Taylor v. James et al, No. 1:2010cv02605 - Document 7 (N.D. Ga. 2010)

Court Description: ORDER AND OPINION that Plaintiff's access-to-courts claim is DISMISSED, and the remaining claims are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; the Court grants leave to proceed in forma pauperis for purposes of dismissal only. Signed by Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr on 10/15/10. (dr)
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Taylor v. James et al Doc. 7 FiLED IN CHAMBERS THOMAS \IV, THRASH JR. U, S, D, C, Allanta IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ATLANTA DIVISION GRAYSOX L TAYLOR, Plaintiff, or.r 182010 N H;'VJN, Clerk DoputyCle k PRISONER CIVIL RIGHTS v, ROBERT JAMES, Superior Court Judge, et aL, Defendants, CIVIL ACTION NO, 1: 1O-CV-2605-TWT ORDER AND OPINION On August 24,2010, the Court ordered Plaintiff, pro se, to file an anlended complaint and to either pay the filing fee or submit an application to proceed informa pauperis ("IFP"), In response, Plaintiff has filed two amended complaints and an application to proceed IFP, As explained below, the Court finds that this action must be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court GRANTS Plaintiffleave to proceed IFP for purposes of dismissal only, I. The Frivolity Review Standard A federal court is required to conduct an initial screening of a prisoner complaint to determine whether the action: (1) is frivolous or malicious or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief against a A072A (Rev.8/82) Dockets.Justia.com defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.c. § 1915A. A claim is frivolous, and must be dismissed, when it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Miller v. Donald, 541 F .3d 1091, llO0 (lith Cir. 2008). A district court also may dismiss a complaint if the facts as pled do not state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (lith Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. _, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009)). To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.c. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right, pri vilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a statute of the United States; and (2) the deprivation occurred under color of state law. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734,737 (lith Cir. 2010). Ifa plaintiff cannot satisfy these requirements, or fails to provide factual allegations in support of his claim, thc complaint is subject to dismissal. Id. at 737-38. II. Plaintiff's Claims l On March 3, 2010, Plaintiff was stoppcd by Atlanta police officers whilc operating an automobile. The officers told him there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Douglas County for probation violations. Plaintiff was arrested and The facts are taken from Plaintiffs amended complaints (Docs. 3 & 5) and presumed true for purposes of the frivolity review. I 2 AonA (Rev.8!82) confined in the Douglas County Jail (the "Jail") on March 4,2010. He remains there today. Plaintiff promptly and repeatedly told Jail and probation officials that he was not on probation and that an earlier criminal sentence expired in February 2007. Plaintiffalso informed Public Defender LaDonna Schumacher ("Schumacher") ofthis. A probation revocation hearing occurred in July 2010, but was not completed. The hearing was continued indefinitely and has not been resumed. Plaintiff contends that he was not on probation, parole, or otherwise subject to any court-imposed sentence at the time the arrest warrant for probation violations was issued. Thus, he contends that Douglas County oftlcials are unlawfully holding him on bogus probation violation charges. He seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, presumably in the form of immediate release from the Jail. In his second amended complaint, (Doc. 5), Plaintiff claims that Jail oftlcials, including the Douglas County Sheriff, tampered with Plainti ff's legal mail to and from this Court, thus violating his right to access to the courts. Plaintiff contends his legal mail has been lost, misplaced, or otherwise not delivered to him and "has suspiciously been affected" by Jail employees. 