights in his Terrebonne Parish criminal proceedings, including being subjected to misconduct by the officers, detectives, prosecutors, public defenders and judge involved in his case; and receiving ineffective assistance of counsel from his public defenders. Haney further alleges lack of sufficient communication from the LSBA, LADB and Cezar, screening counsel for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, as to the dismissal of a written disciplinary complaint he filed against Schwab, one of his public defenders, for alleged malpractice, bribery and blackmail. Id. at ¶ IV, pp. 12, 15. Haney seeks dismissal of his criminal charges, monetary damages and reimbursement from defendants for this lawsuit's filing fee. Id. at ¶ V, p. 20.

         ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         A prisoner's pro se complaint for alleged civil rights violations must be screened by the court as soon as practicable after docketing, regardless whether it has also been filed in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a); Lewis v. Estes, 242 F.3d 375, 2000 WL 1673382, at *1 (8th Cir. 2006); Shakur v. Selsky, 391 F.3d 106, 112 (2d Cir. 2004); Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 579-80 (5th Cir. 1998). Such complaints by prisoners must be dismissed upon review if they are frivolous, fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); Shakur, 391 F.3d at 113; Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1999).

         “A federal court may dismiss a claim in forma pauperis ‘if satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious.'” Moore v. McDonald, 30 F.3d 616, 620 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), now incorporated in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), as amended). A complaint is frivolous “if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.” Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998); Reeves v. Collins, 27 F.3d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1994). The law ‘“accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.'” Macias v. Raul A. (Unknown), Badge No. 153, 23 F.3d 94, 97 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         “‘A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.'” Davis, 157 F.3d at 1005 (quoting McCormick v. Stalder, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997)). “When a complaint raises an arguable question of law which the district court ultimately finds is correctly resolved against the plaintiff, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate; however, dismissal under the section 1915(d) standard is not.” Moore, 976 F.2d at 269. A prisoner's in forma pauperis complaint which fails to state a claim may be dismissed sua sponte at any time under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).

         Plaintiff's complaint asserts claims against several defendants who are immune from prosecution and several defendants who are not state actors. In addition, the claims in his complaint are legally frivolous and fail to state a claim even under the broadest reading[1]because they are barred by applicable United States Supreme Court precedent. Accordingly, plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1), as legally frivolous, for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted and/or for seeking monetary relief against defendants who are immune from such relief.

         II. PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         A. Judicial Immunity

         Plaintiff's claims against Terrebonne Parish District Judge John R. Walker are barred by judicial immunity. For more than one hundred years, judges have been held immune from liability for judicial acts done within their jurisdiction. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978) (citing Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335 (1871)); Mays v. Sudderth, 97 F.3d 107, 110 (5th Cir. 1996). “A judge, of whatever status in the judicial hierarchy, is immune from suit for damages resulting from any acts performed in [his] judicial role.” Ammons v. Baldwin, 705 F.2d 1445, 1447 (5th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted); accord Mays, 97 F.3d at 110-11. This judicial immunity applies even if a judge is accused of acting maliciously or corruptly. Stump, 435 U.S. at 356-57; Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967), overruled in part on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982), as recognized by Hill v. Shelander, 992 F.2d 714, 716 (7th Cir. 1993); Mays, 97 F.3d at 110-11. Judicial officers are absolutely immune from liability for damages unless they are without jurisdiction. Id. at 111; Dayse v. Schuldt, 894 F.2d 170, 172 (5th Cir. 1990); Freeze v. Griffith, 849 F.2d 172, 175 (5th Cir. 1988).

         In the past, judicial officers did not enjoy absolute immunity from suits seeking injunctive relief. Relief of that nature was available under Section 1983 against state court judges acting in their judicial capacity. Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 541-42 (1984). However, the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996 (“FCIA”) amended Section 1983 to provide that “in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief is unavailable.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         The FCIA therefore statutorily overruled Pulliam's holding regarding the availability of injunctive relief against a state judge in his official capacity. Guerin v. Higgins, 2001 WL 363486, at *1 (2d Cir. 2001); Nollet v. Justices, 83 F.Supp.2d 204, 210 (D. Mass. 2000); see also Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1242 (11th Cir. 2000) (1996 amendment to Section 1983 limits the relief available against a federal judge to declaratory relief). Thus, neither injunctive relief nor damages are available in this Section 1983 action against this defendant. Tesmer v. Granholm, 114 F.Supp.2d 603, 618 (E.D. Mich. 2000); Nollet, 83 F.Supp.2d at 210.

         Furthermore, to whatever extent, if any, that Haney seeks an order of this court directing the judge to take action concerning his state court criminal proceedings, a federal court has no power to direct a state court or its judicial officers in the performance of their duties when mandamus is the only relief sought. In re Campbell, 264 F.3d 730, 731 (7th Cir. 2001); Santee v. Quinlan, C. A. No. 96-3417, Record Doc. Nos. 3, 7, 8 (Nov. 5 & 27, 1996) (Duval, J.), aff'd, 115 F.3d 355, 356-57 (5th Cir. 1997); Russell v. Knight, 488 F.2d 96, 97 (5th Cir. 1973); Moye v. Clerk, 474 F.2d 1275, 1276 (5th Cir. 1973); Lamar v. 118th Judicial Dist. Court, 440 F.2d 383, 384 (5th Cir. 1971); White v. Stricklin, 2002 WL 1125747, at *2 (N.D. Tex. May 23, 2002); Norman v. Louisiana S.Ct., 2001 WL 881298, at *1 (E.D. La. Aug. 3, 2001). This court is without authority to order officials of the state court in which plaintiff's criminal case is pending to treat his claims in any particular way or to otherwise interfere with the rulings of its judges.

         Haney's claims against Judge Walker concern actions that are exclusively within the scope of the judge's role as a judicial officer and therefore within his jurisdiction. Consequently, the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity bars plaintiff's suit against Judge Walker. For these reasons, all of Haney's claims against this defendant must be ...


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