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Badgett v. Butner Federal Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

April 22, 2019

James F. Badgett, Plaintiff,
v.
Butner Federal Medical Center, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION

          Robert T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge

         James F. Badgett commenced this action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). This matter is currently before the court for the screening required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Also before the court is Badgett's motion for “joinder of offenses, errors, and remedies” (D.E. 11). The district court should dismiss Badgett's complaint and deny his motion.

         I. Background

         In March 2017, a grand jury in the District of South Carolina indicted Badgett on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. See United States v. Badgett, No. 4:17-cr-00255-RBH (D.S.C. filed Mar. 28, 2017). In May 2017, that court committed Badgett to the custody of the Attorney General for a competency assessment under 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). Order Granting Mot. for Psychiatric Exam, id. at D.E. 31. The evaluators determined Badgett was not competent to stand trial. Order at 1, id. at D.E. 72.

         The trial court then committed Badgett to the Attorney General, for a period not to exceed four months, to determine whether there was a substantial probability that Badgett would become competent to stand trial in the near term. Consent Order, id. at D.E. 53. In May 2018, after weighing several forensic reports, the trial court determined that Badgett was incompetent and unlikely to attain the capacity to permit his criminal proceedings to go forward. Order at 2-3, id. at D.E. 72. Based on this conclusion, the trial court committed Badgett to the custody of the Attorney General to conduct an evaluation under 18 U.S.C. § 4246(b).[1] Id.

         Badgett's § 4246 evaluation took place in this district at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina (“Butner”). Badgett's § 4246 proceedings are ongoing, with Senior United States District Judge W. Earl Britt presiding. See United States v. Badgett, No. 5:19-HC-02011-BR (E.D. N.C. filed Jan. 10, 2019). The court recently determined that Badgett should be committed to the custody and care of the Attorney General under 18 U.S.C. § 4246. Id. at D.E. 12.

         II. Discussion

         A. Screening Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act

         The PRLA requires courts to review, prior to docketing, actions filed by prisoners against governmental entities or officials. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The purpose of this review is to eliminate those claims that unnecessarily impede judicial efficiency and the administration of justice. The court must examine the pleadings, identify cognizable claims, and dismiss any portion of the complaint that 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. Id. at § 1915A(b).

         A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Supreme Court has explained that “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Badgett's status as a pro se party relaxes, but does not eliminate, the requirement that his complaint contain facially plausible claims. The court must liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's allegations, but it “cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts” that set forth a cognizable claim. Johnson v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, 867 F.Supp.2d 766, 776 (E.D. N.C. 2011).

         First, Badgett's claims are rambling, conclusory and nonsensical, and further amendment would not salvage them. Badgett's complaint could be dismissed under the PLRA for that reason alone.

         Badgett also seeks relief against parties who are not amenable to suit. First, Badgett names Butner as a defendant. But plaintiff may only bring a Bivens action against a person in their individual capacity. Preval v. Reno, No. 99-6950, 2000 WL 20591, *1 (4th Cir. Jan. 13, 2000); see also DeBerry v. Gilmer, No. 5:10cv6, 2010 WL 3937956, at *5 (N.D. W.Va. Sept. 3, 2010) (“[L]ike § 1983, a Bivens action is directed at persons acting in their individual capacities.” (citation omitted)). Butner is not a person. It is a physical structure. Thus, is not amenable to suit under Bivens and Badgett's claims against it should be dismissed.

         Next, Badgett names an unidentified “Federal Magistrate” as a defendant. It has long been settled that a judge is immune from a claim for damages arising out of his or her judicial actions. Chu v. Griffith, 771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985). This immunity applies even when judges have acted “in excess of their jurisdiction, and [that] are alleged to have been done maliciously or corruptly.” Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). The Supreme Court has recognized two exceptions to judicial immunity. “First, a judge is not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity. Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). The question of “whether an act by a judge is a ‘judicial' one relate[s] to the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.” Id. (citing Stump, 435 U.S. at 362; Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227-29 (1988)). Badgett's rambling allegations fail to establish either of these exceptions, and the Federal Magistrate should be dismissed as a defendant.

         The sole remaining defendant is Dr. Dubois. Badgett's allegations do not connect Dubois to any constitutional violation cognizable in a Bivens action.[2] Thus, ...


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