United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND
KHALSA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on the following motions: (1)
the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8) filed by Defendants the
Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court (“Metropolitan
Court”) and the University of New Mexico
(“UNM”) on May 31, 2016; (2) Defendant
Metropolitan Detention Center's Motion to Dismiss and
Supporting Memorandum (Doc. 11), filed May 31, 2016; and, (3)
Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint (Doc.
23) (“Motion to Amend”), filed January 30, 2017.
By an Order of Reference filed on May 25, 2017, the Court
referred this matter to me to conduct hearings as warranted,
and to perform any legal analysis required to recommend an
ultimate disposition of the motions. (Doc. 26.) Having
meticulously reviewed the parties' submissions and the
relevant law, and being otherwise fully advised, I recommend
that Defendants' Motions to Dismiss be GRANTED, that
Plaintiff's complaint be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE,
that Plaintiff's Motion to Amend be DENIED, and that
Plaintiff be allowed twenty-one (21) days to file a motion to
amend his complaint to state a claim on which relief can be
Introduction and Procedural History
Khalid Mohammad initiated this action in state court on April
21, 2016, and Defendant the Bernalillo County Metropolitan
Detention Center (“MDC”) removed it to this Court
on May 24, 2016. (Docs. 1, 1-3.) In his complaint,
Plaintiff alleges that Mark Krueger, a law enforcement
officer employed by Defendant UNM, accused him of damaging
public property and filed a criminal complaint against him in
Defendant Metropolitan Court. (Doc. 1-3 at 2.) Plaintiff
asserts that he filed six motions for the issuance of
subpoenas in the criminal case, on December 16, 2014,
December 23, 2014, January 8, 2015, February 4, 2015, April
24, 2015, and May 16, 2015 respectively, all of which
Metropolitan Court Judge Victor Valdez either denied or
ignored. (Id. at 3-7.) Plaintiff also alleges that
he filed a motion for a speedy trial on February 4, 2015, and
that Judge Valdez ignored it as well. (Id. at 5-6.)
to Plaintiff, he appeared before Judge Valdez on four
occasions in the course of the criminal proceedings against
him. His first alleged appearance was in response to a
criminal summons on December 29, 2014. (Id. at 3-4.)
At this hearing, Plaintiff claims, Judge Valdez ordered him
to be detained, causing him to be transported to Defendant
MDC. (Id.) His second alleged appearance was on
January 13, 2015; at this hearing, he claims, Judge Valdez
imposed bail in the amount of $500 as a condition of his
release. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that he
objected to the bail as excessive and asked to be released on
his own recognizance, and that Judge Valdez overruled his
objections and denied his motion for release. (Id.)
Plaintiff's third alleged appearance was by video
conference from MDC on May 9, 2015, at which Plaintiff claims
Judge Valdez refused to reduce Plaintiff's bail.
(Id. at 6.) At his fourth and final alleged
appearance before Judge Valdez, on February 24, 2016,
Plaintiff claims that Officer Krueger declined to prosecute
him, and that Judge Valdez therefore dismissed the charge
against him. (Id. at 7.)
further claims that Judge Valdez set trial dates of January
28, 2015 and June 9, 2015, but that on each date MDC officers
refused to transport him to court despite his demands that
they do so. (Id. at 4-7.)
alleges that Defendants acted pursuant to a scheme to
imprison him without “prosecution, a court order, a
sentence, an underlying conviction, verdict of guilty, plea
of guilty, finding of guilty, admission(s) of guilty and/or
any consent, ” from December 29, 2014 to February 24,
2016. (Id. at 1, 8.) Plaintiff asserts claims
against Defendants under the New Mexico Governmental Immunity
Act (“NMGIA”), N.M. Stat. Ann. §§
41-13-1 to 41-13-3, the New Mexico Tort Claims Act
(“NMTCA”), N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 41-4-1 to
41-4-30, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Monell v.
Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).
(Id.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against
Defendants in the amount of $250, 000, 000.00. (Id.
31, 2016, Defendants Metropolitan Court and UNM jointly, and
Defendant MDC, filed motions to dismiss. (Docs. 8, 11.)
Plaintiff responded in opposition to Metropolitan Court's
and UNM's motion to dismiss on June 6, 2016, and to
MDC's motion to dismiss on June 7, 2016. (Docs. 14, 15.)
On June 14, 2016, the Court stayed discovery in this matter
pending resolution of Defendants' motions. (Doc. 19.)
Finally, Plaintiff filed his Motion to Amend on January 30,
2017. (Doc. 23.) In his proposed amended complaint, Plaintiff
names the Albuquerque Police Department (“APD”)
as the sole Defendant, and alleges that an unknown APD
officer arrested and imprisoned him at MDC from May 8, 2015
to February 24, 2016 without prosecution, a court order, a
sentence, a conviction, a guilty verdict, a guilty plea, a
finding of guilt, an admission of guilt, or consent, pursuant
to a scheme, in violation of the same state and federal
provisions on which he relies in his original complaint.
(Doc. 23 at 3-7.) The Court will consider each of the
parties' pending motions in turn.
Metropolitan Court's and UNM's Motion to
deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the
plaintiff's complaint “contain[s] 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, 677 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Court
must consider “the complaint as a whole, along with the
documents incorporated by reference into the complaint,
” and must construe all well-pled allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Nakkhumpun v.
