United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ERNESTO J. BENAVIDEZ, Plaintiff,
STATE OF NEW MEXICO DISTRICT ATTORNEY BRIANNE BIGEJ, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF DISMISSAL
MATTER is before the Court sua sponte under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the
Prisoner's Civil Rights Complaint filed April 19, 2017 by
Plaintiff Ernesto J. Benavidez. (Doc. 1)
(“Complaint”). Also before the Court is the
Motion for Joinder Claim(s) filed by Benavidez on June 19,
2017. (Doc. 9). The Court concludes that the Complaint fails
to state a claim on which relief can be granted and dismisses
Plaintiff's claims. The Court also denies the Motion for
Joinder of Claim(s) as moot in light of dismissal of the
Benavidez is proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis. The Court has the discretion to dismiss an
in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
under either Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) the Court must
accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not conclusory,
unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside
the pleading. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007); Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1190
(10th Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a
complaint under rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if
“it is ‘patently obvious' that the plaintiff
could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting
McKinney v. Oklahoma Dep't of Human Services,
925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. A claim should be dismissed where it is legally or
factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) the court may dismiss the complaint at
any time if the court determines the action fails to state a
claim for relief or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The authority granted by §
1915 permits the court the unusual power to pierce the veil
of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those
claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
See also Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1109. The
authority to “pierce the veil of the complaint's
factual allegations” means that a court is not bound,
as it usually is when making a determination based solely on
the pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the
plaintiff's allegations. Denton v. Hernandez,
504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). The court is not required to
accept the truth of the plaintiff's allegations but,
instead, may go beyond the pleadings and consider any other
materials filed by the parties, as well as court proceedings
subject to judicial notice. Denton, 504 U.S. at
reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court liberally construes
the factual allegations. See Northington v. Jackson,
973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se
plaintiff's pleadings are judged by the same legal
standards that apply to all litigants and a pro se plaintiff
must abide by the applicable rules of court. Ogden v. San
Juan County, 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10thCir.
1994). The court is not obligated to craft legal theories for
the plaintiff or to supply factual allegations to support the
plaintiff's claims. Nor may the court assume the role of
advocate for the pro se litigant. Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d at 1110.
deciding whether to dismiss the complaint, in whole or in
part, the court is to consider whether to allow plaintiff an
opportunity to amend the complaint. Pro se plaintiffs should
be given a reasonable opportunity to remedy defects in their
pleadings. Reynoldson v. Shillinger, 907 F.2d 124,
126 (10th Cir. 1990). The opportunity to amend
should be granted unless amendment would be futile. Hall
v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1109. An amendment is futile if
the amended claims would also be subject to immediate
dismissal under the rule 12(b)(6) or § 1915(e)(2)(B)
standards. Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901
(10th Cir. 2004).
Benavidez asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
the State of New Mexico District Attorney Brianne Bigej.
(Doc. 1). Benavidez claims that Defendant Bigej violated his
constitutional rights by wrongfully prosecuting and
incarcerating him in two New Mexico State criminal
proceedings. (Doc. 1 at 2). Benavidez contends that, because
he was acquitted in one proceeding and the charges were
dismissed in the other proceeding, Defendant Bigej subjected
him to false imprisonment and unlawful incarceration. (Doc. 1
at 2-3). Benavidez states the factual basis for his claims
against Defendant Bigej as follows:
“For allowing false charges to be procured in and at
indictment and Grand Jury involving one case, and for the
pretrial over encarceration (sic) time, unlawful confinement
and false imprisonment.”
(Doc. 1 at 3). Benavidez seeks compensatory and punitive
damages for each day “of being false imprisoned and
unlawfully confined.” (Doc. 1 at 5).
Complaint fails to state a claim for relief. The only claims
asserted in this case are against District Attorney Brianne
Bigej in her capacity as a criminal prosecutor. (Doc. 1 at
1-3). Like judges, prosecutors are entitled to immunity in
the performance of their prosecutorial functions. Miller
v. Spiers, 434 F.Supp.2d 1064 (2006); Johnson v.
Lally, 118 N.M. 795, 796, 887 P.2d 1262, 1263 (Ct. App.
1994). The common law has long recognized prosecutors must be
given immunity from the chilling effects of civil liability.
Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 485 (1991);
Griffith v. Slinkard, 146 Ind. 117, 44 N.E. 1001,
1002 (1896); Collins, 111 N.M. at 396, 806 P.2d at
45. Prosecutors are absolutely immune from damages for their
advocacy and activities “intimately associated with the
judicial phase of the criminal process.” Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976).
seeks to hold Bigej liable for damages for her actions as
prosecutor in two State criminal proceedings. All claims
against District Attorney Bigej for actions taken in
connection with prosecution of Benavidez are barred by
prosecutorial immunity. Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. at
485. The Court will dismiss the Prisoner Civil Rights
Complaint for failure to state any claim on which relief can
be granted under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430;
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Neitzke, 490 U.S.
Court also declines to grant Benavidez leave to amend his
Complaint because the Court determines that any amendment
would be futile. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1109.
Because Benavidez seeks to impose liability against a
prosecutor, any amendment would still be subject to immediate
dismissal on the grounds of prosecutorial immunity. Burns
v. Reed, 500 U.S. at 485.
the Court concludes that Benavidez's Complaint fails to
state a claim for relief under § 1915(e)(2)(B), the
Court will impose a strike against him as provided in the
“three strikes” rule of the Prisoner Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA). 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The Court
reminds Benavidez that if he accrues three strikes, he may
not proceed in forma pauperis in civil actions
before federal courts unless he is under imminent danger of
serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
IT IS ORDERED that the Motion for Joinder Claim(s) filed by
Plaintiff Ernesto J. Benavidez on June 19, 2017 (Doc. 9) is
DENIED as moot, the Prisoner's Civil Rights Complaint
filed by Plaintiff, Ernesto J. Benavidez on April 19, 2017
(Doc. 1) is DISMISSED for failure to state a claim under 28
U.S.C. § ...