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Craig v. Taylor

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 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Craig is proceeding in forma pauperis. See Order [12]. The named Defendant is Calvin Taylor, Attorney-at-law. The Court, having liberally construed Craig's Complaint [1] and Amended Complaint [9] 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). Taylor represented Craig at his murder trial. Compl. [1] at 5 (CM/ECF pagination). Craig complains that Taylor violated his constitutional rights and civil rights. Specifically, Craig claims that Taylor conspired with state officials to conceal “the crime of intimidation by federal agents” during Craig's trial. Id.; Am. Compl. [9] at 3. (CM/ECF pagination).

         Craig brings this Complaint on forms available for prisoners suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and also states that he if filing his claims under §§1981, 1985, and 1986. Compl. [1] at 6 (CM/ECF pagination). Craig seeks “compensatory relief, punitive relief, injunctive relief, ” attorney's fees and “whatever this Court deems nec[]essary to grant Plaintiff relief.” Id. at 4; Am. Compl. [9] at 5 (CM/ECF pagination).[1]

         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 the applicable statute of limitations and by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

         A. 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)). Since there is no federal statute of limitations for civil rights actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal court must borrow the forum state's general personal injury limitations period. See Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 240 (1989); see also Mitchell v. Crescent River Port Pilots Ass'n, 265 F. App'x 363, 367, 367 n.3 (5th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted) (holding state's personal injury limitation period applies to claims under §§ 1981, 1983, 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 James v. Sadler, 909 F.2d 834, 836 (5th Cir. 1990) (holding Mississippi's three-year general personal injury limitations period applicable to § 1983 cases); see also Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49 (1972), as amended.

         While Mississippi law governs the applicable limitations period, “the accrual date of a § 1983 cause of action is a question of federal law that is not resolved by reference to state law.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007). As such, an action accrues when a plaintiff has “a complete and present cause of action.” Id. 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 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Piotrowski).

         Craig filed this lawsuit in October 2016. His claims are premised on the inadequacies of his criminal conviction, including Taylor's actions as his defense counsel at his 2011 trial. Craig specifically represents the date of May 11, 2011, for Taylor's purported conduct causing his injury. Compl. [1] at 5 (CM/ECF pagination); Am. Compl. [9] at 3 (same). Craig's claims accrued more than three years prior to Craig filing the present action in October 2016, and are therefore time-barred.

         B. Hec ...

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