Shumpert v. Gaunt et al

Western District of Texas, txwd-6:2016-cv-00101

ORDER DISMISSING CASE AS FRIVOLOUS. It is therefore ORDERED that Plaintiffs complaint is dismissed with prejudice as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). It is further ORDERED that Plaintiff is warned that if Plaintiff files more than thre e actions or appeals while he is a prisoner which are dismissed as frivolous or malicious or for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, then he will be prohibited from bringing any other actions in forma pauperis unless she is in im minent danger of serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). It is finally ORDERED that the Clerk shall e-mail a copy of this order and the final judgment to the Pro Se Clerk for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Signed by Judge Robert Pitman.

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS WACO DIVISION REGINALD LAMONT SHUMPERT § § V. § W-16-CA-101-RP § JOHN GAUNT, LESLIE McWILLIAMS, § and EDDY LANGE § ORDER Before the Court are Plaintiff's complaint and more definite statement. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. STATEMENT OF THE CASE Plaintiff originally filed his case as an application for habeas corpus relief. In his application, Petition mixed civil rights claims with claims for habeas corpus relief. The Court severed Plaintiff's civil rights claims from his habeas corpus claims. Plaintiff's habeas corpus claims remain in Cause No. W-16-CV-094-RP, and this case was opened to address Plaintiff's civil rights claims. Plaintiff alleges he was charged with a crime out of Bell County, Texas. At the time the crime was committed, he was on probation out of Missouri. According to Plaintiff, he made bail on the Bell County case, but the Bell County Sheriff, Judge, and District Attorney refused to release him to St. Louis, Missouri. Plaintiff seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages for his alleged false imprisonment. 1 DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS A. Standard Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) An in forma pauperis proceeding may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if the court determines the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from suit. A dismissal for frivolousness or maliciousness may occur at any time, before or after service of process and before or after the defendant's answer. Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1119 (5th Cir. 1986). When reviewing a plaintiff's complaint, the court must construe plaintiff's allegations as liberally as possible. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). However, the petitioner's pro se status does not offer him "an impenetrable shield, for one acting pro se has no license to harass others, clog the judicial machinery with meritless litigation and abuse already overloaded court dockets." Farguson v. MBank Houston, N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359 (5th Cir. 1986). B. Judicial Immunity Judge Gaunt is entitled to absolute immunity for any acts performed as a judge. It is well settled law that a judge enjoys absolute immunity from liability for damages for judicial acts performed within his jurisdiction. Hale v. Harney, 786 F.2d 688, 690 (5th Cir. 1986). The doctrine of absolute judicial immunity protects judges not only from liability, but also from suit. Mireless v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991). Motive of the judicial officer is irrelevant when considering absolute immunity. See Mitchell v. McBryde, 944 F.2d 229, 230 (5th Cir. 1991) ("The judge is absolutely immune for all judicial acts not performed in clear absence of all jurisdiction, however erroneous the act and however evil the motive."). 2 Absolute judicial immunity is overcome in only two rather narrow sets of circumstances: first, a judge is not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity, and second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireless, 502 U.S. at 11-12. "A judge's acts are judicial in nature if they are 'normally performed by a judge' and the parties affected 'dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.'" Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 285 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Mireless, 502 U.S. at 12). In the case at bar, Plaintiff does not complain of any actions taken by Judge Gaunt that were nonjudicial in nature nor does he show that he was acting in the clear absence of all jurisdiction. Accordingly, Judge Gaunt is protected by absolute immunity. C. Prosecutorial Immunity First Assistant District Attorney Leslie McWilliams is also protected by absolute immunity. Prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability under the federal civil rights statutes with regard to actions taken by them within the course and scope of representing the governmental agencies and subdivisions in judicial proceedings. Under the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity, a prosecutor is absolutely immune in a civil rights lawsuit for any action taken in connection with a judicial proceeding. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 487-92 (1991); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427-31 (1976). "[A]cts undertaken by the prosecutor in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an advocate for the State, are entitled to the protection of absolute immunity." Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 285 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Buckley v. Fitzsimmons 509 U.S. at 273). Prosecutorial immunity applies to the prosecutor's actions in initiating the prosecution and in carrying the case through the judicial process. Boyd, 31 F.3d at 285; Graves v. Hampton, 1 F.3d 315, 3 318 (5th Cir. 1993). Thus, a prosecutor is immune from civil rights liability for actions taken in connection with a judicial proceeding, even if taken maliciously. Brummett v. Camble, 946 F.2d 1178, 1181 (5th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 965 (1992); Rykers v. Alford, 832 F.2d 895, 897 (5th Cir. 1987). The Court recognizes that not all prosecutorial functions are protected. In Imbler, the Court declared that absolute immunity applied to a prosecutor's actions in "initiating a prosecution and in presenting the State's case." Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431. This immunity protected the alleged knowing use of false testimony at trial and the alleged deliberate suppression of exculpatory evidence. In Imbler, the Court left open the issue of whether absolute immunity applied to administrative or investigative acts. However, in Burns, the Court answered that question, stating that absolute immunity does not apply to investigative or administrative acts performed by prosecutors. Burns, 500 U.S. at 493. In the case at hand, Plaintiff challenges actions taken by the prosecuting attorney during Plaintiff's pending criminal proceeding which are clearly protected by prosecutorial immunity. In this action Plaintiff does not allege any actions taken by the defendant that were outside the course and scope of representing the District Attorney's Office in Plaintiff's criminal proceedings. Therefore, Defendant McWilliams is protected by absolute immunity. D. Heck Bar Insofar as Plaintiff is seeking monetary damages against Sheriff Lange for his alleged illegal confinement, Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486- 87 (1994) and the Fifth Circuit's application of Heck to state prisoner § 1983 lawsuits in Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279 (5th Cir. 1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court held: 4 [I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. In this case Plaintiff's incarceration has not been invalidated or called into question by a federal court's issuance of writ of habeas corpus. Plaintiff's recitation of the procedural history in this case indicates just the opposite. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages regarding his alleged illegal confinement are barred by Heck. CONCLUSION Plaintiff's complaint is frivolous. Judge Gaunt is protected by judicial immunity, and Leslie McWilliams is protected by judicial immunity. Plaintiff's claims against Sheriff Lange are barred by Heck. It is therefore ORDERED that Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). It is further ORDERED that Plaintiff is warned that if Plaintiff files more than three actions or appeals while he is a prisoner which are dismissed as frivolous or malicious or for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, then he will be prohibited from bringing any other actions in forma pauperis unless she is in imminent danger of serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). 5 It is finally ORDERED that the Clerk shall e-mail a copy of this order and the final judgment to the Pro Se Clerk for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. SIGNED on May 16, 2016. ROBERT PITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 6