Small v. Brown et al
OPINION re 1 Complaint Referred (42:1983) filed by Vincent H. Small. This case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Honorable P. K. Holmes, III on September 28, 2017. (mjm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
FORT SMITH DIVISION
VINCENT H. SMALL
Civil No. 2:17-cv-02156
SHERIFF RON BROWN, Crawford
County, Arkansas; and MARC
MCCUNE, Prosecuting Attorney
Plaintiff, Vincent H. Small, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. He proceeds
pro se and has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. The case is before the Court
for preservice screening under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which a
prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental
entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
According to the allegations of the complaint (ECF No. 1), Plaintiff was incarcerated in
the State of Oklahoma in 2016. Plaintiff alleges that on April 21, 2016, Crawford County was
notified of his imprisonment in Oklahoma, but that Crawford County did not lodge a detainer
against him until April 1, 2017.
Plaintiff alleges his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was violated by Defendants.
Further, he alleges his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights were violated. Finally, he
alleges Rule 29 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure was violated.
Plaintiff names as Defendants the Crawford County Sheriff, Ron Brown, and prosecuting
attorney, Mark McCune. He has sued them in their official capacities only.
Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Crawford County Detention Center. As relief,
Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, release from custody, and dismissal of the charges
Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen the case prior to service of process being
issued. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (1)
are frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or, (2) seek
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
A claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it
does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has
asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded
... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Jackson v. Nixon, 747
F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)).
Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of
a citizen’s “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United
States. In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant
acted under color of state law and that he violated a right secured by the Constitution. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988); Dunham v. Wadley, 195 F.3d 1007, 1009 (8th Cir. 1999). The
deprivation must be intentional; mere negligence will not suffice to state a claim for deprivation
of a constitutional right under § 1983. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Davidson v.
Cannon, 474 U.S. 344 (1986).
Plaintiff’s claims are subject to dismissal for a number of reasons. First, the prosecuting
attorney, Mark McCune, is immune from suit. The United States Supreme Court, in Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976), established the absolute immunity of a prosecutor from a
civil suit for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “in initiating a prosecution and in presenting the
State’s case.” Id., at 427. This immunity extends to all acts that are “intimately associated with
the judicial phase of the criminal process.” Id., at 430; see also Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509
U.S. 259 (1993) (Prosecutor acting as an advocate for the state in a criminal prosecution is
entitled to absolute immunity while a prosecutor acting in an investigatory or administrative
capacity is only entitled to qualified immunity).
As to Plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief, prosecutors are not immune from claims for
equitable relief. Supreme Court v. Consumers Union, 446 U.S. 719, 736-38 (1980). However,
“[t]he federal courts should not interfere in state criminal court proceedings [by granting
equitable relief] when state and federal law provide adequate legal remedies and when
intervention needlessly threatens the principle of comity.” Smith v. Bacon, 699 F. 2d 434, 437
(8th Cir. 1983) (per curiam) (citation omitted). Here, adequate legal remedies exist through the
use of state procedural safeguards and state and federal habeas corpus proceedings. Rogers v.
Bruntrager, 841 F. 2d 853, 856 (8th Cir. 1988).
Second, Plaintiff may not use the civil rights statutes as a substitute for habeas corpus
relief. In other words, he cannot seek declaratory or injunctive relief relating to his confinement
and/or conviction. See e.g., Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997); Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477, 483-89 (1994); Preiser v. Rodriquez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973) (habeas corpus is
the exclusive remedy for prisoners attacking the validity of their conviction or confinement).
Third, “the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial attaches at the time of arrest or
indictment, whichever comes first, and continues until the trial commences.” United States v.
Sprouts, 282 F.3d 1037, 1042 (8th Cir. 2002); see also United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S.
1, 6 (1982) (Sixth Amendment attaches at arrest or formal accusation). While a formal
accusation may be in the form of a complaint or information rather than an indictment, the
Supreme Court has nevertheless narrowly defined the initiation of criminal prosecution for Sixth
Amendment purposes to include “only ‘a formal indictment or information or else the actual
restraints imposed by arrest and holding to answer a criminal charge.’” See United States v.
Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783, 788 (1977) (quoting United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 320 (1971)).
The lodging of a detainer is not the “the functional equivalent of an ‘arrest’ for speedy trial
purposes.” United States v. Jones, No. Cr. 02-10110, 2003 WL 192135, *1 (D. Mass. Jan. 29,
2003). Therefore, the Sixth Amendment has no application to the alleged time delay between
when the notice was given to Crawford County and the lodging of the detainer.
Fourth, the violation of a state procedural rule does not equate to a violation of federal
constitutional law. See e.g., Hodge v. Jones, 31 F.3d 157, 168 (4th Cir. 1994) (“[A] State’s
violation of its own laws or procedural rules, creating rights beyond those guaranteed by the
constitution, cannot support a federal due process claim”); Adewale v. Whalen, 21 F. Supp. 2d
1006, 1015 (D. Minn. 1998) (violation of state procedural rule does not constitute a violation of
federal constitutional law).
Fifth, Plaintiff’s official capacity claims against Sheriff are the equivalent of claims
against Crawford County. “Official-capacity liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 occurs only when
a constitutional injury is caused by ‘a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its
lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy.’”
Grayson v. Ross, 454 F.3d 802, 810-811 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs.,
436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). Plaintiff has not alleged the existence of any custom or policy of
Washington County that was a moving force behind the alleged constitutional violations.
The claims asserted are subject to dismissal because they are frivolous, fail to state claims
upon which relief may be granted, or are against individuals immune from suit. Therefore, this
case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-iii).
IT IS SO ORDERED on this 28th day of September 2017.
P. K. HOLMES, III
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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