United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
SHARION AYCOCK U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner
complaint of Anthony Strong, who challenges the conditions of
his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the purposes
of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court notes that the
plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this suit. The
plaintiff has brought the instant case under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, which provides a federal cause of action against
“[e]very person” who under color of state
authority causes the “deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff has made a
variety of allegations:
(1) various defendants defamed him based upon sworn in-court
statements by law enforcement officers during his
change-of-plea and sentencing hearings;
(2) AT F agents used psychologic pressure when interviewing
witnesses to elicit statements favorable to the prosecution;
(3) Agents violated the Miranda rights of Talisaha
Johnson when questioning her;
(4) Agents threatened to have a state agency take Ms.
Johnson's children if she did not cooperate;
(5) Agents lied during Mr. Strong's detention hearing to
ensure that he remained in detention without bond;
(6) The government “misuse[d] the media” by
allowing reporters to be present during the testimony at
hearings in the case - and later publish news stories about
(7) The government violated Mr. Strong's rights by
waiting until an important witness in the case was
incarcerated to elicit a statement from him.
reasons set forth below, none of these allegations state a
valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and this case will
be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted.
- State Law Claim
Strong alleges that he suffered emotional distress and
defamation of character as a result of the defendants'
actions. “Section 1983 imposes liability for violations
of rights protected by the Constitution, not for violations
of duties of care arising out of tort law.” Baker
v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 146 (1979). Injury to
reputation by false and defamatory statements is not a right
protected by due process; as such, it is not cognizable under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693,
712, 96 S.Ct. 1155, 1166, 47 L.Ed.2d 405 (1976). The
plaintiff does not have a constitutional right to be free
from defamation and emotional distress; as such, his claims
for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must be dismissed.
Kerr v. Lyford, 171 F.3d 330, 339 (5th
Cir.2003), abrogated on other grounds by Castellano v.
Fragozo, 352 F.3d 939, 948-49 (5th Cir.2003)
(citing Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 712, 96 S.Ct.
1155, 47 L.Ed.2d 405 (1976)). Shinn v. College Station
Indep. Sch. Dist., 96 F.3d 783, 786 (5th
Cir.1996) (per curiam) (there is no freestanding
constitutional right to be free from emotional distress);
see also Geiger v. Jowers, 404 F.3d 371
(5th Cir. 2005), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) (a
pro se prisoner plaintiff in a case filed under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 must allege more than de minimis
physical injury to state a claim for psychological or
emotional damages). In addition, witnesses testifying under
oath enjoy absolute immunity from civil suit based upon their
testimony, Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325 (1983),
and the news story upon which Mr. Strong bases his defamation
claim merely recounts the testimony of the agents at the
public hearing. For all of these reasons, Mr. Strong's
claim for defamation will be dismissed for failure to state a
claim upon which relief could be granted.
Mr. Strong's allegations in this case raise habeas
corpus claims, which are generally barred in proceedings
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), the
Supreme Court clarified the relationship between actions
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and habeas corpus
proceedings. Under Heck, a § 1983 damage claim
that calls into question the lawfulness of conviction or
confinement or otherwise demonstrates ...