CASE NO. 20-3034-SAC
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
Plaintiff Dewayne Martin is hereby required to show good cause, in writing, to the Honorable Sam A. Crow, United States District Judge, why this action should not be dismissed due to the deficiencies in Plaintiff's Complaint that are discussed herein.
I. Nature of the Matter before the Court
Plaintiff brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is housed at the Atchison County Jail in Atchison, Kansas. Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2). The Court grants the motion. Notwithstanding this grant of leave, Plaintiff is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee and is hereby assessed $350.00. Plaintiff is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. The agency having custody of Plaintiff shall forward payments from the prisoner's account to the clerk of the court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00 until the filing fees are paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The clerk is to transmit a copy of this order to Plaintiff, to the finance office at the institution where Plaintiff is currently confined, and to the Court's finance office.
Plaintiff's claims relate to his state court criminal case, and he names the state court judge and county prosecutor as the only defendants. Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that the judge and county prosecutor are biased when it comes to people with drug charges. Plaintiff indicates that he has no injuries related to his claim.
II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints
The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2).
"To 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) (citations omitted); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1523 (10th Cir. 1992). A court liberally construes a pro se complaint and applies "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In addition, the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true. Anderson v. Blake, 469 F.3d 910, 913 (10th Cir. 2006). On the other hand, "when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief," dismissal is appropriate. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).
A pro se litigant's "conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be based." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). "[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The complaint's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 555, 570.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained "that, to state a claim in federal court, a complaint must explain what each defendant did to [the pro se plaintiff]; when the defendant did it; how the defendant's action harmed [the plaintiff]; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated." Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007). The court "will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf." Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).
The Tenth Circuit has pointed out that the Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Erickson gave rise to a new standard of review for § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) dismissals. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009). As a result, courts "look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief." Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218 (citation omitted). Under this new standard, "a plaintiff must 'nudge his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Smith, 561 F.3d at 1098 (citation omitted). "Plausible" in this context does not mean "likely to be true," but rather refers "to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent," then the plaintiff has not "nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 127 S. Ct. at 1974).
Plaintiff names the county attorney as a defendant. Plaintiff's claims against the county prosecutor fail on the ground of prosecutorial immunity. Prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability for damages in actions asserted against them for actions taken "in initiating a prosecution and in presenting the State's case." Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976). Plaintiff's claims concerning his criminal case fall squarely within the prosecutorial function. Plaintiff is directed to show cause why his claims against the county prosecutor should not be dismissed based on prosecutorial immunity.
Plaintiff names a state court judge as a defendant. State court judges are entitled to personal immunity. "Personal immunities . . . are immunities derived from common law which attach to certain governmental officials in order that they not be inhibited from 'proper performance of their duties.'" Russ v. Uppah, 972 F.2d 300, 302-03 (10th Cir. 1992) (citing Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 223, 225 (1988)).
Plaintiff's claims against the state court judge should be dismissed on the basis of judicial immunity. A state judge is absolutely immune from § 1983 liability except when the judge acts "in the clear absence of all jurisdiction." Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978) (articulating broad immunity rule that a "judge will not be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority . . . ."); Hunt v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1263, 1266 (10th Cir. 1994). Only actions taken outside a judge's judicial capacity will deprive the judge of judicial immunity. Stump, 435 U.S. at 356-57. Plaintiff alleges no facts whatsoever to suggest that the defendant judge acted outside of his judicial capacity.
The Court may be prohibited from hearing Plaintiff's claims under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45 (1971). "The Younger doctrine requires a federal court to abstain from hearing a case where . . . (1) state judicial proceedings are ongoing; (2) [that] implicate an important state interest; and (3) the state proceedings offer an adequate opportunity to litigate federal constitutional issues." Buck v. Myers, 244 F. App'x 193, 197 (10th Cir. 2007) (unpublished) (citing Winnebago Tribe of Neb. v. Stovall, 341 F.3d 1202, 1204 (10th Cir. 2003); see also Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)). "Once these three conditions are met, Younger abstention is non-discretionary and, absent extraordinary circumstances, a district court is required to abstain." Buck, 244 F. App'x at 197 (citing Crown Point I, LLC v. Intermountain Rural Elec. Ass'n, 319 F.3d 1211, 1215 (10th Cir. 2003)).
Plaintiff appears to be held as a pretrial detainee. Therefore, it appears that the first and second conditions for Younger abstention would be met because Kansas undoubtedly has an important interest in enforcing its criminal laws through criminal proceedings in the state's courts. In re Troff, 488 F.3d 1237, 1240 (10th Cir. 2007) ("[S]tate control over criminal justice [is] a lynchpin in the unique balance of interests" described as "Our Federalism.") (citing Younger, 401 U.S. at 44). Likewise, the third condition would be met because Kansas courts provide Plaintiff with an adequate forum to litigate his constitutional claims by way of pretrial proceedings, trial, and direct appeal after conviction and sentence, as well as post-conviction remedies. See Capps v. Sullivan, 13 F.3d 350, 354 n.2 (10th Cir. 1993) ("[F]ederal courts should abstain from the exercise of . . . jurisdiction if the issues raised . . . may be resolved either by trial on the merits in the state court or by other [available] state procedures.") (quotation omitted); see Robb v. Connolly, 111 U.S. 624, 637 (1984) (state courts have obligation 'to guard, enforce, and protect every right granted or secured by the constitution of the United States . . . .'"); Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 460-61 (1974) (pendant state proceeding, in all but unusual cases, would provide federal plaintiff with necessary vehicle for vindicating constitutional rights).
IV. Response Required
Plaintiff is required to show good cause why his Complaint should not be dismissed for the reasons stated herein. Failure to respond by the deadline may result in dismissal of this action without additional notice.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED THAT Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) is granted. Notwithstanding this grant of leave, Plaintiff is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee and is hereby assessed $350.00. Plaintiff is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. The agency having custody of Plaintiff shall forward payments from the prisoner's account to the clerk of the court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00 until the filing fees are paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The clerk is to transmit a copy of this order to Plaintiff, to the finance office at the institution where Plaintiff is currently confined, and to the Court's finance office.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT Plaintiff is granted until March 12, 2020, in which to show good cause, in writing, to the Honorable Sam A. Crow, United States District Judge, why Plaintiff's Complaint should not be dismissed for the reasons stated herein.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated February 12, 2020, in Topeka, Kansas.
s/ Sam A. Crow
Sam A. Crow
U.S. Senior District Judge