3 A072A (Rev.8/82i III. Analysis This Court cannot intervene in the pending state proceedings seeking to revoke Plaintiff s probation. Plaintiff contends that there is no pending criminal prosecution because he was not on probation when the arrest warrant for probation violations issued, but the adjudication of the alleged probation violation in the state courts is a quasi-criminal proceeding. See O.e.G.A. § 42-8-34.1 (b). Regardless ofthe validity of the probation violation charges, it is clear from his amended complaints that Plaintiff is being held pending completion of a probation revocation hearing concerning those charges. The Court cannot intervene in those ongoing state proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances, which are not present here. See Younger v. Harris, 40 I U.S. 37 (1971); Sarlund v. Anderson, 205 F .3d 973, 975 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that the plaintiffs civil rights action was barred "by the spirit ofthe Younger doctrine, since he is trying to derail an ongoing probation revocation proceeding" (citations omitted)). Moreover, Plaintiff cannot obtain from this Court the injunctive relief he appears to seek - release from allegedly unlawful confinement - without first exhausting his available state remedies because that relief is in the nature of habeas 4 A072A (Rev.8/82) corpus. 2 For a pre-trial detainee, exhaustion includes allowing the case to go to trial (or, in this case, the probation revocation hearing) and through the state appellate process. See Tootenv. Shevin, 493 F.2d 173, 175-76 (5th CiL 1974). If his current confinement is illegal and warrants relief now, at least two remedies are available to Plaintiff under Georgia law. First, "[a]ny person restrained of his liberty under any pretext whatsoever, except under sentence of a state court of record, may seek a writ of habeas corpus [from Georgia courts] to inquire into the legality of the restraint." O.e.G.A. § 9-14-1(a). Second, a criminal defendant who believes there have been irregularities in his criminal case may seek a writ of mandamus from Georgia courts. O.e.G.A. § 9-6-20. These remedies are available to persons detained on probation violation charges. Smith v. Nichols, 512 S.E.2d 279, 280 (Ga. 1999) (considering petition for habeas corpus and mandamus tiled by jail inmate to obtain bond on probation violation warrant and to expedite probation Plaintiff does not request damages in either ofhis amended complaints. If he did seek damages, the defendant judge and prosecutor likely would be absolutely immune from suit for damages. See Scarbrough v. Myles, 245 F.3d 1299,1305 (11th Cir.2001). Plaintiff also could not recover damages from Schumacher for alleged malpractice or ineffectiveness in her role as his defense attorney. See United States v. Zibilich, 542 F.2d 259, 261 (5th CiL 1976) (per curiam). 2 5 A072A (Rev,8!82) revocation proceedings). There is no indication that Plaintiff has pursued any ofthese state remedies. Finally, Plaintiffs allegation that Jail officials violated his constitutional right to access to the courts fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Interference with legal mail is a violation of a prisoner's right of access to the courts. Al-Amin v. Smith, 511 F.3d 1317, 1330-31 (11 th Cir. 2008); Lemon v. Dugger, 931 F.2d 1465, 1468 (11th Cir. 1991). However, an access-to-courts claim requires "actual injury regarding prospective or existing litigation," such as "missing filing deadlines or being prevented from presenting claims" while "in the pursuit of specific types of non frivolous cases: direct or collateral attacks on sentences and challenges to conditions of confinement." Wilson v. Blankenship, 163 F .3d 1284, 1290 & n.1O (11th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted); see Al-Amin, 511 F.3d at 1332-33." Plaintiffs allegations do not indicate that he has suffered an actual injury regarding his litigation of this case or any other case. See Al-Amin, 511 F.3d at 1332 (holding that actual injury "such as a denial or dismissal of a direct appeal, habeas 3 An inmate also "has a First Amendment free speech right to communicate with his attorneys by mail, separate and apart from his constitutional right to access to the courts." AI-Amin, 511 F.3d at 1334. The Eleventh Circuit has limited this First Amendment free speech right to "attorney-client mail only." [d. at 1334 n.34. Plaintiff has not alleged interference with any mail to or from his attorney. 6 A072A (Rev.SIS2) petition, or civil rights case that results from actions of prison officials" is a required element ofthe claim (citations omitted)). In this case, Plaintiff received the Court's August 24, 20 I 0 Order and responded to it within the deadline by submitting two amended complaints on different dates, both of which the Court received. Plaintiff also submitted an application to proceed IFP, which the Court received. Because he has neither alleged nor suffered an identifiable injury, Plaintiff's acccss-to-courts claim must be dismissed. [v. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's access-to-courts claim is DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Plaintifi"s remaining claims are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE under 28 U.S.c. § 1915A. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff leave to proceed informa pauperis for purposes of dismissal only. SO ORDERED this IS day of , 2010. THOMAS W. THRASH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JeDGE 7 A072A (Rev.8182)