United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
DARRYL J. SMITH, Plaintiff,
WAYNE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, et al., Defendants.
ORDER SUMMARILY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DENYING
LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
L. LUDINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a pro se prisoner civil rights case under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. In 1985, Plaintiff was convicted by a jury in
Recorder's Court for the City of Detroit of first-degree
murder. (Complaint at 8). He was sentenced to life
imprisonment. (Id.). Plaintiff names three
defendants: The Honorable Leonard Townsend, The Honorable
Michael James Callahan, and Wayne County Circuit Court. He
alleges that defendant Judge Townsend violated a
state-created liberty interest by failing to comply with
state Administrative Order No. 1985-7, Sec. 3(d)(i)-(ii) and
Sec. 3(8) which he contends prohibits trial counsel from
being appointed as appellate counsel when the conviction
carries a possible life sentence. Compl. at 11. He also
alleges that all defendants violated a state-created liberty
interest by sentencing him to life in prison under an
unconstitutional state law, Mich. Comp. Laws §750.316.
Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief in the form of a new appeal
of right in state court and a declaration that his sentence
state a federal civil rights claim, a plaintiff must allege
(1) the deprivation of a right, privilege, or immunity
secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the United
States, and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting
under color of state law. Flagg Bros. v. Brooks, 436
U.S. 149, 155-57 (1978). A pro se civil rights
complaint is to be construed liberally. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint set
forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as well as
“a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), (3). The purpose of this rule is to “give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), quoting Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) and Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). While this notice pleading standard does not
require “detailed” factual allegations,
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, it does require more than
the bare assertion of legal conclusions or “an
accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
“Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further
factual enhancement.'” Id. at 677, quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557.
has been granted leave to proceed without prepayment of the
filing fee for this action due to his indigence. Under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the Court
is required to sua sponte dismiss an in forma
pauperis complaint before service on a defendant if it
determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Because the court finds the complaint
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the
complaint will be dismissed.
complaint fails to state a claim against Judges Townsend and
Callahan because they are immune from suit. Defendant Judges
Townsend and Callahan are both judicial officers. Judges are
absolutely immune from civil rights suits for money damages
when acting in a judicial capacity unless they act in the
clear absence of all jurisdiction. See Mireles v.
Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). Whether an action is
“judicial” depends on the “‘nature of
the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function
normally performed by a judge, '” and
“‘the expectations of the parties, i.e.,
whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial
capacity.'” Id. at 13, quoting Stump
v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978). A judge's
conduct or communication does not become non-judicial simply
because it is erroneous or “in excess of his
authority”; if that were the case, then “any
mistake of a judge in excess of his authority would become a
‘nonjudicial' act, because an improper or erroneous
act cannot be said to be normally performed by a
judge.” Id. at 12.
relief against a judicial officer is also foreclosed under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 “unless a declaratory decree was
violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.”
Kipen v. Lawson, 57 Fed. App'x 691 (6th Cir.
2003). The conduct challenged by Plaintiff was well within
the scope of defendant Judges Townsend's and
Callahan's judicial capacity, was not done in absence of
jurisdiction, and Plaintiff does not allege a violation of a
declaratory decree. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff is not entitled to declaratory relief because there
is no justiciable controversy between a judge acting as a
“disinterested judicial adjudicator” and a party
to the lawsuit. Accordingly, defendant Judges Townsend and
Callahan are immune from suit.
allegations against Wayne County Circuit Court fail to state
a claim because the Eleventh Amendment bars civil rights
actions against a state and its agencies and departments
unless the state has waived its immunity and consented to
suit or Congress has abrogated that immunity. 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, Abick v.
Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir.1986), and §
1983 does not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity. Quern
v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979). The Sixth Circuit
has held that “there can be no doubt that all of
Michigan's courts, including those trial-level courts
funded by local funding units, are part of one, unified
judicial branch of the state.” Pucci v. Nineteenth
Dist. Court, 628 F.3d 752, 763 (6th Cir.2010) (emphasis
omitted). Accordingly, the Wayne County Circuit Court is
immune from liability for cases filed under § 1983.
reasons set forth above, the Court concludes that
Plaintiff's complaint lacks an arguable basis in law and
fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted.
it is ORDERED that the complaint is
summarily DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1).
further ORDERED that an appeal from this
decision would be frivolous and could not be taken in good
faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Coppedge v. United
States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). For the ...