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Craig v. Lorraine

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

January 23, 2017




         This cause is before the Court, sua sponte, for consideration of dismissal. Plaintiff Henry Lee Craig, an inmate of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, brings this pro se Complaint seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief. Craig is proceeding in forma pauperis. See Order [10]. The named Defendants are: Jerome Lorraine, FBI Agent; Louie Miller, FBI Agent; and James B. Comey, FBI Director. The Court, having liberally construed Craig's Complaint [1] and Amended Complaint [7] in consideration with the applicable law, finds that this case should be dismissed.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         In 2011, Craig was convicted of murder in the Jackson County Circuit Court and sentenced to life imprisonment. Craig v. State, 110 So.3d 807, 808 (Miss. Ct. App. 2012). Craig's conviction arises from a shooting that occurred in May of 2009. Id. Agent Lorraine testified at Craig's trial regarding statements Craig made to him about the shooting and the victim. Id. at 809. According to Craig, Agents Lorraine and Miller conspired to conceal evidence of a crime from Director Comey. Compl. [1] at 4. Craig also claims that Lorraine and Miller conspired with the prosecutor's office “by concealing evidence of a crime of intimidation by federal agents.” Id. According to Craig, the “crime of intimidation” occurred on June 4, 2009, June 11, 2009, August 26, 2010, and May 10, 2011. Am. Compl. [7] at 3 (CM/ECF pagination).

         Craig brings this Complaint on forms available for prisoners seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and also states that he is filing his claims under Bivens[1] and §§ 1981, 1985, and 1986. Compl. [1] at 1, 4. Craig seeks “compensatory relief, punitive relief, ” attorney's fees, “injunctive relief” and “whatever relief this Court deems necessary and appropriate.” Id. at 4; Am. Compl. [7] at 4 (CM/ECF pagination).[2]

         II. Analysis

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (as amended), applies to prisoner proceedings in forma pauperis, and provides that “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . (B) the action or appeal -- (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Since Craig is proceeding in forma pauperis, his Complaint is subject to the case-screening procedures set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2). Having completed that screening, it is apparent that Craig's claims are barred by absolute witness immunity, the applicable statute of limitations, and by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

         A. Witness Immunity

         “Absolute immunity is immunity from suit rather than simply a defense against liability, and is a threshold question ‘to be resolved as early in the proceedings as possible.'” Hulsey v. Owens, 63 F.3d 654, 356 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 284 (5th Cir. 1994)). Witnesses in grand jury proceedings and criminal trials are entitled to absolute immunity against § 1983 suits. Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1506 (2012); see also Wafer v. Person, 70 F. App'x 194, 195 (5th Cir. 2003) (absolute immunity for witness testimony extends to Bivens actions). Insofar as Craig claims his rights were violated by Lorraine's testimony during his criminal proceedings, Craig's claims are barred by absolute immunity. Rehberg, 132 S.Ct. at 1506-07; see also Mowbray v. Cameron Cnty., Tex., 274 F.3d 269, 277-78 (5th Cir. 2001) (finding absolute witness immunity bars claims for conspiracy to commit perjury).

         B. Statute of Limitations

         “A district court ‘may raise the defense of limitations sua sponte . . . [and] [d]ismissal is appropriate if it is clear from the face of the complaint that the claims asserted are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.'” Stanley v. Foster, 464 F.3d 565, 568 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting Harris v. Hegmann, 198 F.3d 153, 156 (5th Cir. 1999)). Claims brought under § 1983 or Bivens are controlled by the applicable state statute of limitations. See Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 240 (1989) (§ 1983 claims); Brown v. Nationsbank Corp., 188 F.3d 579, 590 (5th Cir. 1999)(Bivens action); see also Mitchell v. Crescent River Port Pilots Ass'n, 265 F. App'x 363, 367, 367 n.3 (5th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted) (finding state's personal injury limitation period applies to claims under § 1981 and § 1985, but noting that § 1986 specifically includes a one-year statute of limitations). The applicable Mississippi statute of limitations period is three years. See Rankin v. United States, 556 F. App'x 305, 310 (5th Cir. 2014) (Bivens action); James v. Sadler, 909 F.2d 834, 836 (5th Cir. 1990) (§ 1983 claims); see also Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49 (1972), as amended.[3]

         While Mississippi law governs the applicable limitations period, federal law governs when a claim accrues. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007) (§ 1983 claims); Rankin v. United States, 556 F. App'x 305, 310 (5th Cir. 2014) (Bivens action). An action accrues when a plaintiff has “a complete and present cause of action.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 388. As noted by the Fifth Circuit:

Under federal law, the [limitations] period begins to run the moment the plaintiff becomes aware that he has suffered an injury or has sufficient information to know that he has been injured. A plaintiff's awareness encompasses two elements: (1) the existence of the injury; and (2) causation, that is, the connection between the injury and the defendant's actions. A plaintiff need not know that she has a legal cause of action; she need know only the facts that would ultimately support a claim. Actual knowledge is not required if the circumstances would lead a reasonable person to investigate further.

Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 576 (5th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Walker v. Epps, 550 F.3d 407, 414 ...

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