Stokes lawsuit dismissed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; A lawsuit filed in federal court against Circuit Judge Forrest &uot;Al&uot; Johnson, District Attorney Ronnie Harper and former Assistant District Attorney Vincent Davis was dismissed just days after it was filed.

In the lawsuit filed Dec. 19, Carl Lee Stokes Sr., a man found guilty of false pretense in November 2001, charges he illegally imprisoned in retaliation for motions he filed on behalf of other defendants.

Stokes said his time in prison caused him and his family severe mental and emotional stress and put him in harm’s way.

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But in an order signed Jan. 7, U.S. District Judge Dan Russell dismissed the case with prejudice, saying that under federal law, &uot;when a judge is acting within his judicial discretion, he is absolutely immune from liability for damages.&uot;

&uot;Absolute immunity also extends to prosecutors who are performing prosecutorial acts,&uot; Russell wrote in his order.

Prisoner lawsuits are routine occurrences, but many, like the Stokes lawsuit, are dismissed soon after they are filed, Johnson said.

&uot;Fortunately, there never was even a service of process,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;It never got off the ground. And many of these (lawsuits) I never known about because they’re summarily dismissed.&uot;

&uot;Obviously, on its face (the lawsuit) seems frivolous, so it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that it was dismissed,&uot; Harper said. &uot;But (such suits) are part and parcel of what we do. When you prosecute people, they sometimes try Š to strike back at you.&uot;

Davis pointed out that while the lawsuit named him and Harper, the lawsuit contained only allegations against Johnson.

Even so, Davis pointed out, judges and prosecutors have immunity under federal law. &uot;The law is clear on that &045; it’s not even a close call,&uot; he said.

For his part, Stokes said he plans to file a motion for relief from Russell’s order soon in U.S. District Court.

&uot;He (Russell) ignored superceding case law&uot; in his ruling, Stokes said.

Stokes added that Russell was acting out of his jurisdiction because he is a judge in the U.S. District Court Southern Division of Mississippi Eastern &045; not Western, which includes Adams County.