United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
CHARLES E. SMITH, Plaintiff,
HON. JEFFREY T. BURDETTE, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE
Charles E. Smith is an inmate at the Little Sandy
Correctional Complex, located in Sandy Hook, Kentucky.
Proceeding without an attorney, Smith has filed a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendant Judge Jeffrey T. Burdette, Circuit Court Judge in
Lincoln County, Kentucky. [R. 1].
Court must conduct a preliminary review of Smith's
complaint because he has been granted permission to pay the
filing fee in installments and because he asserts claims
against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2), 1915A. A district court must dismiss any claim
that 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. Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). When
testing the sufficiency of Smith's complaint, the Court
affords it a forgiving construction, accepting as true all
non-conclusory factual allegations and liberally construing
its legal claims in the plaintiff's favor. Davis v.
Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir.
Smith's allegations are not entirely clear, in a motion
submitted in support of his complaint [R. 8], Smith states
that, on September 26, 2008, Smith and five co-defendants
were indicted by a grand jury in Lincoln County, Kentucky on
two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, two
counts of robbery in the first degree and first degree
burglary. [R. 8 at p. 3] Smith states that he pled guilty on
July 13, 2009 and was sentenced to a 20-year term of
imprisonment on September 3, 2009. [Id. at p. 4] He
states that he filed a motion to vacate his conviction
pursuant to the Kentucky Rules of Criminal Procedure on
September 9, 2011, which was denied on January 31, 2012.
[Id.] His subsequent attempts to obtain relief from
his sentence in state court have also been denied.
Complaint filed in this case, he names Lincoln County Circuit
Court Judge Jeffrey T. Burdette, the judge presiding over his
state criminal case, as the only Defendant. His allegations
include claims regarding the propriety of the indictment
against Smith in his underlying criminal trial, as well as
alleged errors made by Judge Burdette in ruling on
Smith's post-conviction motions for relief. Smith also
alleges that he was misled by his defense counsel and
suggests that Judge Burdette ruled against Smith in his
post-conviction motions for relief because of Judge
Burdette's personal bias in favor of Smith's defense
attorney. [R. 1 at p. 2-3]. Based on these allegations, Smith
alleges violations of his Sixth Amendment right to a fair
trial, Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and
unusual punishment, and Fourteenth Amendment rights to Equal
Protection and Due Process. [Id. at p. 4]. As
relief, Smith seeks to have this Court order that a grand
jury be re-seated to consider Smith's “true
involvement that should have been reflected in my own case
scenario of events” or, in the alternative, to amend
his sentence to reflect his “true involvement” or
to order a new trial.
complaint must set forth sufficient allegations to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). The Court has an obligation to liberally construe a
complaint filed by a person proceeding without counsel, but
it has no authority to create arguments or claims that the
plaintiff has not made. Coleman v. Shoney's,
Inc., 79 Fed.Appx. 155, 157 (6th Cir. 2003) (“Pro
se parties must still brief the issues advanced with some
effort at developed argumentation.”). Applying these
standards, the Court must dismiss Smith's complaint for
failure to state a claim.
to the extent that Smith's civil complaint seeks an
earlier or immediate release from physical custody, his only
remedy is to seek a writ of habeas corpus; he may not use a
civil action to directly or indirectly undermine or impugn
the validity of his criminal conviction. A habeas corpus
proceeding is the only mechanism available for him to do so.
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 490 (1973).
addition, to the extent that Smith's Complaint seeks to
assert civil rights claims against Judge Burdette based on
decisions and rulings made during the course of Smith's
state criminal trial, such claims are barred by judicial
immunity. Judges have long been entitled to absolute judicial
immunity from tort claims arising out of their performance of
functions integral to the judicial process. Pierson v.
Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-55 (1967). Indeed,
“judicial immunity is not overcome by allegations of
bad faith or malice...” Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9, 11 (1991).
Judge Burdette's alleged conduct - presiding over
Smith's criminal trial and ruling on Smith's motions
for post-conviction relief - falls squarely within his role
as a judge in the criminal prosecution. See Huffer v.
Bogen, 503 Fed.Appx. 455, 459 (6th Cir.
2012)(“[T]he factors determining whether an act by a
judge is a ‘judicial' one relate to the nature of
the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function
normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the
parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in
his judicial capacity.”)(quoting Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978)). Thus, Judge
Burdette is entitled to absolute judicial immunity against
Smith's claims and Smith's Complaint will be
dismissed with prejudice.
it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. Smith's Complaint [R. 1] is DISMISSED
2. All pending requests for relief, including Smith's
petition pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [R. 8], are
DENIED AS MOOT
3. The Court will enter an appropriate judgment.
4. This matter is STRICKEN from the