United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
D. MERRYDAY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
complaint alleges that the State Attorney's Office for
the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida violated his civil
rights during a state post-conviction proceeding under state
Rule 3.850. Williams has neither moved for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis nor paid the required filing fee.
Nevertheless, whether he proceeds in forma pauperis
or he pays the filing fee, the district court must dismiss an
action if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or (2)
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (if proceeding
in forma paupeis) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (if the
filing fee is paid). Although the complaint is entitled to a
generous interpretation, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519 (1972) (per curiam), this pro se
complaint lacks merit under this standard.
discloses that he is a state prisoner in the custody of the
Florida Department of Corrections (“DOC”). The
DOC's website discloses that Williams is imprisoned for
life under a 1994 judgment for robbery with a gun or deadly
weapon. Williams specifically entitles his paper a
“Complaint Civil Action” and avoids seeking
relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Nevertheless, a federal
court has an “obligation to look behind the label of a
[pleading] filed by a pro se inmate and determine
whether [it] is, in effect, cognizable under a different
remedial statutory framework.” Gooden v. United
States, 627 F.3d 846, 847 (11th Cir. 2010) (quotation
marks and citation omitted).
v. Riley, 468 F.3d 750, 754 (11th Cir.), cert.
denied, 549 U.S. 990 (2006) (quoting Hill v.
McDonough, 547 U.S. 573, 579 (2006)), explains the
differences between a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and a habeas action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254:
The line of demarcation between a § 1983 civil rights
action and a § 2254 habeas claim is based on the effect
of the claim on the inmate's conviction and/or sentence.
When an inmate challenges the “circumstances of his
confinement” but not the validity of his conviction
and/or sentence, then the claim is properly raised in a civil
rights action under § 1983. However, when an inmate
raises any challenge to the “lawfulness of confinement
or [the] particulars affecting its duration, ” his
claim falls solely within “the province of habeas
corpus” under § 2254. Simply put, if the relief
sought by the inmate would either invalidate his conviction
or sentence or change the nature or duration of his sentence,
the inmate's claim must be raised in a § 2254 habeas
petition, not a § 1983 civil rights action.
contends that his right to due process was violated because
he was allegedly not afforded a fair hearing in the
post-conviction proceeding. Williams gains no benefit by
liberally construing the civil rights complaint to allege
that he was denied his constitutional rights during the state
proceeding because the claim would challenge the validity of
the criminal conviction. Under Preiser v. Rodriquez,
411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973), if a state prisoner challenges the
fact or duration of confinement, a writ of habeas corpus is
the exclusive federal remedy. Additionally, Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), precludes
Williams from challenging the validity of either the
conviction or the sentence (including a fine or penalty) by a
civil rights action instead of an application for the writ of
We hold that, in order to recover damages for [an] allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other
harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a
conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must
prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for
damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence
that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable
under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages
in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider
whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless
the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence
has already been invalidated.
requires dismissal of a civil rights complaint if a ruling in
the plaintiff's favor questions the validity of the
conviction or sentence. Williams has no Section 1983 claim
unless he prevails on habeas corpus. “[A] § 1983
cause of action for damages attributable to an
unconstitutional conviction or sentence does not accrue until
the conviction or sentence has been invalidated.”
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. at 489-90.
Williams fails to state a claim for relief that he can pursue
in a civil rights action because the complaint fails to
allege that the conviction was “reversed on direct
appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a
state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus . . . .” Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. at 487.
only named defendant in the complaint is “Asst. State
Attorney of record for the Sixth Judicial Circuit
Court.” (Doc. 1 at 2) The only factual allegations
involve the conduct of a Rule 3.850 motion for
post-conviction proceeding, which motion was denied without
an evidentiary hearing. Williams contends that the denial of
his post-conviction motion, which he represents was based on
newly discovered evidence that showed his actual innocence,
deprived him of “life or liberty [without] due process
of law.” (Doc. 1 at 3) Williams further contends that
the prosecutor and the judge conspired to deny his requested
not named as a defendant, Williams complains that the state
court judge mishandled the post-conviction proceeding. A
state court judge is entitled to absolute immunity from suit
in a civil rights action for an act that is within the scope
of judicial authority. Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S.
(13 Wall.) 355 (1871); Supreme Court of Virginia v.
Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., 446 U.S. 719 (1980);
Jones v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1281-82 (11th Cir.
1999). “Like other forms of official immunity, judicial
immunity is an immunity from suit, not just from ultimate
assessment of damages.” Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9, 10 (1991). Judicial immunity is not defeated by an
allegation of bad faith or malice. Pierson v. Ray,
386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967). Also, judicial immunity is not
defeated because an action is filed under Section 1983.
Consumers Union, 446 U.S. 734-35. As a consequence,
Williams cannot pursue a claim for damages against the state
allegations show that the state attorney acted in the
capacity of a prosecutor. Prosecutorial immunity
precludesWilliams's recovering compensatory damages.
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976)
(“[I]n initiating a prosecution and in presenting the
State's case, the prosecutor is immune from a civil suit
for damages under § 1983.”); Jones v.
Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1281 (11th Cir. 1999)
(“[A]bsolute immunity extends to a prosecutor's
<acts undertaken . . . in preparing for the initiation of
judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the
course of his role as an advocate for the State . . .
.'”) (quoting Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509
U.S. 259, 273 (1993)). See also Hart v. Hodges, 587
F.3d 1288, ...