United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
PERCY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
August 7, 2018, plaintiff David Lee Sanders, an inmate
confined at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility,
appeared before the Court for a hearing pursuant to
Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985), to
determine whether there exists a justiciable basis for his
claim filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A plaintiff's
claim will be dismissed if “it lacks an arguable basis
in law or fact, such as when a prisoner alleges the violation
of a legal interest that does not exist.” Martin v.
Scott, 156 F.3d 578 (5th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted).
The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this case because
the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this lawsuit.
Sanders having consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the undersigned has
the authority to enter this order and the accompanying final
claims that he was being held on misdemeanor charges at the
Itawamba County Jail on December 18, 2012, when he was
assaulted by Jailer Greg Wilmon, who found tobacco on
Sanders' person and charged him with possession of
contraband in a detention facility. Sanders states that
Wilmon, along with Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickerson
and Jail Administrator Vicky Russell, regularly allowed the
inmates to smoke tobacco, and that he was charged with having
contraband just to “cover-up” Wilmon's
January 23, 2013, Sanders pleaded guilty to the Itawamba
County contraband offense and was given a fifteen-year
sentence, to run consecutively to a Monroe County grand
larceny charge for which he was given a ten-year suspended
sentence. See, e.g., Doc. #1 at 15-19 in Sanders
v. Itawamba County, Cause No. 1:16cv142 (N.D. Miss.).
The trial court credited Sanders with time served and
suspended the remainder of the contraband sentence contingent
upon his compliance with post-release supervision
requirements. Id. at 15. In November 2013, however,
Sanders was arrested and charged with burglary of a dwelling
and grand larceny in Itawamba County, and his post-release
supervision for the contraband offense was revoked. See,
e.g., id. at 24 & 30. During his Spears
hearing, Sanders confirmed that his post-release supervision
for the Monroe County grand larceny offense was also revoked
on the same day. By order entered on December 18, 2013,
Sanders was ordered to serve a five-year sentence, with the
sentence to run consecutively to his previously-suspended
Monroe County sentence. See Doc. #23-4 in
Sanders v. Itawamba County, Cause No. 1:16cv142
(N.D. Miss.). In 2014, Sanders was also convicted of burglary
and grand larceny offenses in Chickasaw County and is under a
sentence of imprisonment for those offenses. See
https://www.ms.gov/mdoc/inmate (search by “Last
Name” and “First Name”) (last visited
August 9, 2018).
later sought federal habeas relief and State post-conviction
relief, arguing that he was charged with a non-existent
felony for possessing tobacco. The State court agreed, and by
order entered May 17, 2018, Sanders' conviction and
sentence for possession of contraband in a detention facility
was set aside.
Sanders filed the instant § 1983 action, alleging that
jail personnel, the attorneys, and the judge all knew the
relevant law and ignored it to secure his wrongful conviction
for a non-existent felony. He asks the Court to award him
monetary damages for the Defendants' actions.
Court Judge James L. Roberts is entitled to be dismissed from
this action, as he has absolute judicial immunity from suit
for actions taken in a judicial capacity. See, e.g.,
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 351-64 (1978).
Accepting a plea and sentencing a defendant are functions
normally performed by judges, and therefore, Roberts is
immune from suit. See Forrester v. White, 484 U.S.
519, 227 (1988) (noting “immunity is justified and
defined by the functions it protects and serves, not
by the person to whom it attaches”) (emphasis in
Sanders cannot maintain suit against the prosecutors in this
action, as “a state prosecuting attorney who act[s]
within the scope of h[er] duties in initiating and pursuing a
criminal prosecution” is not amenable to suit under
§ 1983. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 410
(1976); Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 285 (5th Cir.
1994) (prosecutor immune from action alleging knowing use of
perjured testimony, malicious prosecution, and conspiring
with judge). Because prosecutors have absolute immunity for
activities connected with judicial proceedings, Defendants
Nebora Porter and Jerrolyn Owens must be dismissed from this
action. See, e.g., Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431
(providing protection for prosecutor's conduct “in
initiating a prosecution”).
the Court finds that Sanders cannot assert a claim for
damages against the Mississippi Department of Corrections
(“MDOC”) or the State itself, as each is entitled
to sovereign immunity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment of
the Constitution. U.S. Const.
XI; Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Service Ctr., 307 F.3d
318, 326 (5th Cir. 2002); Williams v. Miss. Dep't of
Corr., No. 3: 12cv259-CWR-FKB, 2012 WL 2052101 at *1 (S.
D. Miss. June 6, 2012) (noting MDOC is entitled to immunity
as arm of the State); see also Miss. Code Ann.
§ 47-5-1, et seq. Therefore, MDOC and the State
are entitled to be dismissed from this suit.
“State actor” requirement
Court finds that Sanders' public defender, Christopher
Bauer, is not amenable to suit, as relief under § 1983
is only available to vindicate a plaintiff's federal
rights against a defendant acting under color of state law.
42 U.S.C. § 1983. “[A] lawyer representing a
client is not, by virtue of being an officer of the court, a
state actor ‘under color of state law' within the
meaning of § ...