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Carr v. Buckley

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

April 6, 2017

OFFICER BUCKLEY et al ., Defendants.

          Plaintiff, pro se Defendants Jefferson County Attorney


          David J. Hale, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Thomas Jewell Carr, a pretrial detainee, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (DN 1). This matter is before the Court for initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 608 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons that follow, the Court will allow the failure to train claim against Defendant Louisville Metro Government[1] and the three federal constitutional claims against Defendant Buckley in his individual capacity to proceed. The remaining claims and Defendants will be dismissed from this action. Further, as to the proceeding claims, the Court will stay this action pending final disposition of the state criminal case against Plaintiff.


         Plaintiff names the following six Defendants in this action: (1) Officer Buckley, a metro police officer at “(LMD) Jefferson County”; (2) Thomas B. Wine, the Commonwealth Attorney for Jefferson County; (3) Courtney Straw, an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney for Jefferson County; (4) Judge Haynes, a district court judge for Jefferson County, Kentucky; (5) Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defender Corp; and (6) “City of Louisville/State of Kentucky.” Plaintiff sues the four individuals in both their individual and official capacities. The remaining two Defendants he sues in their official capacity. As relief, Plaintiff seeks “200-million dollar's” and “Lawyer recommandation's/ Depending on settlement offer if any.”

         According to Plaintiff, Defendant Buckley and some other officers responded to a 911 caller reporting that “(4-subject's with gun's entered their home) as well as stated ‘3-black-female's' are ‘Assaulting her, ' then stated ‘2-Black-male's, ' followed by saying ‘We watching out the window now & there is at least 16-people outside and they all jumping on her.'” Plaintiff states that the victim and other witnesses at the scene made statements that “‘Caller's' had a ‘Gun.'” Plaintiff states that Defendant Buckley and the other officers ignored statements given to them and “‘refused' to locate (9-1-1 caller's) question them for statements & check weapon for ‘DNA' from ‘Victim' because ‘Victim' had a bloody nose & mouth as well a ‘HUGE-knot' on her ‘forehead' as if she had been ‘Pistol-whipped.'” According to Plaintiff, Defendant Buckley talked to the first witness, who was a black female

who pointed out the ‘Victim/White-Female, ' which came to his ‘conclusion' the ‘victim-White-Female' was ‘DATING' the ‘1st contact-witness/Black-female's' (uncle) which would be a ‘Black-male' as his (subject), therefore; (Assuming-& Racial-Profiling) the situation, ‘mis-leading' himself as well other officer's to ‘ignore' (any-statement's) outside of (her boyfriend-A BLACK MALE) which is ‘why' officer's (never) got statement's from ‘9-1-1- caller's' & ‘Immediately' began searching the area for myself ‘before' i (returned) to the scene ‘self-Willingly' because I did ‘Nothing-Wrong.' Plaintiff states that the victim voiced that she did not want to press charges and did not want to be bothered. Plaintiff states that this made the officers upset and mad.

         Plaintiff states that Defendant Buckley took statements from other witnesses. According to Plaintiff, at the end of the investigation during a phone conversation, Defendant Buckley “admitted (No-Witnesses, witnessed ‘Accussed' Assault-Victim) and (Assumed) once ‘again' that ‘victim' was being ‘Relucktant' and trying to keep the ‘Accussed' out of trouble because ‘victim' wanted to ‘NOT' press charges & would ‘NOT' say . . . that ‘Accussed' Assaulted-her.” Plaintiff states that Defendant Buckley changed “the statement in ‘Citation' as well ‘Testified-under oath'” to lock Plaintiff up and have him indicted. Plaintiff contends that he was falsely arrested and charged.

         Plaintiff states that Defendants Wine and Straw “continuously” call and write letters to Plaintiff's “fiancée/victim” trying to get her to change her statement and say that Plaintiff assaulted her. According to Plaintiff, these Defendants have threatened his “fiancée/victim” with prosecution if she continues to write to Plaintiff. Plaintiff states that she writes him letters about how she is being “Harrassed & threaned” and how it has caused her to be “hurt/confused and feeling ‘insulted.'” Plaintiff states that Defendants Wine and Straw flash false evidence, “photo's of victim/my fiancée” to mislead the judge to believe that Plaintiff caused her injuries. Plaintiff contends that he is being judged by his past, and that his past does not make him guilty of today's allegations. Plaintiff asserts that he is innocent of the charges.

