United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
the Court is Plaintiff's Pro Se Civil Rights
Complaint (Doc. 1). Plaintiff is incarcerated, pro
se, and proceeding in forma pauperis. He
asserts 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the prosecutors
involved in his state criminal case. Having reviewed the
matter sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the
Court concludes Plaintiff cannot successfully sue those
Defendants. The Court must therefore dismiss the Complaint
2005 and 2012, Plaintiff pled guilty or no contest to second
degree murder, aggravated battery, and prisoner in possession
of a deadly weapon in New Mexico's Fifth Judicial
District Court. See Doc. 1 at 1; Nos.
D-504-CR-2006-0084; D-504-CR-2006-0094; and
D-506-CR-2012-0205). The state court sentenced him to at least
19 years on the murder and battery charges. See Nos.
D-504-CR-2006-0084; D-504-CR-2006-0094. Plaintiff received an
additional 10-year sentence for the possession charge, with
nine years suspended. See Judgment and Sentence in
No. D-506-CR-2012-0205. The 10-year sentence reflected an
enhancement under the habitual offender statute, N.M.S.A.
1978 § 31-18-17. Id.
alleges one or more of his sentences are illegal.
See Doc. 1 at 2-3. He contends District Attorney
Stephen Kovach never notified him that his sentence included
aggravating circumstances or that he would have to serve 85%
of his sentence before release. Id. Plaintiff also
alleges he never waived his right to proceed to trial.
Id. The Complaint raises claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection
Clause. Id. at 3. Plaintiff seeks $500, 000 in
damages from Kovach and the Fifth Judicial District
Attorney's Office. Id. at 1, 5.
Governing Initial Review
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.” Id. Because 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
cause of action under section 1983 requires the deprivation
of a civil right by a [qualifying] ‘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
these standards, Plaintiff's complaint does not state a
cognizable claim. District attorneys are entitled to absolute
immunity in § 1983 suits for activities within the scope
of their prosecutorial duties. See Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 420-24 (1976).
“[I]nitiating and pursuing a criminal
prosecution” constitute “activities which are
intimately associated with the judicial process.”
Snell, 920 F.2d 686 (10th Cir. 1990 (quotations
omitted). Further, even if Plaintiff could successfully sue
Defendants, any claim for damages is barred under Heck v.
Humphry, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). Heck
requires the Court to dismiss any § 1983 damages claim
that, if resolved in the plaintiff's favor, would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence. Id. at 487. Compensating Plaintiff for his
wrongful prosecution necessarily invalidates the criminal
proceedings. See e.g., Baldwin v. O'Connor, 466
Fed. App'x 717, 717 (10th Cir. 2012) (Heck
barred § 1983 monetary claims “alleging violations
of . . . constitutional rights by . . . the deputy district
attorney who prosecuted [plaintiff] and the district-court
judge who presided in his case”); Murphy v.
Willmore, 752 Fed. App'x 653, 656 (10th Cir. 2018)
these reasons, the complaint fails to state a claim against
Kovach and the District Attorney's Office. The Court will
dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Would be Futile
determined the complaint must be dismissed, the Court will
sua sponte consider whether to allow Plaintiff to
amend the pleading. See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d
1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Pro se plaintiffs
should normally be given an opportunity to remedy defects in
their pleadings. Id. However, courts do not
typically order an amendment when any amended claims would
also be subject to immediate dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) or 28 U.S.C. § 1915. See Bradley v.
Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004). Here,
amending the complaint would be futile because, as a matter
of law, Plaintiff cannot recover money damages from the
parties responsible for his prosecution and incarceration. If
Plaintiff wishes to challenge his criminal conviction, he
must file a separate 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas proceeding.
See McIntosh v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 115 F.3d
809, 811 (10th Cir. 1997). The Court therefore declines to
sua sponte order an amendment and will dismiss the
complaint with prejudice.
IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs Civil Rights Complaint
(Doc. 1) is DISMISSED with
prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); and
the Court will ...