United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WERLEIN, JR., JUDGE
James Ray Johnson has filed this civil action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against the judge who presided over his criminal
case and the Harris County Sheriff, contending that he was
illegally incarcerated in the Harris County Jail without
probable cause. In his complaint, he requests leave to
proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 5)
. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court
concludes that Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed for
the reasons that follow.
alleges that on October 18, 2018, he was illegally
incarcerated due to a new charge that he violated a
protective order. See Docket Entry No. 1 at 4. He
alleges that he was held until April 2, 2019 before his bond
was lowered to $30, 000 from $200, 000. Id. He also
alleges that a GPS tracker was placed on his leg on April 11,
2019, but the court made a clerical error and failed to clear
the warrant for his arrest at that time, which resulted in
his arrest on April 25, 2019. Id. at 4-5.
alleges that he was held in Harris County Jail for 7 months
without probable cause pursuant to Judge Anastasio's
order. He claims that Sheriff Gonzalez is liable because he
is the keeper of the Jail and allowed him to be detained
without probable cause. For relief, Plaintiff seeks damages
for emotional distress and suffering for being detained
without probable cause.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)' B), the Court may scrutinize
the basis of the complaint by a party seeking to proceed
in forma pauperis and, if appropriate, dismiss the
case without service of process if the lawsuit is frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. See id. An action is
frivolous if it lacks any arguable basis in law or fact.
Neitzke v. Williams, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1831-32 (1989);
Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 213 (5th Cir. 1998).
A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on
an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the
complaint alleges violation of a legal interest which clearly
does not exist. Harris v. Hegmann, 198 F.3d 153, 156
(5th Cir. 1999).
claim against Judge Anastasio fails as a matter of law
because judges are entitled to absolute immunity from claims
arising out of acts performed in the exercise of their
judicial functions. See Pierson v. Rav, 87 S.Ct.
1213, 1217 (1967) ("Few doctrines were more solidly
established at common law than the immunity of judges from
liability for damages for acts committed within their
judicial jurisdiction."); Stump v. Sparkman, 98
S.Ct. 1099, 1105 (1978); Boyd v. Bicraers, 31 F.3d
279, 284 (5th Cir. 1995); see also Bauer v. Texas,
341 F.3d 352, 357 (5th Cir. 2003) ("Judges enjoy
absolute immunity from liability for judicial or adjudicatory
acts."). The doctrine of absolute judicial immunity
protects judges not only from liability, but also from suit.
Mireles v. Waco, 112 S.Ct. 286, 288 (1991).
Allegations of bad faith do not overcome judicial immunity,
id., and neither do allegations of procedural
errors.. See Mitchell v. McBryde, 944 F.2d 229, 230
(5th Cir. 1991). Judicial immunity is overcome only when the
complained-of acts were not taken in the judge's judicial
capacity, or when they were taken in the complete absence of
all jurisdiction. Mireles, 112 S.Ct. at 288, 289.
generally alleges that Judge Anastasio illegally detained him
without a finding of probable cause. There is no indication
that Judge Anastasio acted outside of her jurisdiction; all
of the allegations concern judicial acts taken in her
official capacity. Id. Accordingly, Judge Anastasio
is entitled to judicial immunity, and Plaintiff's claims
against her must be dismissed.
s claim against Sheriff Gonzalez also fails as a matter of
law. In this circuit, supervisory officials can be held
liable only if the plaintiff cemonstrates either one of the
following: (1) the supervisor's personal involvement in
the constitutional deprivation, or (2) a sufficient causal
connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and
the deprivation. See Thomokins v. Belt, 828 F.2d
298, 303-04 (5th Cir. 1987); see also Southard v. Texas
Bd. of Criminal Justice, 114 F.3d 539, 550 (5th Cir.
1997) ("[T]he misconduct of the subordinate must be
affirmatively linked to the action or inaction of the
supervisor."). Supervisory liability exists without
overt personal participation in an offensive act only if the
supervisory official implements a policy "so deficient
that the policy 'itself is a repudiation of
constitutional rights' and is 'the moving force of
the constitutional violation.'" Thompkins,
828 F.2d at 304 (quotations omitted); see also Porter v.
Epps, 659 F.3d 440, 446 (5th Cir. 2011) ("A
supervisory official may be held liable [under § 1983]
... if ... he implements unconstitutional policies that
causally result in the constitutional injury").
is no indication that Sheriff Gonzalez implemented an
unconstitutional policy or that he: had any personal
involvement in Plaintiff's alleged harm. See Monell
v. Pep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-93
(1978) (holding that supervisory officials cannot be held
vicariously liable for their subordinates' actions under
section 1983); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1949 (2009) ("'[S]upervisory liability' is
a misnomer. Absent vicarious liability, each Government
official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable
for his or her own misconduct.") (citation omitted);
Alton v. Texas A&M Univ., 168 F.3d 196, 200 (5th
Cir. 1999) ("Supervisory officers . . . cannot be held
liable under § 1983 for the actions of subordinates ...
on any theory of vicarious liability."). Plaintiff
alleges no facts to show that Sheriff Gonzalez had any
personal involvement in his case. See Murphy v.
Kellar, 950 F.2d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 1992) (holding that
a plaintiff bringing a section 1983 action must "specify
the personal involvement of each defendant").
Accordingly, Plaintiff's conclusory claims against
Sheriff Gonzalez must be dismissed for failure to state a
claim for which relief may be granted.