United States District Court, D. New Mexico
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
Fashing United States Magistrate Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on defendant Detective Russ
Landavazo'sMartinez report filed, November 9,
2015. Doc. 21. Plaintiff Charles Stokes filed his response to
the Martinez report on January 15, 2016. Doc. 25.
Detective Landavazo filed his reply in support of the
Martinez report and a notice of completion of
briefing on February 5, 2016. Doc. 26, 27. The Honorable
District Judge Robert C. Brack referred this case to me
“to conduct hearings, if warranted, including
evidentiary hearings, and to perform any legal analysis
required to recommend to the Court an ultimate disposition of
the case.” Doc. 18. Having read the submissions of the
parties and being fully advised in its premises, I find that
Officer Landavazo is entitled to qualified immunity and
recommend that Stokes' complaint be dismissed with
Background Facts and Procedural Posture
March 22, 2012, Stokes was indicted for murder in the first
degree (open count), bribery/intimidation of a witness, and
tampering with evidence. Doc. 21-16 at 29-30. The charges
were based on events that took place on March 7, 2012, which
resulted in the shooting death of Rene Barbier. Following an
investigation, Detective Landavazo drafted a warrant for the
search of “a single wide mobile home at the northeast
corner of Badger Ln. and Adobe Rd. in Veguita, New Mexico,
with no visible address, ” Doc. 21-16 at 21, and for
the arrest of “AKA Florida, ” a “Black male
adult, approximately 6'0" tall.” Doc. 21-16 at
24, 26-28. A judge reviewed and approved the warrants on
March 8, 2012. Doc. 21-16 at 23-24, 28. That same day,
officers executed the warrants and arrested Stokes. According
to Stokes' complaint, he spent 15 months in jail awaiting
trial, and his bail was set at $500, 000.00, cash-only. Doc.
1 at 2. At trial, Stokes prevailed on a motion for directed
sued Detective Landavazo, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg,
and Assistant District Attorney Natalie Strub under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for a violation of his Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth
Amendment rights. Doc. 1. Upon initial screening, the Court
dismissed Brandenburg and Strub, dismissed Stokes' Eighth
Amendment claims, and construed Stokes' Fifth Amendment
due process claim against Detective Landavazo as a Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim. Doc. 6. The Court ordered
Detective Landavazo to prepare a Martinez report.
Doc. 16. Detective Landavazo's Martinez report
includes a motion for summary judgment based on qualified
immunity. Doc. 21.
Standard for Summary Judgement
judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled as
a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party moving
for summary judgment has the initial burden of establishing,
through admissible evidence in the form of depositions,
answers to interrogatories, admissions, affidavits or
documentary evidence, that there is an absence of evidence to
support the opposing party's case. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If this burden is
met, the party opposing summary judgment must come forward
with specific facts, supported by admissible evidence, which
demonstrate the presence of a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-49 (1986). Although all facts are construed in favor of
the nonmoving party, it still is the nonmoving party's
responsibility to “go beyond the pleadings and
designate specific facts so as to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to [his]
case in order to survive summary judgment.” Johnson
v. Mullin, 422 F.3d 1184, 1187 (10th Cir. 2005)
(alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).
purposes of summary judgment, a prisoner's complaint is
treated as an affidavit if it alleges facts based on his
personal knowledge and has been sworn under penalty of
perjury. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1111 (10th
Cir. 1991). A Martinez report also is treated as an
affidavit. Id. A court cannot resolve material
disputed factual issues by accepting a Martinez
report's factual findings when they are in conflict with
pleadings or affidavits. Id. at 1109. Conclusory
allegations, however, without specific supporting facts, have
no probative value and cannot create a genuine issue of fact.
See Fitzgerald v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 403 F.3d 1134,
1143 (10th Cir. 2005); Annett v. Univ. of Kan., 371
F.3d 1233, 1237 (10th Cir. 2004); Ledoux v. Davies,
961 F.2d 1536, 1537 (10th Cir. 1992). As is true with all
affidavits, statements of mere belief must be disregarded.
Argo v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kan., Inc.,
452 F.3d 1193, 1200 (10th Cir. 2006).
Court liberally construes Stokes' filings because he is
appearing pro se. Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.
Nevertheless, the non-moving party still must “identify
specific facts that show the existence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Munoz v. St. Mary-Corwin
Hosp., 221 F.3d 1160, 1164 (10th Cir. 2000) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Conclusory allegations are
insufficient to establish an issue of fact that would defeat
the motion. Harrison v. Wahatoyas, L.L.C., 253 F.3d
552, 557 (10th Cir. 2001).
immunity recognizes the “need to protect officials who
are required to exercise their discretion and the related
public interest in encouraging the vigorous exercise of
official authority.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457
U.S. 800, 807 (1982). “Qualified immunity protects
federal and state officials from liability for discretionary
functions, and from ‘the unwarranted demands
customarily imposed upon those defending a long drawn-out
lawsuit.'” Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S.
