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Cook v. Hood

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

April 6, 2018

Anthony Cook, #115157, Plaintiff,
Judge Robert E. Hood, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff has filed a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is a state prisoner incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Institution in South Carolina. He is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff is one of a group of inmates who have repetitively filed the same or similar complaints in this judicial district.[1] The lengthy Complaint is, at best, difficult to follow, and at times, incomprehensible. Liberally construed, Plaintiff appears to be suing numerous judges for “conspiracy” and “fraud” based on their rulings in the habeas proceedings for these six inmates. The Complaint also contains a diatribe against same-sex marriage and seeks to “remove” this case (and others) to “the State of New Jersey.” Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review the case initially and to submit findings and recommendations to the United States District Judge. After careful review, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Complaint (DE# 1) be summarily dismissed, with prejudice, and without issuance and service of process, for the following reasons:

         I. The Present Lawsuit

         A. Parties

         On the face of the Complaint (43 pages), Plaintiff lists twenty defendants, including the following state, federal, and/or federal appellate judges (most of whom are identified only by their last name): Judges Hood, Diaz, Thacker, Davis, Gregory, Duncan, Hamilton, Hendricks, West, Harwell, Austin, Wooten, Marchant, Seymour, Hodges, Gerbel (sic), and Cain. (DE# 1 at 5-7). Plaintiff also sues court officials -- Mr. Zannelli (sic) and Patricia Connors “of the 4th Circuit Court” and attorney Tara Dawn Shurling. (Id. at 6).[2] Plaintiff indicates that the “remainder of the defendants are listed in the attached Affidavit of Service that was initially filed in the 4th Circuit.” (DE# 1 at 7). Contrary to Plaintiff's allegation, he did not attach such document to his Complaint.

         B. Allegations

         Plaintiff indicates he is bringing this action for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (DE #1 at 4).[3] In his Complaint, Plaintiff generally alleges that the decisions in various prisoner cases (listed by case number) were “submitted in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 rendering them void by the fraud due to the Federal Judges establishing them as a means of concealing material facts” and indicates that “I, we, motion for Declaratory Judgment from the 4th Circuit on this issue.” (DE# 1 at 5).[4] Plaintiff lists many case numbers and appears to be improperly attempting to litigate multiple cases or to “incorporate” arguments from those cases. (DE# 1 at 8).[5] He indicates he has filed documents with the United Nations indicating that he and his fellow inmates are “working to bring their cases forward collectively, which is indicated by the various case numbers listed.” (Id.). He indicates “these cases repesent (sic) parallel litigation seeking class certification.” (Id. at 22).

         The gist of the lengthy Complaint is that Plaintiff and his fellow inmates are angry that their habeas petitions have been denied.[6] He attributes these denials to a “conspiracy” by the judicial Defendants. Plaintiff appears to be improperly attempting to consolidate and challenge their judicial rulings by means of this § 1983 action. Plaintiff complains that:

U.S. District Judges abused their discretion in these cases by making their finding based upon § 2254 when this action was filed as Writ of Error requiring review pursuant to §1983 as the proceeding was filed by us. Not this fraudulent proceeding you produced in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 for the purpose of concealing material facts tainting these cases.

(DE# 1 at 12). Plaintiff alleges that the defendant judges are conspiring “because they know the prior orders issued are tainted by their fraud and cannot be legally used in any court.” (Id. at 9). He alleges that they “are now conspiring in additional acts of fraud to obtain this hearing and produce an order to negate our claims of default and collateral estoppel to aid the federal judges.” (Id.). He “objects” to any order from a state hearing in 2017. (Id.). Plaintiff contends that the Defendants are conspiring to “protect their employer the United States and the other 192 Members of the United Nations from suit.” (Id. at 29).

         Plaintiff states that he wants declaratory judgment from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and “class certification.” (DE# 1 at 6, 10, 22). Plaintiff wants all the judicial Defendants “disqualified, ” presumably from hearing the prisoners' habeas cases that have already been decided. (Id. at 6, 12, 34). Plaintiff demands “removal” or a “change of venue” to “the State of New Jersey, ” but cites no relevant authority for such procedurally-inappropriate demand. (Id. at 25). He appears to ask for “removal” of other cases as well, or alternatively, indicates that the inmates have already “removed” the cases (which they do not have authority to do). (Id. at 10).

