Librace v. Valley
OPINION AND ORDER granting the 6 defendant's motion to dismiss. David Librace's complaint is dismissed without prejudice. If Librace wishes to amend his complaint, he must file an appropriate motion within 14 days from the entry of this Opinion and Order. If he fails to do so, a judgment will be entered dismissing this action. Signed by Judge J. Leon Holmes on 11/17/2017. (ljb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
No. 2:17CV00140 JLH
ANDRE VALLEY, in his official capacity as
City Attorney of Helena-West Helena
OPINION AND ORDER
David Librace brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action pro se against Andre Valley in his official
capacity as City Attorney of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. Librace alleges that Valley signed
affidavits for arrest warrants without probable clause, one of which led to his arrest, prosecution, and
conviction for communicating a false report. Librace seeks a “temporary injunction . . . to prevent
any further form of harassment and slander by the Defendant.” Valley has filed a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, Valley’s motion
A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8(a)(2) does not require a complaint to
contain detailed factual allegations, it does require a plaintiff to state the grounds of his entitlement
to relief, which requires more than labels and conclusions. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the
Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and review the complaint to
determine whether its allegations show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Gorog v. Best Buy Co.,
Inc., 760 F.3d 787, 792 (8th Cir. 2014). All reasonable inferences from the complaint must be
drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. The Court need not, however, accept as true legal
conclusions, even those stated as though they are factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). A pro se complaint must be liberally
construed, however inartfully pleaded, and held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted
by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1081 (2007);
Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014).
Librace’s complaint makes several allegations regarding the manner in which Valley and
other unnamed city officials handle criminal prosecutions. Librace alleges that Valley has been
signing affidavits for arrest warrants without probable cause since January 31, 2017; that the
affidavits are based on hearsay; that defendants are not given the opportunity to make a statement
or ensure that evidence is preserved; that if a defendant does not plead guilty, the case is set for a
trial twenty days out and the judge instructs the defendant to bring all evidence and witnesses to the
trial; that the judge does not allow defendants to put on evidence, but allows Valley to put on
whatever evidence he likes; that Valley does not disclose to the defendant the names of the
prosecution’s witnesses or the evidence the prosecution will present; and that Valley has violated
his civil rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution. He
alleges “Andre Valley continues to sign affidavit after affidavit and trying to harass, embarrass, and
is maliciously and prosecuting cases with outrage.” Document #2 at 3. Librace also alleges that
Valley is a partner in the law firm of Wilson, Valley and Etherly, a firm partners of which hold
various city positions, including prosecutor, judge, and public defender. Librace ran for mayor
against Valley’s brother, James Valley. Librace alleges that the conduct of which he complains is
an attempt to silence him. Despite these broad allegations claiming a pattern of false affidavits for
arrest, the complaint specifies only one incident, which led to Librace being convicted on March 23,
2017, for filing a false report. Librace attaches to his response to the motion to dismiss several
documents, including arrest warrants that he did not mention in the complaint, but the Court may
consider only what is alleged in the complaint or incorporated therein when deciding a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).
Valley argues that Librace’s claims based on his arrest, prosecution, and conviction for
communicating a false report are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the narrow focus of which
is to bar state court losers from obtaining federal review of state court judgments. See Exxon Mobil
Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284, 125 S. Ct. 1517, 161 L. Ed. 2d 454 (2005);
Karsjens v. Piper, 845 F.3d 394, 406 (8th Cir. 2017). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that
district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over challenges to state court decisions in judicial
proceedings, with the exception of habeas corpus petitions. Charchenko v. City of Stillwater, 47
F.3d 981, 983 (8th Cir. 1995) (citing District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S.
462, 476, 103 S. Ct. 1303, 1311, 75 L. Ed. 2d 206 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413, 416, 44 S. Ct. 149, 150, 68 L. Ed. 362 (1923)). “The doctrine precludes district courts from
obtaining jurisdiction both over the rare case styled as a direct appeal, [Rooker, 263 U.S. at 416, 44
S. Ct. 149], as well as more common claims which are ‘inextricably intertwined’ with state court
decisions. [Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483, 103 S. Ct. 1303].” Simes v. Huckabee, 354 F.3d 823, 827 (8th
As mentioned, the complaint alleges that a judgment of conviction was entered against
Librace on March 30, 2017, after a trial in state court. Librace asserts that his arrest was unlawful
because the affidavit supporting the warrant did not establish probable cause and bases his request
for injunctive relief on injuries sustained from the unlawful arrest, prosecution, and conviction.
