United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division at London
MEMORANDUM OPINIOIN AND ORDER
KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff Hubert Ray Arwood, Jr., is confined by the Kentucky Department of Corrections in the Northpoint Training Center ("NTC"), located in Burgin, Kentucky. Arwood has filed a pro se civil rights complaint [R. 1] asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has named as defendants five individuals who appear to have been involved, in various capacities, in his criminal prosecution in the Harlan Circuit Court. The named defendants are: (1) Russell D. Aldred, former Harlan County Circuit Judge; (2) Henry S. Johnson, former Harlan County Circuit Judge and former Harlan County Commonwealth Attorney; (3) Paul F. Williams, deceased, former Harlan County Circuit Clerk; (4) Robert A. Thomas, attorney and former Public Defender; and (5) Lisa Evans.
The Court conducts a preliminary review of Arwood's complaint because he asserts claims against government officials and because he has been granted in forma pauperis status in this action. Because Arwood is proceeding without an attorney, the Court liberally construes his claims and accepts his factual allegations as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). As explained below, however, the Court will dismiss Arwood's complaint with prejudice because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
ALLEGATIONS OF THE § 1983 COMPLAINT
The following is a summary of Arwood's criminal history and the claims which he asserts in this action. The summary is composed of the allegations set forth in Arwood's § 1983 complaint and from information contained in the 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus proceeding which Arwood recently filed in this Court, Hubert Ray Arwood, Jr., v. Don Bottom, No. 5:15-CV-56-GFVT-EBA (E.D. Ky. 2015) ("the § 2254 Petition").
In January 2009, Arwood was convicted in the Harlan Circuit Court on two counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree sexual abuse, and was sentenced to a ten-year prison term. It does not appear that Arwood appealed his conviction or that he sought appellate review in the state court.
On February 18, 2105, Arwood filed this § 2254 Petition challenging his state court criminal conviction. In his petition, Arwood asserts that he was falsely accused and convicted of the crimes charged. Additionally, he cites improper rulings by the state trial judge. [R. 1, therein] On April 13, 2015, Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins issued a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") concluding that the Court should deny both the § 2254 Petition and a certificate of appealability. [R. 11, therein] Magistrate Judge Atkins noted that Arwood's claim consisted only of the following of oblique statement: "False allegations, " id., p. 1, therein [citing R. 1, p. 1, therein], and he noted that the only "supporting facts" which Arwood provided in support of his claim were these comments: "Without real [sic] prove or evidence. Just [sic] hear say? However they caused me [sic] alot of mental anguish and heartache!" [ Id., citing R. 1, p. 1 at 5, therein] Based on the paucity of information alleged, Magistrate Judge Atkins determined that the § 2254 Petition was "...incognizable and fails to provide any relevant, or supporting facts." [ Id. ] Magistrate Judge Atkins advised Arwood that he had fourteen (14) days from April 13, 2015, in which to file objections to the R & R. As of May 1, 2015, Arwood had filed no objections to the R & R.
On February 18, 2015, on the same date he filed the § 2254 Petition, Arwood filed the instant § 1983 civil rights complaint in the Western District. As discussed, on April 16, 2015, the Western District subsequently transferred Arwood's § 1983 complaint to this Court. [R. 6] Arwood demands $120, 000, 000.00 in compensatory damages from the named defendants, jointly and severally, in both their individual and official capacities, and seeks the same amount of punitive damages from each defendant, jointly and severally. Arwood provides the following reasons for suing the defendants:
"...For believing false allegations made against me, By my own and only Daughter, and Putting me and my wife into Jail, so They could take our Daughter from us....However They gave my wife Parole and sent me Back to Prison on false allegations with no Prove or evidence, Just on hear say [sic] ? alright, so that is why I am suing these People for $120, 000, 000.00 million dollars each person, Personally...Also For Mental anguish and heartache and suffering, so that is also Part of the reason I am suing.
[R. 1, p. 5]
Broadly construing the complaint, Arwood appears to be alleging that he was wrongfully prosecuted and/or that his conviction was obtained in violation of his right to due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
1. Official Capacity Claims
The Court will first address the claims which Arwood asserts against Defendants Aldred, Johnson, and Williams, in their official capacities. These claims are functionally equivalent to claims against Harlan County because "[i]ndividuals sued in their official capacities stand in the shoes of the entity they represent." Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985)). A plaintiff seeking to "recover on a damages judgment in an official-capacity suit must look to the government entity itself" to pay the damages. Graham, 473 U.S. at 166. Thus, the constitutional claims Arwood asserts against these three defendants in their official capacities are subject to the same analysis as if he had named Harlan County or the Harlan Fiscal Court as a defendant. See Essex v. Cnty. of Livingston, 518 Fed.App'x 351, 354 (6th Cir. 2013) ("[A]n official-capacity claim is ...