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Smith v. Miller

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

April 2, 2018

ROY LEE SMITH PLAINTIFF
v.
BRIAN S. MILLER, United States District Judge; PATRICIA HARRIS, United States Magistrate Judge DEFENDANTS

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge Susan Webber Wright. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the entry of this Recommendation. The failure to timely file objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff, Roy Lee Smith (“Smith”), is a prisoner in the Arkansas Department of Correction. He has filed this pro se Petition for Declaratory relief requesting a declaration that United States District Judge Brian S. Miller and United States Magistrate Judge Patricia Harris violated his rights to due process by denying him federal habeas relief in Smith v. Kelley, Eastern District of Arkansas No. 5:15- CV-00234 (“Smith v. Kelley”).[1] Doc. 1. More specifically, Smith alleges that Defendants erred in applying Stone v. Powell[2] “to systematically refuse to consider” his Fourth Amendment claim on federal habeas review, and he requests that this Court declare that the rejection of his first federal habeas claim was unlawful.[3]

         Pursuant to the screening function mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court recommends that the case be dismissed, with prejudice.[4]

         II. Discussion

         A. Absolute Immunity

         First, judges are entitled to absolute immunity from lawsuits arising from their judicial functions. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978). Smith's claims against Defendants arise from their judicial functions. Thus, those claims must be dismissed, with prejudice, because Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity. However, a dismissal based on absolute immunity is not a strike, as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Castillo-Alvarez v. Krukow, 768 F.3d 1219, 1220 (8th Cir. 2014).

         B. Failure to State a Claim

         Second, this case must also be dismissed because Smith has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Rather than seeking permission to attack his state conviction directly, through a successive habeas, Smith invokes the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, (“DJA”), and seeks to accomplish indirectly what he is prohibited from doing directly - having another federal district court take another look at the merits of the § 2254 claim he raised and lost in Smith v. Kelley.[5]

         Under well-established law, Smith has failed to state a cognizable DJA claim. Gajewski v. United States, 368 F.2d 533, 534 (8th Cir. 1966) (“we are unaware of any authority which would permit the federal declaratory judgment statute, 28 U.S.C.A § 2201 ... to be used as a post-conviction remedy”), cert. denied, 386 U.S. 913 (1967); Waldon v. State of Iowa, 323 F.2d 852, 853 (8th Cir. 1963) (providing a “state prisoner is not entitled to seek a declaratory determination from the federal courts under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2201 as to the validity of the judgment on which he is confined” in order to circumvent the exhaustion requirement of § 2254); Sumpter v. Johnson, No. 4:01-CV-157-E, 2001 WL 406229, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Apr.18, 2001) (finding declaratory judgment act cannot be used as a substitute for habeas corpus).

         III. Conclusion

         IT IS THEREFORE RECOMMENDED THAT:

         1. This case be DISMISSED, WITH PREJUDICE, because Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity.

         2. Dismissal count as a “STRIKE, ” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) because Plaintiff Smith has also failed to ...


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