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Walker v. Wayne County Prosecutor's Office

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 15, 2015

REGINALD WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
WAYNE COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR NANCY WESTVELD, WORTHY, ATTORNEY WILLIAM WINTERS III, DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER RAPHAEL CLEMENTS, OFFICER DANIEL VICKERS, ANTHONY LYONS, OFFICER STANLEY KROPIK, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER SUMMARILY DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT

LINDA V. PARKER, District Judge.

On May 18, 2015, Plaintiff Reginald Walker ("Plaintiff") filed a pro se civil rights complaint against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's Complaint must be summarily dismissed. The Court also concludes that an appeal from this decision cannot be taken in good faith.

Plaintiff's Complaint

On April 11, 2000, City of Detroit police officers arrested Plaintiff in connection with a murder investigation. Plaintiff claims that the officers who are named as Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him without a warrant at the home of Barbara Jones, where he was staying as an overnight guest. Plaintiff was charged with the murder of Larry John Troup.

On March 1, 2001, Plaintiff was convicted of first-degree murder and felony-firearm following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Wayne County, Michigan. Defendant Kym L. Worthy was the judge who presided over Plaintiff's trial. Plaintiff claims that Wayne County prosecutors, including Defendant Assistant Prosecutor Nancy Westveld, presented perjured testimony at the preliminary examination to obtain a bind over and later at trial to obtain Plaintiff's conviction. Plaintiff further claims that the prosecutors suppressed exculpatory evidence. Plaintiff asserts that his attorney, Defendant William L. Winters, III, was ineffective for failing to present an insanity defense.

Plaintiff's conviction was affirmed by the state appellate courts. See People v. Walker, No. 249406, 2005 WL 657727 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2005), appeal denied, 703 N.W.2d 815 (2005). He sought federal habeas relief, which was denied by the district court. See Walker v. McQuiggin, No. 06-15686, 2010 WL 200813 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 14, 2010). However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court and granted the writ of habeas corpus, finding that trial counsel had been ineffective for failing to investigate and present an insanity defense. Walker v. Hoffner, 534 F.Appx. 406, 407 (6th Cir. 2013); cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 1025 (2014).

In lieu of opting for a retrial, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and felony-firearm. Plaintiff was sentenced to terms of imprisonment of fifteen to thirty years on the murder conviction and two years on the felony-firearm conviction.[1]

Standard of Review

In this action, Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee under 28 § U.S.C. 1915(a). (ECF No. 6.) Pursuant to § 1915, the Court is required to dismiss any action brought by a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Moreover, the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires the Court to initially screen any complaint filed by a prisoner regardless of any filing fee paid, and to sua sponte dismiss any complaint the Court determines is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or that seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

The Court must read a pro se complaint liberally, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept the plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). All complaints, however, must plead facts sufficient to show that a legal wrong has been committed from which the plaintiff may be granted relief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations, " however, a plaintiff's obligation to provide grounds entitling him to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).

Analysis

Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to dismissal under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A for several reasons.

First, the Eleventh Amendment bars civil rights actions against a state and its agencies and departments unless the state waived its immunity and consented to suit, or Congress has abrogated that immunity. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). The State of Michigan has not consented to be sued for civil rights actions in federal court, see Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986), nor did Congress abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity when it enacted § 1983. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979). The Michigan Supreme Court and its lower courts operate as arms of the state, and thus enjoy the same sovereign immunity as the State of Michigan. See Pucci v. Nineteenth Dist. Ct., 628 F.3d 752, 762-64 (6th Cir. 2010). Eleventh Amendment immunity likewise applies to state employees sued in their official capacities. See Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 289 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Cady v. Arenac Co., 574 F.3d 334, 344 (6th Cir. 2009)).

Next, absolute judicial immunity and § 1983 shield Defendant Worthy from Plaintiff's claims. The United States Supreme Court has held that judges are absolutely immune from damages suits arising from "acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction." Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-54 (1967). This is because the principle of independent judicial decision-making "is so important to our system of jurisprudence that judicial immunity even extends to allegations of judicial acts done incorrectly, maliciously or corruptly." King v. Caruso, 542 F.Supp.2d 703, 728 (E.D. Mich. 2008) (citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978)). Judges are "absolutely immune from liability for [their] judicial acts even if [their] exercise of authority is flawed by the commission of grave procedural errors." Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978). There are only two instances where judicial immunity will not apply: (1) the judge acts in a nonjudicial capacity; or (2) the judge acts in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). A judge acts in the complete absence of all jurisdiction only if a matter ...


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