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Dunn v. Scramblen

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 5, 2018

WOODROW DUNN, JR., Plaintiff,



         THIS MATTER is before the Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A) on the Complaint (Tort) filed by Plaintiff Woodrow Dunn, Jr., on May 10, 2018. (Doc. 1.) The Court dismisses the Complaint based on prosecutorial immunity, failure to state a claim for relief, and the bar of Heck v. Humphry, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). The Court also declines to grant leave to amend the Complaint and to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims.

         1. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Woodrow Dunn, Jr., is a prisoner incarcerated at the Northeastern New Mexico Correctional Facility. (Doc. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. On February 24, 2013, Plaintiff shot and killed David Rogers at close range in front of witnesses including Plaintiff's father, Woodrow Dunn Sr.

         Plaintiff was charged with first degree murder in New Mexico state court cause no. D-506-CR-201400159. The Court has reviewed the official record in Plaintiff's state court proceedings through the New Mexico Supreme Court's Secured Online Public Access (SOPA). The Court takes judicial notice of the official New Mexico court records in No. D-506-CR-201400159. United States v. Ahidley, 486 F.3d 1184, 1192 n.5 (10th Cir. 2007) (The Court may take judicial notice of publicly filed records in this court and other courts concerning matters that bear directly upon the disposition of the case at hand); Shoulders v. Dinwiddie, 2006 WL 2792671 (W.D. Okla. Sept. 26, 2006) (court may take judicial notice of state court records available on the world wide web including docket sheets in district courts); Stack v. McCotter, 2003 WL 22422416 (10th Cir. Oct. 24, 2003) (finding state district court's docket sheet is an official court record subject to judicial notice under Fed.R.Evid. 201).

         In No. D-506-CR-201400159, Plaintiff agreed to plead guilty to Second Degree Murder. The Plea and Disposition Agreement expressly stated that “there are no agreements as to sentencing” and noted that the basic sentence that could be imposed for Second Degree Murder was 15 years. The Agreement reserved the State's right to bring habitual offender charges as provided by law. (Oct. 6, 2014 Plea & Disposition Agreement.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel, and the Plea and Disposition Agreement was signed by Plaintiff and his attorney and was approved by the Court. (Id. at 3-5.) Dunn was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with one-year enhancements under New Mexico's firearm statute and habitual offender statute. (Apr. 13, 2015 J. & Sentence.) Two days after sentencing, Plaintiff filed a Motion seeking to withdraw his plea on the grounds that the sentence imposed was not in accordance with the agreed recommendations in the Plea and Disposition Agreement. (Apr. 15, 2015 Mot. to Withdraw Plea.) The Court denied his motion to withdraw the plea. (Feb. 3, 2016 Order Denying Mot. to Withdraw Plea.)

         On March 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the state criminal proceeding. In his habeas corpus petition, Plaintiff raised issues of lack of competency and ineffective assistance of counsel. (Mar. 21, 2016 Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus at 2-4.) The State Court denied the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus but set aside the enhancement under the habitual offender statute. (Mar. 28, 2017 Order Denying Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus & Setting Aside Enhancement Under Habitual Offender Statute.) The court entered an Amended Judgment and Sentence on April 3, 2017. Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal, appealing to the New Mexico Court of Appeals on April 30, 2018. That appeal is presently pending before the New Mexico Court of Appeals. In his appeal, Plaintiff raises issues arising out of an alleged incorrect statement by the District Attorney regarding the gun used to kill Mr. Rogers. (Apr. 30, 2018 Informal Docketing Statement (Crim.).)

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint (Tort) in this Court on May 10, 2018. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff variously refers to the Defendant as DA Erik Scramblen and DA Erik Scrablen. (Id. at 1; see also Doc. 5.)[1] Plaintiff Dunn claims that he was convicted of Second Degree Murder based on a false statement by DA Scramblen that:

“Woodrow Dunn Jr intenshionally took the 357 out of the box a kill Mr. Roger that is False Fact. ‘Fact' Mr. Rogers was not kill with a 357 . . . Fact I do not let Erik Scramblen retrack the statement quote Erik Scramblen Woodrow Dunn Jr intenshonlly took a 357 out the box and intentshionlly kill Mr. Rogers on 2-24-13 I was convicted with a false statement.”

         (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 5.) The essence of Plaintiff's claim is that the statement regarding shooting Mr. Rogers with a .357 magnum revolver is false because the gun actually used in the murder was a Ruger .44 magnum Super Black Hawk revolver. (Id. at 7, 9.) Plaintiff contends that the misstatement as to the caliber of the gun deprived him of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and a fair trial. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff seeks $500, 000 for false imprisonment, to have his “wrongful” conviction removed from his record, and to be released from prison. (Id. at 3.) His Amended Prayer for Relief asks this Court to expunge his full criminal record and order the Governor of New Mexico to issue him a full pardon and restore his gun rights. (Doc. 4 at 2.)

         2. Standard for Failure to State a Claim

         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). A claim should be dismissed where it is legally or factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).

         Under Rule 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. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; 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. Okla. Dep't of Human Servs., 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.

         Under § 1915(e)(2)(B) the court may dismiss the complaint at any time if the court determines the action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. § 1915(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, 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. Id.

         The Court liberally construes the factual allegations in reviewing a pro se complaint. 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 Cty., 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 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, 935 F.2d at 1110.

         3. Any Claims Against District Attorney Scramblen are Barred ...

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