United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER is before the Court sua sponte on
the Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
filed by Plaintiff Natanael Escarcega on November 9, 2016
(“Complaint”). (Doc. 1). The Court will dismiss
the Complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief
can be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Also before the Court is Plaintiff
Escarcega's Application to Proceed in District Court
Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. 2) supplemented by his
six-month inmate account statement (Doc. 3). The Court finds
that Plaintiff has demonstrated an inability to pre-pay the
fees and costs of this lawsuit and will grant his Application
to Proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and (b).
Standards for Failure to State a Claim
Escarcega is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis
on civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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, 555 (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 570.
§ 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.
§ 915(e)(2)(B)(2). 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
32-33. In 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).
Escarcega's Complaint Fails to State a
Escarcega alleges civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff names, as Defendants, New Mexico
State District Judge Grant L. Foutz, District Attorney
Gertrude Lee, and Defense Attorney Steven F. Seeger. (Doc. 1
at 1-2). Escarcega alleges that “[a]ll three defendants
co-conspired to give me a guilty plea with out due process
and other violations.” (Doc. 1 at 2). For supporting
facts, Plaintiff's Complaint states “see attached
sheet, ” but no sheet is attached to the Complaint.
(Doc. 1 at 3-4). Plaintiff has, however, filed 14 supplements
to the Complaint (Doc. 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23,
24, 25, 26, 27) and has written the Court 6 letters
containing additional information and allegations (Doc. 7, 8,
9, 10, 13, 20). The supplements and letters indicate that
Plaintiff Escarcega's claims arise out of his guilty plea
and sentence for Voluntary Manslaughter in State of New
Mexico, County of McKinley, Twelfth Judicial District Court
cause no. D 1113-CR-2013-00106. See, e.g., Doc. 12.
civil rights claims against Judge Grant Foutz are against a
judicial officer acting as a judge and are clearly barred by
absolute judicial immunity. See Stump v. Sparkman,
435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978); Christensen v. Ward,
916 F.2d 1462, 1473-76 (10th Cir. 1990);
Hunnicutt v. Sewell, 147 N.M. 272, 277-78, 219 P.3d
529, 534-45 (Ct. App. 2009). It is well settled that the
doctrine of judicial immunity is applicable in actions, such
as the case at bar, with 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims as well
as state law claims. Van Sickle v. Holloway, 791
F.2d 1431, 1434-35 (10th Cir.1986); Collins on Behalf of
Collins v. Tabet, 111 N.M. 391, 396, 806 P.2d 40, 45
(1991). Absolute immunity bars all suits for money damages
for acts made in the exercise of judicial discretion.
Guttman v. Khalsa, 446 F.3d 1027, 1033 (10th
United States Supreme Court has recognized absolute immunity
for officials whose special functions or constitutional
status requires complete protection from suit. Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 807 (1982). The
purpose of absolute judicial immunity is:
“to benefit the public, ‘whose interest is that
the judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions
with independence and without fear of consequences.' The
Supreme Court has recognized that ‘the loser in one
forum will frequently seek another, charging the participants
in the first with unconstitutional animus.' Therefore,
absolute immunity is necessary so that judges can perform
their functions without harassment or intimidation.”
Van Sickle v. Holloway, 791 F.2d at 1434-35.
Escarcega seeks to recover damages against Judge Foutz for
acts that were unquestionably made in the exercise of
judicial discretion. Any claims against Judge Foutz are
barred by absolute judicial immunity.
also names District Attorney Gertrude Lee as a Defendant.
(Doc. 1 at 2). 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, 111 S.Ct. 1934, 114 L.Ed.2d 547 (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). Escarcega's
claims against District Attorney Lee are for advocacy and
activities intimately associated with the judicial phase of
the criminal process and Lee is immune from § 1983
also names his defense attorney, Public Defender Steven F.
Seeger, as a Defendant. Section 1983 states:
“Every person who, under color of any
statue, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any
State, Territory or the District of Columbia,
subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen
of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the ...