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Ward v. State

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

February 27, 2019

RAY ANTHONY WARD, ID # 633106, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION

          IRMA CARRILLO RAMIREZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         By Special Order No. 3-251, this pro se prisoner case has been automatically referred for findings, conclusions, and recommendation. Based on the relevant filings and applicable law, the plaintiff's complaint should be DISMISSED with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 28, 2016, Ray Anthony Ward (Plaintiff) filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Texas and two former judges of the 194th Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas, in both their official and individual capacities. (See doc. 3 at 4, 6-7.)[1] He claims that one of the judges sentenced him to ten years probation in Cause No. F85-85691 in 1985 but was not qualified to do so because he did not take the required oath of office until 1987. (Id. at 4, 6-8.) Attached to the complaint are copies of the oaths signed by the judge in 1981, 1982, and 1987. (Id. at 13-15.) The other judge allegedly tried to cover up the first judge's mistake by falsifying an order modifying the conditions of probation in 1990 to show that he was the original judge who assessed probation. (Id. at 4, 8-9, 17.) In 1992, the second judge also sentenced Plaintiff to life in prison “off of that void or voidable probated judgment and sentence, ” after adding an enhancement paragraph. (Id. at 4, 8-9.) He seeks a declaration that his rights were violated under the United States Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and the laws of the United States and the State of Texas; an injunction ordering the removal of both judges; monetary damages; punitive damages; expungement of all charges from his record; and release from prison. (Id. at 9-10.) No. process has been issued in this case.

         I. PRELIMINARY SCREENING

         Plaintiff is an inmate who has been permitted to proceed in forma pauperis. As a prisoner, his complaint is subject to preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 579-80 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, his complaint is also subject to screening under § 1915(e)(2). Both § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) provide for sua sponte dismissal of the complaint, or any portion thereof, if the Court finds it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

         II. SECTION 1983

         Plaintiff sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

         Section 1983 “provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of a citizen's ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States” and “afford[s] redress for violations of federal statutes, as well as of constitutional norms.” Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994). To state a claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must allege facts that show (1) he has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation occurred under color of state law. See Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155 (1978); Cornish v. Corr. Servs. Corp., 402 F.3d 545, 549 (5th Cir. 2005).

         A. Habeas Relief

         Plaintiff seeks release from imprisonment. Release is an inappropriate remedy in a § 1983 action. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 554 (1974). A prisoner cannot challenge the fact or duration of confinement in a § 1983 action. Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487 (1973)). He may only do so within the exclusive scope of habeas corpus. See Preiser, 411 U.S. at 487. Because Plaintiff may only obtain declaratory or monetary relief in this § 1983 action, he fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted on any claim for release.

         B. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         An official capacity claim is merely another way of pleading an action against the entity of which the individual defendant is an agent. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). Plaintiff's suit against the state judges in their official capacities is a suit against the State of Texas. See Florance v. Buchmeyer,500 F.Supp.2d 618, ...


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