Case No. 04-3045-JTM.
October 22, 2004
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Chuck Eugene Ragland, an inmate of the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas, has sued defendants R. Douglas Sebelius (the County Attorney for Norton County, Kansas), and Troy Thomson (the Norton County Sheriff) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that they subjected him to an unlawful arrest and detention in violation of his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Sebelius and Thomson have moved to dismiss the complaint. Ragland has filed no response.
On February 25, 2003, Sheriff Thomson, received a facsimile from Robert Buck of the California Department of Corrections confirming an outstanding California warrant for Ragland's arrest. At that time Ragland was an inmate of the Norton Correctional Facility, and was scheduled to be released on February 28, 2003. The day before his scheduled release, County Attorney Sebelius applied to the Norton County, Kansas District Court for a fugitive warrant for the arrest of Ragland; the court issued the warrant the same day. On February 28, 2003, Sheriff Thomson arrested Ragland at the Norton Correctional Facility.
Ragland was brought before Norton County District Court Magistrate Judge Debra Anderson in a hearing on whether to detain Ragland under the Kansas Uniform Extradition Act. At this hearing, Plaintiff was informed of his rights under the Kansas Uniform Extradition Act and was appointed counsel. The court ordered that Ragland be detained by the Norton County Sheriff in the Norton County Jail.
Some six weeks later, on April 16, 2003, Ragland was released from the jail pursuant to Norton County District Court Order in Case No. 03-CR-7 by Judge William B. Elliott filed April 10, 2003.
Defendant Sebelius seeks dismissal on the ground of absolute immunity; defendant Thomson seeks it on the ground of qualified immunity. The court will grant the motion to dismiss.
Prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity when they act within the scope of their duties as prosecutors. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976). This includes immunity for decisions made in the filing of criminal charges. Kalince v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118 (1997). Ragland makes no allegation that Sebelius acted outside the role of a prosecutor in filing the fugitive warrant action in Norton County District Court.
Defendant Thomson is entitled to both absolute quasi-judicial immunity and qualified immunity. The former protection is extended to law enforcement officers enforcing a court order. Valdez v. City and County of Denver, 878 F.2d 1285 (10th Cir. 1989). Here, Sheriff Thomson is accused of essentially nothing more than enforcing the arrest warrant issued by the Norton County Court.
Qualified immunity shields government officers from charges of misconduct, unless their conduct violates clearly established legal rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Harlowe v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 814 (1982); Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999). In applying qualified immunity, the court determines if a violation of a federally-protected right has occurred; if it has, the court then must decide if the right was clearly established at the time of the defendant's conduct. Currier v. Doran, 242 F.3d 905, 917 (10th Cir. 2001). Here, Ragland's allegations present no basis for concluding Thomson is not protected by qualified immunity. He arrested Ragland based upon facially valid court orders, and there is nothing in the pleadings to suggest that he should have questioned those orders.
The court will grant the Motion to Dismiss on the merits. Moreover, as noted earlier, Ragland has not responded to the Motion to Dismiss, which will, in addition, be granted as an uncontested matter pursuant to D.Kan.R. 7.4.
IT IS ACCORDINGLY ORDERED this 22d day of October, 2004, that the defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 20) is hereby granted.