United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
H. MCKINLEY JR., SENIOR JUDGE
matter is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff
Freida Johnson's pro se complaint (DN 1)
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that
follow, the action will be dismissed.
STATEMENT OF CLAIMS
a pretrial detainee in the Daviess County Detention Center
(DCDC), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
As Defendants, Plaintiff names Daviess County District Court
Judge Nick Burlew in his official capacity and Daviess County
District Court Judge David Payne and Daviess County Circuit
Court Judge Jay Wethington in their individual capacities.
complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she is being held at DCDC
on second-degree assault charges against her fiancé,
but she argues self-defense because he outweighs her by 125
pounds. She claims, “The charges will not hold in a
trial but I'm being held anyway. Police have exaggerated
both police statements. Never took statement from me. I
facing indictment they are threatening me with prison.”
She contends that her fiancé “is not pursuing
charges - Commonwealth is.” She indicates that
Defendant Judge Payne's “bail was 100, 000.00 (or)
let me be released to [fiancé] (victim) and go back
home with victim.”
alleges, “We had another altercation a month or so
later and the police made him give a statement stating I
stabbed him with a 8 in blade no weapon found [Defendant
Judge] Burlew set bail at 15, 000.00 and pushed for me to be
indicted to the grand jury.” She claims that she cannot
afford bail as she is not employed “so why am I not
allowed a conditional release or unsecured bond until my
asserts that she also “went in front of [Defendant
Judge] Wethington and was given a 20, 000.00 bail and he was
the Commonwealth Attorney in 2006 on a murder case reguarding
my son's death and walked the suspect  on charges of
‘wreckless homicide' lessor charge. Conflict of
intrest in any proceeding.”
relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages, relief
for “pain and suffering, ” and an injunction
releasing her on an unsecured bond.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental
entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review
the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under §
1915A, the 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 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997),
overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549
U.S. 199 (2007).
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).
respect to Defendant Judge Burlew, Plaintiff sues him in only
his official capacity. “Official-capacity suits . . .
‘generally represent  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. New York City Dep't
of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). Because
Defendant Judge Burlew is an employee of the Commonwealth of
Kentucky, the claims brought against him in his official
capacity are deemed to be claims against the Commonwealth.
See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 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 damages from a state judge in his official
capacities, he fails to allege a cognizable claim under
§ 1983. Additionally, the Eleventh Amendment acts as a
bar to claims for monetary damages against Defendant Judge
Burlew in his official capacity. Kentucky v. Graham,
473 U.S. at 169; see also 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, the claims against
Defendant Judge Burlew will be dismissed.
Defendants Judges Payne and Wethington, Plaintiff sues them
in their individual capacities only. Absolute judicial
immunity bars those claims for damages. See Bush v.
Rauch, 38 F.3d 842, 847 (6th Cir. 1994) (“It is
well established that judges are entitled to absolute
judicial immunity from suits for money damages for all
actions taken in the judge's judicial capacity, unless
these actions are taken in the complete absence of any
jurisdiction.”) (citing Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9 (1991) (per curiam)). Plaintiff alleges that each
judge was involved in setting bail in criminal proceedings
against her and fails to allege that either judge ...