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Barnes v. Dempsey

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division

May 30, 2019

SHAUNTWAIN BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
ANGELA DEMPSEY, BRITTANY FOX, ASHLEY COYLE, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HOPE THAI CANNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court sua sponte. Plaintiff Shauntwain Barnes, a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has filed a first amended civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF Doc. 4. The undersigned has screened the first amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2) and respectfully recommends that this case be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for Plaintiff's failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, who is confined at the Leon County Detention Facility, filed a document without a title which the clerk construed as a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF Doc. 1. On April 24, 2019, the Court ordered Plaintiff to file on the proper Court forms a first amended complaint and an application to proceed in forma pauperis.[1] ECF Doc. 3. The Court also explained several deficiencies with Plaintiff's complaint and warned Plaintiff that he “must ensure that his amended complaint cures the substantive legal and technical deficiencies discussed herein” and that “failure to cure the deficiencies may result in a recommendation of dismissal without further opportunity to amend.” Id. For the reasons which follow, Plaintiff's first amended complaint (ECF Doc. 4) does not cure the deficiencies identified by the Court and should be dismissed.

         In the first amended complaint, Mr. Barnes names as defendants Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey, Assistant State Attorney Brittany Fox, Public Defender Ashley Coyle and Public Defender Andy Thomas. ECF Doc 4 at 1.[2] Plaintiff raises the following claims: First, he claims that his former attorney, public defender Coyle, failed to adequately represent him by failing to file a motion to disqualify the state attorney and the judge from participation in a violation of probation hearing because Mr. Barnes had a civil suit then pending against them. Id. at 6. He also claims he contacted her supervisor, Defendant Thomas, to complain that Defendant Coyle had not filed the motion. Id. at 9. Defendant Thomas allegedly promised to have Defendant Coyle file the motion, but no motion was filed. Id. Plaintiff contends this violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment and seeks $100, 000 from Defendant Coyle and her “employer, ” Defendant Thomas, in their individual capacities. Id. at 6-7 and 10.

         He further contends the state attorney, Defendant Fox, presented “little to no evidence” during the violation of probation hearing and that such evidence was “frivolous” and led to a “malicious conviction.” Id. at 7. He also alleges there was “a conflict of interest amongst the plaintiff Shauntwain Barnes and Defendant Brittany Fox deriving from a previous suit…causing the Plaintiff … to suffer from vindictive and retaliations render [sic] by the opposing Defendant assistant state attorney … and circuit judge Angela Dempsey.” Id. at 7-8. He contends Defendant Fox thus violated his due process rights and right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, “causing Plaintiff Shauntwain Barnes to be found guilty.” Id. at 8. He does not appear to seek monetary damages from Defendant Fox. Instead, he seeks only injunctive relief “or whatever relief I am entitled to.” Id. at p. 11.

         Finally, he alleges that, despite introduction of mental health testimony that he should be sentenced to eighteen months of in-patient mental health treatment, he was “vindictively sentenced” by Judge Dempsey to five (5) years in prison followed by three (3) years of mental health probation. Id. at 9. This combined sentence, he alleges, is outside the 34.5 months he scored at sentencing and deprives him of “adequate mental health treatment [and] medications the Plaintiff needs to function on a daily basis.” Id. He contends this violated the Eighth Amendment. Id. As with his claims against Defendant Fox, Plaintiff does not appear to seek monetary damages from Defendant Dempsey. Instead, he seeks only injunctive relief “or whatever relief I am entitled to.” Id. at p. 11.

         II. Legal Analysis

         A. 28 U.S.C. 1915 Prescreening Standard

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner, the Court is required to review his complaint, identify cognizable claims and dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, 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. § 1915A(a)-(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (applying the same standard to in forma pauperis proceedings). Dismissals for failure to state a claim are governed by the same standard as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1485 (11th Cir. 1997). The Court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true and evaluates all reasonable inferences derived from those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hunnings v. Texaco, Inc., 29 F.3d 1480, 1483 (11th Cir. 1994). To survive dismissal, “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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Franklin v. Curry, 738 F.3d 1246, 1251 (11th Cir. 2013) (holding that courts must follow the Supreme Court's “‘two-pronged approach' of first separating out the complaint's conclusory legal allegations and then determining whether the remaining well-pleaded factual allegations, accepted as true, ‘plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679)).

         B. Plaintiff's sole remedy for challenging his conviction or sentence is a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         When a state prisoner like Plaintiff “is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Griffin v. Levenson, 400 Fed.Appx. 476, 477 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973)). Here, to the extent Plaintiff is challenging the conviction for violation of probation directly, such a claim cannot be brought in a § 1983 action and must be brought via 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Vickers v. Donahue, 137 Fed.Appx. 285, 290 (11th Cir. 2005) (claim that state court erred in holding that Plaintiff had violated his community control for two violations of conditions could only be brought via a habeas petition, not § 1983).

         Moreover, “[w]hen 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.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). Here, Plaintiff's § 1983 challenges the validity of his conviction and sentence because a finding in favor of Plaintiff would essentially invalidate his sentence. Therefore, a § 1983 claim is the incorrect vehicle for this case. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 481, 487.

         Similarly, to the extent Plaintiff's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel by Defendants Coyle and Thomas are intended to support an attack on his conviction and sentence, such claims must also be ...


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