         Throughout his Complaint, Plaintiff insults the defendant judges, describing them in derogatory terms as crack-head idiots, knuckleheads, scorpions, flying monkeys, stinking rats, weasels, snakes, wicked witches, potato heads, and demon dogs. (DE#1 at 6-7, 11, 13-14, 19, 22-23, 26-27, 32, 40). Plaintiff repeatedly impugns the judges' integrity, generally alleging that they are all corrupt and “fraudulent.” He complains about Mag. Judge Austin's judicial rulings and disrespectfully states that she “should have gotten off her worthless butt and handled business.” (DE# 1 at 30). He alleges that “Judge Gerbel” (sic) is one of Mag. Judge Austin's “flying monkeys” and is illiterate. Plaintiff indicates that he is not suing Judge Austin as a judge, but rather, “as Trustee appointed by the King-Khalifah.” (Id. at 6). Such allegation is nonsensical.

         Plaintiff alleges that the judicial defendants, based on their judicial rulings, engaged in a vast conspiracy against Plaintiff and his fellow prisoners. He speculates that the Defendants must have “engaged in mail tampering by destroying the Writ of Mandamus sent to establish action within the 4th Circuit to prevent the mayhem, fraud, machination and criminal conspiracy that occurred…” (Id.). For no discernible reason, Plaintiff also includes a lengthy and wholly irrelevant diatribe about his extreme dislike of same-sex marriage (Id. at 32-34). Plaintiff concludes his Complaint with pages of irrelevant language, including the following exhortation:

Gird your loins up like a man; for the “DEATH ANGEL MARCH” foretold in the Book of Revelations and written in the King-Khali-fah's Declaration of Sovereignty approaches. Blessed are thou, O Land, when the King-Khalifah is the son of nobles, and the princes eat in due season, for strength and not for drunkenness! Curse not the King-Khalifah, no not in they thought; nor should the rich do such in their bedchamber; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

(DE# 1 at 43). Plaintiff has also filed additional voluminous documents (DE# 9-15, 19, 21, 24, 26, 27, totaling 426 pages). His arguments in such filings are legally baseless, state no grounds for any “motions, ” are often nonsensical, and reflect a comprehensive misunderstanding of the law.

         C. Relief Sought

         For relief, Plaintiff demands “declaratory judgment from the 4th Circuit.” (DE# 1 at 1, 5). Plaintiff fails to explain why he filed this action in the District Court if he is seeking “declaratory judgment from the 4th Circuit.” Plaintiff, who is a state prisoner, wants to be sent to “a pre-release federal camp.” (DE# 1 at 34). Plaintiff wants this Court to vacate all the criminal convictions for himself and his fellow inmates and to release them all from prison. (Id. at 38, ¶ VI “Relief”). He also wants monetary relief, stating (verbatim):

I, we, want [Judge] Austin to act as Trustee, the lien established and all other relief that [Judge] Austin has and is fully aware of. The monetary relief sought in case 2013-CP-400-0084 is to be immediately given to the King-Khalifah, Anthony Cook and the King-Khalifah's children. Monetary relief for the other plaintiffs is sought and will be address at hearing.

(DE# 1 at 38, ¶ VI “Relief”). Plaintiff wants all their cases, including this one, transferred to the State of New Jersey. Plaintiff does not explain why he seeks transfer to New Jersey.

         III. Standard of Review

         A. Liberal Construction

         This Court is required to liberally construe pro se documents, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5 (1980) (per curiam). The liberal construction afforded pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a complaint to “conjure up questions never squarely presented” to the court. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088 (1986). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Review Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A

         Plaintiff is proceeding IFP, and therefore, this case is subject to screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Such statute permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the action. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows the court to dismiss the case upon finding that the case is “frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(i-iii). The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) also provides for the screening of complaints “in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte “at any time” under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989). The United States Supreme Court has explained that the statute “is designed largely to discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits.” Id. at 326. As for failure to state a claim, “Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.” Id. at 326. The “complaint must 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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although pro se complaints are liberally construed, a plaintiff must do more than make vague and conclusory statements to state a claim for relief. A plaintiff must allege facts that actually support a plausible claim for relief. Id.

         C. The PLRA's 3-strike provision

         The PLRA, at 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), provides that:

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.

See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391, 404 (2009). “[I]f a prisoner has already had three cases dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted, the prisoner generally may not proceed IFP but rather must pay up-front all filing fees for his subsequent suits.” Blakely v. Wards, 738 F.3d 607, 609 (4th Cir. 2013), as amended (Oct. 22, 2013). This means that, after receiving three strikes, plaintiff will have to pay the full filing fee for almost any future non-habeas civil action he might wish to file. Id. at 610. If Plaintiff continues to file pleadings that are frivolous or malicious, or fail to state a claim for which relief ...

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