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Horton v. Simer

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

September 12, 2017




         This is a civil rights case filed by the Plaintiff, Richard Patrick Horton, under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP"). He is currently incarcerated in the Benton County Detention Center ("BCDC"). The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") modified the IFP statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, to require the Court to screen complaints for dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (a) are frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or, (c) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations of the Complaint (Doc. 1), on January 16, 2017, the Plaintiff bonded out of the BCDC. He was arrested on January 18, 2017, in Benton County, on failure to appear charges arising out of Pulaski County, and was transported there. On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that he was in the process of bonding out, with his bondsman actually at the Pulaski County Jail, when Defendant Simer, a Benton County Deputy, arrived to transport him back to the BCDC on a "pick up" order. Plaintiff alleges he asked the officers if they were refusing to allow him to bond out. In response, Plaintiff states he was told by both Defendant Simer and the Pulaski County transport deputy, that he could not bond out and had to be transported to the BCDC.

         When they arrived at the BCDC, Plaintiff alleges he immediately confronted Defendant Cogdill asking why he had been transported there, under whose authority, and what probable cause existed. Defendant Cogdill replied that a pick up order had been issued by Judge Green. Since he was technically free on bond on his Benton County charges, Plaintiff alleges he asked Defendant Cogdill who had initiated the pick up order. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Cogdill implied that the Benton County Sheriffs Office had initiated it since Plaintiff had "trouble showing up to court." When Plaintiff asked about being released since his bond had been paid in Pulaski County, Plaintiff states he was told that he had to remain in jail until his court appearance on February 9, 2017.

         When Plaintiff returned from court on February 9, 2017, he asked Defendant Guenther if he was going to be transported back to Pulaski County. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Guenther advised him that he was being held on an Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC") hold. Plaintiff alleges he told Defendant Guenther that it was not possible because he was not on probation or parole and had not been in the ADC since 1992.

         On February 10, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a grievance regarding having been picked up from Pulaski County. Defendant Holt responded saying the prosecuting attorney's office had received a pick up order signed by a judge. That same day, Plaintiff submitted a request to the transport division asking if he was going to be taken back to Pulaski County. Defendant Johnston responded that Plaintiff would go back as soon as possible, but not that weekend. (Doc. 9, p 1).

         Plaintiff submitted another request to the transport division on February 10, 2017, stating that he had been told he was being held on an ADC hold but had not been in the ADC since 1992. Id. Defendant Johnston replied that the ADC hold was in error and had been corrected. Id. Plaintiff then alleges that the Defendants allowed him to remain incarcerated from February 7, 2017, until February 14, 2017. Plaintiff maintains their actions deprived him of his freedom. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.


         Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen a case prior to service of process being issued. A claim is frivolous when it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not allege "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). The Court bears in mind, however, that when "evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold 'a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, ... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)).

         The claims against the transport deputies, Defendant Simer and the John Doe Transport Deputy (Pulaski County), are subject to dismissal. The deputies believed their actions were based on a pick up order entered by Judge Green.

         In Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137 (1979), the Supreme Court stated:

The Fourteenth Amendment does not protect against all deprivations of liberty. It protects only against deprivations of liberty accomplished "without due process of law." A reasonable division of functions between law enforcement officers, committing magistrates, and judicial officers-all of whom may be potential defendants in a § 1983 action-is entirely consistent with "due process of law."

Id. at 145-46. Unless an officer has reason to question the validity of a court order, he may take action in reliance on it. Rogers v. Bruntrager,841 F.2d 853, 856 (8th Cir. 1988) (officials are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for "acts they are specifically required to do under court order or at a judge's discretion"); Henry v. Farmer City State Bank,808 F.2d 1228, 1238-39 (7th Cir. 1986) (non-judicial officials have absolute immunity in executing a facially valid court order); cf., Malley v. Briggs,475 U.S. 335 (1986) (officer cannot rely on a search warrant to shield himself from liability if he knows the warrant is invalid). Plaintiff makes no allegation ...

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