Taylor, 782 F.3d 1142, 1146 (10th Cir. 2015).
“Well-pled” means that the allegations are
“plausible, non-conclusory, and non-speculative.”
Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts, Inc.,
514 F.3d 1063, 1070 (10th Cir. 2008).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Courts
“disregard conclusory statements and look only to
whether the remaining factual allegations plausibly suggest
the defendant is liable.” Mocek v. City of
Albuquerque, 813 F.3d 912, 921 (10th Cir.
2015) (quoting Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d
1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012)). A court may resolve
a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) on the basis of an
affirmative defense when the facts establishing it are
apparent on the face of the complaint. Klayman v.
Zuckerberg, 753 F.3d 1354, 1357 (D.C. Cir. 2014);
Miller v. Shell Oil Co., 345 F.2d 891, 893
(10th Cir. 1965).
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must
construe his pleadings liberally and hold them to a less
stringent standard than is required of a party represented by
counsel. Weinbaum v. City of Las Cruces, 541 F.3d
1017, 1029 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir.
1991)). The Court must make some allowance for a pro
se party's “failure to cite proper legal
authority, ” “confusion of various legal
theories, ” “poor syntax and sentence
construction, ” or “unfamiliarity with pleading
requirements[.]” Garrett v. Selby Connor Maddux
& Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir.
2005) (quoting Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110). However,
“the court cannot take on the responsibility of serving
as the litigant's attorney in constructing arguments and
searching the record.” Id.
Plaintiff's Federal Constitutional Claims under 42 U.S.C.
their motion to dismiss, Defendants Metropolitan Court and
UNM first argue that they are “arms of the state,
” and so are not “persons” who can be sued
for monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. (Doc. 8 at 3-4.) Section 1983 authorizes
civil suits for money damages to redress deprivations of
federal constitutional rights “by persons acting under
color of any state statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage.” Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 27 (1991)
(internal punctuation marks omitted). However, states, state
agencies, and state officials in their official capacities
cannot be sued for monetary relief under Section 1983.
Id. at 25-26; Will v. Mich. Dep't of St.
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989). This is because
“[n]either the state, nor a governmental entity that is
an arm of the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes, nor a
state official who acts in his or her official capacity, is a
‘person' within the meaning of § 1983.”
Harris v. Champion, 51 F.3d 901, 905-06
(10th Cir. 1995), superseded by statute on
other grounds as stated in Knox v. Bland, 632 F.3d 1290,
1292 (10th Cir. 2011).
analyzing whether a governmental entity is an “arm of
the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes, ” courts
consider whether the state would be “legally obligated
to pay the judgment” sought against the entity, and
also “other factors, ” including “local
versus state control” of the entity, “the
characterization and definition of the entity in its enabling
and implementing legislation, ” “the functions of
the entity, ” and “the fiscal independence of the
entity.” Duke v. Grady Mun. Schs., 127 F.3d
972, 978, 981 (10th Cir. 1997).
Defendant Metropolitan Court, “[a]s a general matter,
state courts are considered arms of the state.”
Large v. Beckham Cnty. Dist. Ct., 2014 WL 235477, at
*3 (W.D. Okla. Jan. 22, 2014) (quoting 13 Charles A. Wright
et al., Federal Practice & Procedure
§ 3524.2, at 324-25 (3d ed. 2008)); see, e.g.,
Lewis v. Mikesic, 195 F. App'x 709, 710
(10th Cir. 2006) (Kansas probate judge in his
official capacity is not a “person against whom a
claim for damages can be brought pursuant to §
1983”); Callahan v. City of
Philadelphia, 207 F.3d 668, 674 (3d Cir. 2000)
(“[T]he district courts repeatedly have held that all
components of the judicial branch of the Pennsylvania
government are state entities and thus are not persons for
section 1983 purposes.”); Harris, 51 F.3d at
906 (“[T]his and other circuit courts have held that a
state court is not a ‘person' under §
1983.”); Coopersmith v. Supreme Ct., St. of
Colo., 465 F.2d 993, 994 (10th Cir. 1972)
(Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Court of Appeals, and Grand
County, Colorado District Court “are not
‘persons'” as contemplated in 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1983, 1985, and 1986); Saavedra v.
Griego, Civ. No. 08-240 WJ/LFG, Mem. Op. & Order at
4-5 (D.N.M. filed Feb. 19, 2009) (Bernalillo County
Metropolitan Court is “arm of the state”);
Heffington v. Dist. Ct. of Sedgwick Cnty., 2005 WL
1421530, at *5 (D. Kan. Jun. 17, 2005) (Sedgwick County,
Kansas District Court is not a person under Section 1983).
Mexico, metropolitan courts are established by statute as
“state magistrate court[s]” within the meaning of
Article 6 of the New Mexico Constitution. N.M. Stat. Ann.
§§ 34-8A-1, 34-8A-2. The Bernalillo County
Metropolitan Court in particular is specifically designated
by statute as “an agency of the judicial department of
state government.” N.M. Stat. Ann. § 34-8A-8(B).
All money for the operation and maintenance of the
metropolitan court shall be paid by the state treasurer upon
warrants of the secretary of finance and administration,
supported by vouchers of the presiding judge of the
metropolitan court and in accordance with budgets approved by
the administrative office of the courts ...