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Christopher v. Carr

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 4, 2014

JAMES R. CHRISTOPHER IV, Plaintiff,
v.
RAYMOND CARR et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff James R. Christopher IV initiated this pro se action by filing a handwritten letter (DN 1). Thereafter, he submitted an amended complaint on a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 form (DN 2). As the form complaint contains more detailed facts and lists Defendants and the capacity in which they are being sued, the Court concludes that the amended complaint supercedes the original complaint (letter). This matter is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons that follow, the action will be dismissed.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

Plaintiff was a convicted prisoner incarcerated in the Hardin County Detention Center when he filed the complaint. He has since been transferred to the Roederer Correctional Complex. As Defendants, Plaintiff names Raymond Carr, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney for the Ninth Circuit; Kenneth Howard, Hardin Circuit Court Judge; Heather Strotman, a public defender with the Department of Public Advocacy; and Hardin County. He sues Defendants Carr and Howard in their official capacities and sues Defendant Strotman in her individual and official capacities.

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was arrested by Radcliff police on or about March 31, -, based on "an active warrant for theft by unlawful taking'" and held on a $10, 000 full cash bond. At his arraignment, he attempted to explain that he had already served time for this crime in Massachusetts and was advised to tell his appointed counsel. A few days later, Defendant Public Defender Strotman visited Plaintiff. Plaintiff advised counsel that he already had been found guilty and sentenced to time served for the crime. Defendant Strotman refused to investigate his double-jeopardy claim and told Plaintiff that she did not work for him, that he did not make the decisions, and that "if [he] did not accept a rocket docket' offer then all other decision were trial strategy' and completely in her control." Thereafter, two Faretta hearings were held, and Plaintiff was allowed to proceed pro se. He filed motions for bond reduction, which were denied, and also filed a motion to dismiss on double-jeopardy grounds, which was eventually granted and charges dismissed.

Plaintiff contends that Defendant Strotman violated his Sixth Amendment rights by denying him effective assistance of counsel. Plaintiff further claims that, with full knowledge that he was sentenced and released by another state, Defendant Carr prosecuted him in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause; misrepresented the facts and pursued a malicious prosecution; and caused him to be held on excessive bail. Finally, he contends that "it was the judgement, opinions, decisions and failures to deside on the part of Judge Kenneth Howard the ultimately ordered my unlawful detainment that so denied me my liberty for (130) one-hundred and thirty days."

As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages, removal of "debt of accumilated housing fees from Hardin County Detention, " and disbarment of Defendant Strotman.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review the instant action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, 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 § 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore, 114 F.3d at 604.

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 trial 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. In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[A] district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

Although courts are to hold pro se pleadings "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, " Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), this duty to be less stringent "does not require us to conjure up unpled allegations, " McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979), or to create a claim for a plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise would require courts "to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

III. ANALYSIS

"Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere." Flint ex rel. Flint v. Ky. Dep't of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). Two elements are required to state a claim under § 1983. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). "[A] plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 ...


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