United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
the Court is Plaintiff's civil rights complaint. (Doc.
1). Plaintiff is incarcerated, appears pro se, and
is proceeding in forma paperis. After reviewing the
matter sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)
and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court will dismiss the
Complaint with prejudice based on immunity principles and the
Standards Governing Sua Sponte Review The Court has
discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint
sua sponte under § 1915(e)(2) “at any
time if … the action … is frivolous or
malicious; [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted.” The Court may also dismiss a complaint
sua sponte under Rule 12(b)(6) if “it is
patently obvious that the plaintiff could not prevail on the
facts alleged, and allowing [plaintiff] an opportunity to
amend [the] complaint would be futile.” Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991)
(quotations omitted). The plaintiff must frame a complaint
that contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Plaintiff is pro se, his “pleadings are to be
construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. While pro se
pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply
to represented litigants, the Court can overlook the
“failure to cite proper legal authority, …
confusion of various legal theories, … poor syntax and
sentence construction, or … unfamiliarity with
pleading requirements.” Id. Further, pro
se plaintiffs should ordinarily be given the opportunity
to cure defects in the original complaint, unless amendment
would be futile. Id. at 1109.
2016, Plaintiff was convicted in New Mexico's Fifth
Judicial District Court of possessing a firearm as a felon,
aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and tampering with
evidence. Id. The Complaint raises constitutional
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the judge,
prosecutor, and public defender involved in those
proceedings. See Doc. 1 at 7. Plaintiff alleges
Judge Romero, Prosecutor Melvin, and Public Defender
Baiamonte deprived him of due process by introducing or
allowing false evidence during his trial. Id. at 3.
Specifically, Plaintiff asserts he did not have access to the
firearm, which was locked in a third party's trunk.
Id. at 7. Plaintiff further alleges false statements
were used to obtain a warrant to search the trunk, although
it not clear who made the statements. Id.
on these alleged constitutional violations, Plaintiff asks
the Court to vacate his conviction and file criminal charges
against Defendants. Id. at 8. He also seeks money
damages equal to: (1) $1, 800 per day for each day of
incarceration; (2) $100, 000 per year in lost wages; and (3)
half of each Defendant's retirement savings. Id.
Analysis of Constitutional Claims
cause of action under section 1983 requires the deprivation
of a civil right by a ‘person' acting under color
of state law.” McLaughlin v. Bd. of Trustees,
215 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2000). The plaintiff must
allege that each government official, through the
official's own individual actions, has personally
violated the Constitution. See Trask v. Franco, 446
F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir. 1998). There must also be a
connection between the official conduct and the
constitutional violation. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523
F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008); Trask, 446 F.3d at
complaint does not state a cognizable claim, as Judge Romero,
Prosecutor Melvin, and Public Defender Baiamonte are not
subject to liability under § 1983. It is well
established that judges are immune from all suits for money
damages for acts made in the exercise of judicial discretion.
See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978);
Guttman v. Khalsa, 446 F.3d 1027, 1033 (10th Cir.
2006). Prosecutors are similarly immune for actions
“taken in connection with the judicial process, ”
including “‘initiating a prosecution and ...
presenting the State's case.” Pfeiffer v.
Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 929 F.2d 1484, 1490 (10th Cir.
1991) (citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431
(1976)). Examples of protected actions by the prosecutor
include: (i) evidence-gathering; (ii) the evaluation and
presentation of evidence; (iii) the determination of whether
probable cause exists; and (iv) the determination of what
information to show the court. Nielander v. Board of
County Com'rs., 582 F.3d 1155, 1164 (10th Cir.
2009); Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 492 (1991).
Further, public defenders cannot be sued under § 1983
because they do not act under color of state law when
functions as defense counsel in a criminal proceeding.
See Polk County. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 315
(1981). Plaintiff's claims against each Defendant
Court also notes that even if Defendants could face liability
under § 1983, Plaintiff's claims are still barred
under Heck v. Humphry, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994).
Heck held that the district court must dismiss any
§ 1983 claim that, if resolved in plaintiff's favor,
would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence. Id. at 487. Plaintiff explicitly attacks
the validity of his criminal proceedings by asking the Court
to vacate the conviction. His request to be compensated for
each day of incarceration would also necessarily require the
Court to treat his criminal proceeding as invalid. For these
reasons, the Court concludes Plaintiff's Complaint fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Amendment Would be Futile
deciding whether to dismiss the complaint, the Court
considers whether to allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend
the pleading. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110
(10th Cir. 1991). Pro se plaintiffs should normally
be given a reasonable opportunity to remedy defects in their
pleadings. Id. However, the Court is not required to
grant leave to amend where the factual predicate for the
lawsuit is clear and any amended claims would also be subject
to immediate dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or 28
U.S.C. § 1915. Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d
892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004). In this case, amending the
Complaint would be futile because Plaintiff's claims are
all based on non-viable legal theories, and against
Defendants who are immune. The Court will therefore dismiss
the Complaint without granting leave to amend.
The Court Will Impose a 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)
is proceeding in forma pauperis pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915. The in forma pauperis statutes
provides that incarcerated plaintiffs accrue a
“strike” each time they bring a complaint that
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(g); Hafed v. Bureau of Prisons,635 F.3d 1172, 1176-77 (10th Cir. 2011) (holding that
dismissal of an action as frivolous, malicious, or for
failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B) counts as
a strike under § 1915(g)). The Court notifies Plaintiff
that this dismissal qualifies as a strike. If he accrues
three strikes, he may ...