Huffstatler v. Inboden
ORDER dismissing Huffstatler's complaint with prejudice with respect to Huffstatler's federal civil rights claims and without prejudice in all other respects. The Court certifies that an in forma pauperis appeal taken from the Order and Judgment dismissing this action would be considered frivolous and not in good faith. Signed by Judge J. Leon Holmes on 3/12/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
NO. 3:14CV00044 JLH
Matthew Huffstatler, an Arkansas Department of Correction inmate, filed a pro se complaint,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Steven Inboden, his criminal defense attorney, failed to
represent him adequately, and did not earn the $12,500.00 that Huffstatler paid for his services.
Because Inboden was not a state actor, Huffstatler’s complaint fails to state a claim for which relief
may be granted under section 1983 and therefore must be dismissed.
Before docketing the complaint, or as soon thereafter as practicable, the Court must review
the complaint to identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious;
(2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires
only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In Bell
Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929
(2007), the Court stated, “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to
relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause
of action will not do....Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level,” citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-
236 (3d ed. 2004). A complaint must contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face, not merely conceivable. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S. Ct. at 1974. However, a pro
se plaintiff’s allegations must be construed liberally. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.
Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1081 (2007).
To state a cognizable claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the
conduct of a defendant acting “under color of state law” deprived him of a right, privilege, or
immunity secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
Hamilton v. Schriro, 74 F.3d 1545, 1549 (8th Cir. 1996). Inboden’s actions as his advocate in a
criminal proceeding cannot form the basis for a section 1983 claim. An attorney, even an appointed
public defender, does not act under color of state law when performing the traditional functions of
a defense counsel. See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 320, 102 S. Ct. 445, 451, 70 L. Ed.
2d 509 (1981) (“[I]t is the function of the public defender to enter ‘not guilty’ pleas, move to
suppress State’s evidence, object to evidence at trial, cross-examine State’s witnesses, and make
closing arguments in behalf of defendants. All of these are adversarial functions”). See also Holbird
v. Armstrong-Wright, 949 F.2d 1019, 1020 (8th Cir. 1991) (per curiam) (conduct of either retained
or appointed counsel does not constitute state action for purposes of section 1983). Accordingly,
Huffstatler’s complaint must be dismissed. The dismissal will be without prejudice as to Huffstatler’s
right to pursue in an appropriate forum any claims based on state law.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED THAT:
Huffstatler’s complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE with respect to
Huffstatler’s federal civil rights claims and WITHOUT PREJUDICE in all other respects.
The Court certifies that an in forma pauperis appeal taken from the order and
judgment dismissing this action would be considered frivolous and not in good faith.
DATED this 12th day of March, 2014.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?