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Williams v. Stowe

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

October 28, 2016

PAUL WILLIAMS a/k/a PAUL WILLIAMS EL, Plaintiff,
v.
MATTHEW F. STOWE, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS, CERTIFYING AN APPEAL WOULD NOT BE TAKEN IN GOOD FAITH AND DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Paul Williams a/k/a Paul Williams El, a resident of Huntingdon, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on July 27, 2015 (ECF No. 1) and paid the civil filing fee (ECF No. 3). Plaintiff sued Matthew F. Stowe, the District Attorney General for the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District of Tennessee; Assistant District Attorney Adam Jowers; Tennessee State Trooper Mark Jackson; Circuit Court Judge C. Creed McGinley; and Carroll County Sheriff Andy Dickson.

         Defendant Jackson filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on May 10, 2016 (ECF No. 12), and Plaintiff filed a response on May 20, 2016 (ECF No. 19). Defendants Jowers, McGinley and Stowe filed a similar motion to dismiss on May 11, 2016 (ECF No. 15), to which Plaintiff also filed a response on May 20, 2016 (ECF No. 18). On September 28, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward G. Bryant issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) in which he recommended granting the motions to dismiss filed on behalf of Jackson, Stowe, McGinley and Jowers. (ECF No. 36.) Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R on October 6, 2016. (ECF No. 41.)

         The claims in this case arise out of Plaintiff's three prior convictions in Carroll County Criminal Court that were prosecuted by Defendant Jowers and over which Defendant McGinley presided. The first was a 2009 conviction (case #09CR162, ECF No. 5-1 at 4) for driving on a suspended license, violation of the passenger restraint law and violation of the motor vehicle registration law. See State v. Williams, No. W2009-02179-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 2539699 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 23, 2010), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Nov. 12, 2010). Plaintiff's second conviction was a 2010 conviction (case #10CR33, ECF No. 5-1 at 5) for driving on a cancelled, suspended or revoked license, second offense. See State v. Williams, No. W2010-00598-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 1457741 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 15, 2011), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Aug. 24, 2011) (“Williams II”). Following Plaintiff's arrest by Defendant Jackson on May 13, 2013, Plaintiff was convicted in 2014 (case #13CR158, ECF No. 5-1 at 6-7) for driving on a cancelled, suspended or revoked license with a prior offense and violation of the registration law. See State v. Williams, No. W2014-00231-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 1593725 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 7, 2015), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. July 29, 2015) (Williams III).[1]

         Plaintiff now asserts claims for false arrest and imprisonment and malicious prosecution, contending that his convictions and the sentences imposed violated his constitutional rights. He further alleges that the convictions were based on the driving record of a different Paul Williams. In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Bryant determined that most of Plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the complaint fails to state a claim; therefore, he recommends granting the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Jackson, Stowe, McGinley and Jowers.

         The Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff has no valid claims against Defendant Stowe, and Plaintiff has conceded in his objections that he failed to state a claim against this Defendant. (See ECF No. 41 at 2.)

         With regard to the claims against Defendant Jackson for false arrest and false imprisonment, the arrest in question occurred on May 13, 2013. Plaintiff's complaint in this case was filed on July 27, 2015; therefore, Magistrate Judge Bryant determined that the claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee Code Annotated § 28-3-104(a)(1)(B) (formerly subdivision (a)(3)). Plaintiff objects that the statute did not begin to run until his appeals in the prosecution arising out of that arrest were final and he had fully served his time, on March 29, 2016. (ECF No. 41 at 4.)

         Plaintiff's objection is without merit. A claim for false arrest or imprisonment accrues at the time of arrest or, at the latest, when detention without legal process ends. In Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 391-92, 397 (2007), the Supreme Court explained:

Reflective of the fact that false imprisonment consists of detention without legal process, a false imprisonment ends once the victim becomes held pursuant to such process - when, for example, he is bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges. . . . Thereafter, unlawful detention forms part of the damages for the “entirely distinct” tort of malicious prosecution, which remedies detention accompanied, not by absence of legal process, but by wrongful institution of legal process. . . . “If there is a false arrest claim, damages for that claim cover the time of detention up until issuance of process or arraignment, but not more. From that point on, any damages recoverable must be based on a malicious prosecution claim and on the wrongful use of judicial process rather than detention itself.” . . . Thus, petitioner's contention that his false imprisonment ended upon his release from custody, after the State dropped the charges against him, must be rejected. It ended much earlier, when legal process was instituted against him, and the statute [of limitations] would have begun to run from that date.

Id. at 389-90 (emphasis in original; footnote and citations omitted).[2] The Sixth Circuit has held that a Fourth Amendment claim based on an allegedly unlawful arrest accrues at the time of arrest. Fox v. DeSoto, 489 F.3d 227, 233, 235 (6th Cir. 2007). In this case, the complaint alleges that an indictment was issued the same day as the arrest, May 13, 2013. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Therefore, Plaintiff was held pursuant to legal process at that time, and the statute of limitations ran from that date. Any claims for false arrest and false imprisonment against Defendant Jackson are time barred.

         Magistrate Judge Bryant further determined that Plaintiff's official capacity claims against Defendants McGinley and Jowers are barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity.[3] While Plaintiff argues that the Eleventh Amendment does not apply to bar his claims against McGinley in this case, that argument is not well taken. The Magistrate Judge's recommendation to dismiss all of Plaintiff's official capacity claims is sound.

         With regard to the individual capacity claims against Defendants McGinley and Jowers, the Magistrate Judge found that the claims are barred by judicial and prosecutorial immunity, respectively. Plaintiff argues that the Defendants are not immune because the charges against him were unfounded and were not supported by any evidence. However, such allegations are insufficient to defeat either judicial or prosecutorial immunity.

         Plaintiff also has no claim against any Defendant for malicious prosecution, as one of the elements of such a claim is that the criminal prosecution must have been terminated in his favor. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 484 (1994) (“One element that must be alleged and proved in a malicious prosecution action is termination of the prior criminal proceeding in favor of the accused.”). Here, Plaintiff appealed each of his convictions, but the appeals were unsuccessful and Plaintiff apparently has now completely served his sentences. Therefore, the favorable termination requirement has not been satisfied.

         Furthermore, any claims for money damages stemming from Plaintiff's allegedly unlawful convictions are barred by the holding in ...


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