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Jennings v. Grayson

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 31, 2017

GLORIA T. JENNINGS, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES GRAYSON, San Miguel County District Attorney, Defendant.

          Gloria T. Jennings Springer, New Mexico Plaintiff pro se

          Daniel J. Macke Brown Law Firm Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Defendant James Grayson

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on: (i) the Plaintiff's Complaint (Tort), filed February 22, 2017 (Doc. 1-2)(“Complaint”); and (ii) the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, filed March 24, 2017 (Doc. 5). Plaintiff Gloria Jennings is incarcerated and appears pro se. She asserts Defendant James Grayson violated her constitutional right to privacy and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, 110 Stat. 1936 (“HIPAA”), when he disclosed her medical information during a hearing. Because the Court concludes Grayson is entitled to prosecutorial immunity, the Court will dismiss the case for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Court takes its recitation of facts from the Complaint -- which Jennings originally filed in the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, County of Cibola, State of New Mexico (“State Court”) -- and from the official New Mexico court records in Jennings' state criminal case, No. D-412-CR-2016-00026. See Complaint ¶ 1, at 1;[1] United States v. Ahidley, 486 F.3d 1184, 1192 n.5 (10th Cir. 2007)(stating that courts have “discretion to take judicial notice of publicly-filed records . . . and certain other courts concerning matters that bear directly upon the disposition of the case at hand”). Stack v. McCotter, 2003 WL 22422416, at *8 (10th Cir. 2003)(unpublished)(concluding that a state district court's docket sheet was an official court record subject to judicial notice under rule 201 of the Federal Rules of Evidence); Shoulders v. Dinwiddie, 2006 WL 2792671, at *3 (W.D. Okla. 2006)(Cauthron, J.)(noting that courts may take judicial notice of state court records available on the internet, including district court docket sheets).

         On February 5, 2016, the State of New Mexico filed a complaint against Jennings for: (i) aggravated flight from a law enforcement officer; (ii) reckless driving; (iii) speeding; (iv) driving without a license; (v) possession of drug paraphernalia; and (vi) possession of marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids. See Grayson v. Jennings, Criminal Complaint, No. D-412-CR-2016-00026, filed in state court February 5, 2016. The arraignment took place about two weeks later before the Honorable Gerald Baca, District Judge, City of Las Cruces, Fourth Judicial District, State of New Mexico. See Minutes of Arraignment, No. D-412-CR-2016-00026, filed in state court on February 17, 2016 (“Minutes”). Jennings appeared through counsel as the criminal defendant, and Grayson appeared as the State of New Mexico prosecutor. See Minutes ¶ 5, at 2; id. ¶ 2, at 3. At the arraignment, Jennings indicated that she had not received any medications for her mental health issues since her arrest. See Minutes of Arraignment, No. D-412-CR-2016-00026, 11:10:00 A.M.

         On April 20, 2016, the parties attended a plea conference. See Complaint ¶ 5, at 2; Minutes of April 20, 2016 Plea Conference (“Plea Minutes”). The parties advised that they were not able to reach a plea agreement. See Plea Minutes at 11:21:48 A.M. - 11:22:36 A.M. Jennings also argued that the San Miguel County Detention Facility failed to correctly administer certain prescription medications and requested an order directing San Miguel County Detention Facility to remedy the failure. See Complaint ¶ 5, at 2; id. ¶ 2, at 3. The Plea Minutes contain the following summary of her statements:

I have wrote [sic] numerous letters; need medication; mental health meds; blood pressure medications; I have talked to the major; I am not getting medications; they say my health insurance does not cover in this State[;] does not know if there is a break down [sic] in communication; not getting medication; I am sitting in segregation because of my behavior; I need my medication; that is how this case came about in the first place; asking for a Court order; they are not narcotics[;] I have not got any of them[.]

Minutes at 11:23:18 A.M. - 11:25:38 A.M.

         Grayson disagreed and allegedly recited, in open court, the names of Jennings' medications. See Complaint ¶ 5, at 2; id. ¶ 2, at 3. The Minutes summarize his statements as follows:

[T]he State has received a medical report; it contradicts what she says; they have attempted to contact health providers[;] she was provided high blood pressure medications; this report goes through early March; it appears there has been a responses by the detention center; no issues because of costs; it is a matter of confirming information[.]

Plea Minutes at 11:25:42 A.M. - 11:26:09 A.M. Jennings asserts she never consented to the State of New Mexico accessing her medical records. See Complaint ¶ 5, at 2; id. ¶ 2, at 3-4.

         Jennings filed the Complaint in this case in the State Court on February 10, 2017. See Complaint ¶ 1, at 1. She seeks $25, 000.00 in punitive damages based on Grayson's alleged violation of HIPAA and her constitutional right to privacy. See Complaint ¶ 1, at 1; id. ¶ 5, at 2; id. ¶ V, at 5. Jennings used a form tort complaint, which states: “This is a tort suit authorized by the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, Chapter 41 N.M.S.A., by a corrections department prisoner who seeks damages . . . .” Complaint ¶ 1, at 1. It is unclear what, if any, New Mexico tort claims Jennings wishes to pursue, as the remainder of the Complaint focuses on HIPAA and the Constitution of the United States of America. See Complaint ¶ 1, at 1; id. ¶ 5, at 2; id. ¶ 2, at 3-4. Applying a liberal construction, the Court interprets Jennings' argument that Grayson violated her “constitutional right to privacy” as a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. See United States v. Rodella, 2015 WL 711931, at *28 (D.N.M. 2015)(Browning, J.)(“The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to privacy.”).

         Grayson removed the case to Federal District Court on March 22, 2017. See Notice of Removal, filed March 22, 2017 (Doc. 1). He filed an answer on the same day. See Defendant's Answer to Complaint, filed March 22, 2017 (Doc. 4). On March 24, 2017, Grayson filed the Motion to Dismiss. He argues: (i) to the extent Jennings is suing Grayson in his official capacity, Grayson is not a “person” subject to suit, see Motion to Dismiss ยง A, at 2; (ii) Grayson is protected by absolute prosecutorial ...


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