United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiff's Complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
and captioned as a “Complaint for Injunctive and
Declaratory Relief and Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus.” (Doc. No. 1). See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915A and 1915(e).
Plaintiff Rodney Moucell Jones is a North Carolina prisoner
incarcerated at Lanesboro Correctional Institution in
Polkton, North Carolina. On July 2, 2010, a jury convicted
Plaintiff in Buncombe County of first-degree kidnapping,
attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to
commit robbery, and of being a habitual felon. Petitioner was
sentenced to a term of forty years and seven months of
imprisonment. Plaintiff filed this action on July 26, 2017,
naming the following thirteen Defendants: (1) Buncombe
County; (2) Steven D. Cogburn, identified as the Buncombe
County Clerk of Superior Court; (3) Janelle Henson,
identified as the Assistant Clerk of Superior Court for
Buncombe County; (4) North Carolina Department of Public
Safety (“NCDPS”); (5) Kenneth E. Lassiter,
identified as the Director of NCDPS, (6) Mike Slagle,
identified as the Superintendent of Mountain View
Correctional Institution; (7) Lynn B. Ollis, identified as a
mailroom attendant at Mountain View; (8) Cindy Haynes,
identified as a classification coordinator at Mountain View;
(9) Kella J. Philips, identified as an Assistant Unit Manager
at Mountain View; (10) FNU Richardson, identified as a shift
sergeant at Mountain View; (11) FNU Stewart, identified as a
shift sergeant at Mountain View; (12) FNU Hicks, identified
as a case worker at Mountain View; and (13) FNU Williams,
identified as a correctional officer at Central Prison. (Doc.
No. 1 at 5-8).
purports to bring numerous claims against Defendants, his
primary claim being that Defendants have violated his First
Amendment right to access to the courts by denying him access
to the grand and petit jury lists that were used before his
criminal trial. Plaintiff describes his claims as follows:
Plaintiff/Petitioner brings this complaint pursuant to
coordinate policies, practices, acts and omissions of the
Buncombe County Clerk of Superior Court's office, the
North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and individual
agents of both agencies that prior to and during
incarceration, effectively operated to deny Plaintiff
Petitioner his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to
redress, due process, and equal protection of the laws.
(Doc. No. 1 at 2). The pleadings attached to Plaintiff's
Complaint indicate that Plaintiff has, for several years,
been attempting to obtain the juror lists at issue so that he
can prove that African-Americans were systematically excluded
from the jury pool in Plaintiff's state criminal
proceedings. Plaintiff also alleges in his Complaint that
some of the Defendants have confiscated his legal mail and
that he has also been denied the right to access to the
courts because he does not have meaningful access to a law
library or the services of North Carolina Prisoner Legal
Services. Plaintiff states that he seeks “declaratory
and injunctive relief under Article VI of the U.S.
Constitution, and the 1st, 4th,
5th, 9th, 10th, and
14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution for
ongoing violations of his rights or in the alternative habeas
corpus relief.” (Id. at 4).
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 are mandatory and define
the degree and scope of this Court's initial review of
Plaintiff's Complaint. See Crawford-El v.
Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 596 (1998) (discussing the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”)). Section 1915(g)
of the PLRA provides:
In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a
judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section
if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while
incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action
or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed
on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the
prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Court records indicate that
Plaintiff has filed at least one case in this Court as well
as several cases in the District of South Carolina which have
been dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to
state a claim for relief. Accordingly, Plaintiff is subject to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(g)'s bar to filing civil actions in
forma pauperis unless he can show that he is under imminent
danger of serious physical injury. Plaintiff fails to
demonstrate in his Complaint in this action that he is under
imminent danger of serious physical injury as required by
apparent attempt to avoid the three-strikes rule, Plaintiff
alleges in the final paragraphs of the Complaint that he is
in imminent danger of being harmed at Lanesboro because he is
surrounded by dangerous and violent gang members, and he
cites instances of other prisoners being attacked.
See (Doc. No. 1 at 29-30). Plaintiff's
conclusory allegations, which are wholly unrelated to the
substantive claims he brings in this action, do not establish
“imminent danger of serious physical injury”
sufficient to avoid the three-strikes rule.
Court further observes that, even if this action were not
subject to dismissal under the three-strikes rule, it would
be subject to dismissal on other, independent grounds. First,
Plaintiff is challenging the actions of the named Defendants
based on their failure to provide Plaintiff with a list of
grand and petit jurors for his criminal trial in state court.
By Plaintiff's own allegations in his 47-page Complaint,
Plaintiff has already raised various claims in the North
Carolina state courts based on his failure to obtain access
to the jury lists, and the North Carolina state courts have
ruled against him. Therefore, this action also appears to be
barred by the principles articulated in the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which bars review by the
federal district courts of state court decisions. See
Dist. of Columbia Ct. of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S.
462, 482 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263
U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923). Furthermore, even if Plaintiff were
not subject to the three-strikes rule, several of the named
defendants (such as the Clerk of Buncombe County) in this
action enjoy immunity from suit under Section 1983. Finally,
to the extent that Plaintiff is seeking to attack his
underlying criminal conviction and sentence alternatively
through a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, this action will be dismissed without prejudice
to bring ...