         Plaintiff complains that his “fiancée/victim” was forced to stay outside the courtroom while Defendant Buckley testified falsely against him. Plaintiff also complains that Defendant Haynes would not allow his “fiancée/victim” to testify at the probable cause hearing. Plaintiff contends that if she had been allowed to testify, she would have shown that Defendant Buckley's statements were false. Further, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Haynes found probable cause based on false testimony. Plaintiff states that Defendant Haynes revoked his probation and denied him shock probation after serving six months. Plaintiff states that Defendant Haynes also let Plaintiff's probation officer testify against him.

         As to Defendant Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defendant Corp., Plaintiff states that he has had five different attorneys and has filed complaints with the Kentucky Bar Association about his attorneys, but “still receive[s] ‘Negative-outcomes' or ‘None at All.'” Plaintiff asserts that he has been lied to by a secretary in this Defendant's office, neglected by counselors, insulted by counselors, lied to by counselors at this office, “‘Denied' motion's to be filed by ‘Attorney's, '” had his messages ignored, and had conflicts with attorneys in this Defendant's office.

         Plaintiff states that his first attorney left the office and moved to New York. Thereafter, Plaintiff was represented by a second attorney who only talked briefly to Plaintiff once right before his court hearing. This attorney, according to Plaintiff, told Plaintiff that he was making a deal with the prosecutor on another charge. Plaintiff represents that he informed this attorney that he wanted a fast and speedy trial “so everything can be taken care of all at once.” Plaintiff states that the attorney represented he would file such a motion. According to Plaintiff, after that, this second attorney never contacted Plaintiff to discuss his case, never returned Plaintiff's calls, and never filed a motion for a speedy trial. Plaintiff states that when he called to speak with this attorney, he was informed by Defendant Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defendant Corp. that this attorney was out sick. Plaintiff asserts that this was a lie because Plaintiff later found out that this attorney had been suspended.

         Plaintiff states that a “step-in' Attorney” represented him in court in July. This third attorney, according to Plaintiff, informed Plaintiff that she had spoken with Plaintiff's fiancé and his fiancé denied all of the allegations against Plaintiff. Plaintiff states that he had a fourth attorney at his next court date who also told him that he had spoken with Plaintiff's fiancé, and his fiancé had denied the allegations against Plaintiff. This fourth attorney, according to Plaintiff, stated that he was going to file a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's case and that everything would be “wrapped up & over” by September 2016.

         On August 31, 2016, according to Plaintiff, he called the public defender's office and was informed that he was now being represented by a fifth attorney. Plaintiff states that he spoke with this attorney, and she informed him that no dismissal motion had been filed. According to Plaintiff, she further stated that she did not believe that Plaintiff had been told a motion to dismiss his case would be filed, and she believed that Plaintiff was lying about the motion. Plaintiff states that she refused to file only certain motions for Plaintiff.

         As to the “City of Louisville/State of Kentucky, ” Plaintiff contends that it is responsible for the poor training of the other Defendants. Further, Plaintiff asserts that this Defendant is responsible for the actions of the other Defendants.[2]


         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 v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d at 608.

         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] 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)). “But the district court need not accept a ‘bare assertion of legal conclusions.'” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). The court's duty “does not require [it] 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 the Court “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

         A. Defendants Haynes, Wine, and Straw

         1. Official-Capacity Claims

         “Official-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). Because Defendants Haynes, Wine, and Straw are employees or officers of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the claims brought against them in their official capacities are deemed claims against the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Id. at 166. State officials sued in their official capacities for money damages are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Thus, because Plaintiff seeks money damages from state officers or employees in their official capacities, he fails to allege cognizable claims under § 1983. Additionally, the Eleventh Amendment[3] acts as a bar to claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 169; Boone v. Kentucky, 72 F. App'x 306, 307 (6th Cir. 2003) (“[Plaintiff's] request for monetary relief against the prosecutors in their official capacities is deemed to be a suit against the state and also barred by the Eleventh Amendment.”); Bennett v. Thorburn, No. 86-1307, 1988 WL 27524, at *1 (6th Cir. Mar. 31, 1988) (concluding that an official capacity suit against a judge who presided over state court litigation was barred by the Eleventh Amendment).

         Accordingly, Plaintiff's official-capacity claims against Defendants Haynes, Wine, and Straw for damages will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and for seeking monetary relief from Defendants who are immune from such relief.

         2. Individual-Capacity Claims

         With regard to Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Haynes, judges are entitled to absolute immunity for actions arising out of all acts performed in the exercise of their judicial functions. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 520 (1985). Judicial immunity is embedded in the long-established principle that “a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, [should] be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.” Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355 (1978) (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 347 (1871)). The law is clear that a judge acting within the scope of his official duties and within his jurisdictional authority is absolutely immune from damages liability. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991); Ireland v. ...

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