As to the arrest that resulted in the conviction on March 30, 2017, this case is in substance
an appeal from a state-court judgment by an aggrieved party and falls squarely within the RookerFeldman doctrine. See Robins v. Ritchie, 631 F.3d 919, 925 (8th Cir. 2011). Even though Librace
casts his claims in part as based on his arrest as opposed to his conviction, his conviction is
conclusive proof of the existence of probable cause for the underlying arrest. See Brown v. Willey,
391 F.3d 968, 969 (8th Cir. 2004); McSwain v. Hastings, No. 4:13CV00122-DPM, 2015 WL 731286
at *2 (E.D. Ark. Feb. 17, 2015). Librace’s attack on the constitutionality of his arrest, therefore,
amounts to an attack on the constitutionality of his conviction. See Skit Inter., Ltd. v. DAC Tech.
of Ark., Inc., 487 F.3d 1154, 1156-57 (8th Cir. 2007); cf. Skinner v. Switzer, 526 U.S. 521, 531-33,
131 S. Ct. 1289, 179 L. Ed. 2d 233 (2011) (holding that plaintiff’s claims were not barred RookerFeldman because he did not challenge a state-court ruling, the prosecutor’s conduct, or the statecourt conviction; rather, he challenged as unconstitutional the Texas statutes the state court
construed). Without declaring Librace’s state court conviction unlawful, the Court would have no
basis for granting the relief that he seeks. This Court has no appellate jurisdiction over the Arkansas
courts and cannot review their decisions except to the limited extent it is authorized to do so in cases
in which prisoners seek writs of habeas corpus. Mosby v. Ligon, 418 F.3d 927, 931 (8th Cir. 2005);
Hunt v. Smith, No. 2:03CV00194-WRW, 2008 WL 491678 at *6 (E.D. Ark. Feb. 19, 2008).
Valley also argues that even if the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply, Librace’s claims
are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S. Ct. 2364, 129 L. Ed. 383 (1994). The United
States Supreme Court held in Heck that in order to recover damages under section 1983 for an
unconstitutional conviction, or other harms that would render a conviction invalid, a plaintiff must
prove the sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal, or called into question by a court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Id. at
486-87, 114 S. Ct. 2364; Newmy v. Johnson, 758 F. 3d 1008, 1009 (8th Cir. 2014). Librace does
not seek to recover damages. His request for injunctive relief is nevertheless barred because his
claims if successful would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction and he has not alleged
that the conviction has been reversed, expunged, declared invalid, or called into question by a writ
of habeas corpus. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82, 125 S. Ct. 1242, 161 L. Ed. 2d 253
(2005) (state prisoner’s section 1983 barred under Heck no matter the relief sought); see also
Gautreaux v. Sanders, 395 Fed. Appx. 311, 312 (8th Cir. 2010) (unpublished) (citing Smithart v.
Towery, 79 F.3d 951, 952 (9th Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (allegations that defendants lacked probable
cause to arrest him and brought unfounded criminal charges challenge validity of conviction and are
Heck barred)); Thomas v. Polk Cnty. Minn., No. 15-CV-4479 (DWF/SER), 2016 WL 861328 at *2
(D. Minn. Jan. 12, 2016); see also Wells v. Bonner, 45 F.3d 90, 95 (5th Cir. 1995) (“He seeks to
prove that his arrest lacked a basis in probable cause. It is immediately clear that again the rationale
of Heck precludes his claim of false arrest.”). Even if the Court had subject-matter jurisdiction over
Librace’s claims pertaining to his arrest, prosecution, and conviction for communicating a false
report, those claims would be barred by Heck.
As to Librace’s allegations of other affidavits for arrest warrants, the complaint consists of
nothing more than labels and conclusions — it does not meet the Twombly plausibility standard.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. As mentioned above, Librace has made
more specific allegations in a brief in response to his response brief, but those allegations are not
part of his complaint and cannot be considered in ruling on the motion to dismiss.1
In addition to his arguments based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and Heck v. Humphrey,
Valley argues that the complaint fails because the claims against him in his official capacity are
claims against the City and the complaint fails to allege the essential elements of municipal liability.
Because the complaint fails for other reasons, the Court need not address this issue.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendant’s motion to dismiss is GRANTED. Document #6.
David Librace’s complaint is dismissed without prejudice. If Librace wishes to amend his
complaint, he must file an appropriate motion within fourteen (14) days from the entry of this
Opinion and Order. If he fails to do so, a judgment will be entered dismissing this action.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 17th day of November, 2017.
J. LEON HOLMES
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Librace has not moved to amend his complaint.
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