226, 232, (1991). Issues of qualified immunity are best
resolved at the “earliest possible stage in
litigation.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 232 (2009). Qualified immunity shields government
officials from liability where “their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231.
defendant asserts qualified immunity, the plaintiff must
demonstrate: (i) that the defendant's actions violated
his or her constitutional or statutory rights; and (ii) that
the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged
misconduct. See Riggins v. Goodman, 572 F.3d 1101,
1107 (10th Cir.2009). In Pearson, the Supreme Court
held that lower courts “should be permitted to exercise
their sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of
the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in
light of the circumstances of the particular case at
hand.” 555 U.S. at 236. “Ordinarily, in order for
the law to be clearly established, there must be a Supreme
Court or Tenth Circuit decision on point, or the clearly
established weight of authority from other courts must have
found the law to be as the plaintiff maintains.”
Currier v. Doran, 242 F.3d 905, 923 (10th Cir.2001).
Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides in
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or 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 Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
42 U.S.C. § 1983. “[Section] 1983 is not itself a
source of substantive rights but merely provides a method for
vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.”
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989)
(internal citations and quotations omitted).
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
There is no dispute that Detective Landavazo was acting under
color of state law. The dispute lies in whether Detective
Landavazo violated Stokes' constitutional rights.
contends that in obtaining an arrest warrant, Detective
Landavazo withheld exculpatory evidence, falsified the
criminal complaint, tampered with evidence at the scene, and
coerced witnesses. Stokes further alleges that Detective
Landavazo arrested him without probable cause and maliciously
pursued a criminal case against him. Basically, Stokes argues
that he was arrested under false pretenses, which led to his
lengthy detention while he was being prosecuted, and that his
arrest and detention were unlawful. Stokes' claims,
therefore, include a claim for a violation of his Fourth
Amendment rights as well as a claim for a violation of his
Fourteenth Amendment right to due process based on his
alleged false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious
Undisputed Material Facts
Landavazo sets forth a statement of facts that provides
background and details of the Albuquerque Police Department
(APD) investigation into the death of Barbier. Doc. 21 at
3-15. Some of the facts in Detective Landavazo's
statement of facts, however, are not material to the
determination of whether he is entitled to qualified immunity
and summary judgment.
[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material.
Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry
of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary will not be counted . . . . [I]t is the
substantive law's identification of which facts are
critical and which facts are irrelevant that governs.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Accordingly, some of Detective Landavazo's facts
are not included here.
does not specifically dispute the facts set forth by
Detective Landavazo. Instead, Stokes lists what he considers
admissions by Detective Landavazo, and discusses the witness
interviews and defects in the affidavit with respect to each
witness's statement. Doc. 25 at 2-12. Because Stokes does
not specifically dispute any of the material facts, the
undisputed material facts come either from those listed by
Detective Landavazo in his Martinez report or
directly from information in the record.
that the undisputed material facts are as follows:
2:50 p.m. on March 7, 2012, Detective J. Kelly of the
Albuquerque Police Department (“APD”) responded
to a shooting callout at 500 Chama, Albuquerque, New Mexico,
and observed an unconscious male on the ground of the parking
lot suffering from apparent gun shot wounds. Doc. 21 at 3;
Doc. 21-16 at 22.
male, who was later identified as Rene Barbier, was
transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where
he was pronounced dead. Doc. 21 at 3.
approximately 3:40 p.m. that same day, APD Sgt. Barboa
notified APD Detective Russ Landavazo of a violent crime call
at 500 Chama SE Albuquerque, New Mexico. Id.
After arriving at the scene, Detective Landavazo attended a
briefing conducted by Detective Kelly. Id.
During the briefing, Detective Kelly advised that he and
other officers spoke to several witnesses (Saul Nevarez,
Marisela Bustillos, Nicole Mishoe, and April Lozano) who said
that two dark skinned males may have been involved in the
shooting. Id. at 3-4.
of the males described by the witnesses was wearing a red
hooded sweatshirt and appeared to run from the scene towards
the nearby apartments at 437 Mesilla SE and into unit #202.
The witnesses said that the other male drove away from the
scene in a red or burnt orange four-door car. Id. at
Detective Landavazo learned from Detective Kelly that Nevarez
described a “reddish four-door ‘Ford Focus'
outside with a black male driver, the victim in the front
passenger seat, ...