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Thomas v. Fredricks

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

June 18, 2013

U.B. THOMAS, III Plaintiff,
v.
GREG FREDRICKS et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN G. HEYBURN, II, District Judge.

Plaintiff, U.B. Thomas, III, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint and amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case was originally stayed pending final action on the underlying state criminal case. The criminal case is now final, and this matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed.

MOTION

Since his case was reopened, Plaintiff has filed a motion to submit additional information and to add as Defendants Shawn Abma and Jason Sanders.[1] A plaintiff may amend a pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days of service, and service has not occurred in this case. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Consequently, his motion (DN 31) is GRANTED.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

In his original complaint, Plaintiff named as Defendants Louisville Fire Chief Greg Fredricks; Major Henry Ott, Arson Investigator; and Sergeants Todd Leonard and John Griffith, also arson investigators. He alleged that he had been given alcohol during an interrogation to obtain a confession. He asked for monetary and punitive damages and to have Defendants relieved of duty. Because he was a pretrial detainee, the Court stayed this action until the criminal action against him was final. Upon being notified that the criminal action was complete, the Court reopened this action.

In his notification to this Court that his criminal case was complete, Plaintiff attached a letter from his appellate defender dated March 12, 2013, stating that a Kentucky Supreme Court opinion had been entered modifying the opinion reversing the "arson second degree conviction (Rowan Street), but affirms the other convictions." A search of Westlaw reveals that on February 21, 2013, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued a modified decision in Thomas v. Commonwealth, No. 2011-SC-42-MR, 2012 WL 5289393 (Ky. Feb. 21, 2013). Plaintiff had appealed his convictions for first-degree arson, second-degree arson, third-degree arson, two counts of wanton endangerment and being a first-degree persistent felony offender. The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed his conviction and sentence for second-degree arson but affirmed his other convictions and sentences.

II. ANALYSIS

When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action, if the court determines that it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

Here, Plaintiff's claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Under the Heck doctrine, a state prisoner may not file a § 1983 suit for damages or equitable relief challenging his conviction or sentence if a ruling on his claim would render the conviction or sentence invalid, until and unless the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by Executive Order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or has been called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87; Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) ("[A] state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation) - no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings) - if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration."). Although the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed one of Plaintiff's convictions on appeal, the remaining five convictions were affirmed. Nothing in Plaintiff's complaint or documents submitted in support thereof indicate that his allegation of being plied with alcohol during his interrogation as to the second-degree arson conviction (which was reversed by the Kentucky Supreme Court) is separate or severable from the other convictions which have been affirmed. As such, his action is barred by Heck.

III. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the Court will by separate Order dismiss Plaintiff's claims.


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