Hubbard v. Weimer et al
OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING WITH PREJUDICE case as to John Doe Prosecuting Attorney and Public Defender Vaught, and WITHOUT PREJUDICE as to Detective Weimer; see order for specifics. Signed by Honorable Timothy L. Brooks on April 25, 2017. (rg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PATRICK LEWIS HUBBARD
Civil No. 5:17-cv-05037
DETECTIVE EDDIE WEIMER; PUBLIC
DEFENDER JOHNATHAN VAUGHT;
and JOHN DOE PROSECUTOR
OPINION AND ORDER
This is a civil rights case filed by the Plaintiff, Patrick Lewis Hubbard, under the
provisions of 42 U.S .C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds prose and in forma pauperis ("IFP").
He is currently incarcerated in the Benton County Detention Center.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") modified the IFP statute , 28
U.S.C. § 1915, to require the Court to screen complaints for dismissal under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains
claims that: (a) are frivolous or malicious; (b) fail to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted ; or, (c) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S .C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
According to the allegations of the Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff is awaiting trial on
pending criminal charges. (Doc. 1, p. 4 ). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Weimer provided
false information in order to obtain an arrest warrant against him. (Doc. 1, pp . 4-5).
Plaintiff also alleges Defendant Weimer charged him with two crimes for the same act,
resulting in a double jeopardy claim .
(Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).
Plaintiff alleges John Doe
Prosecutor arraigned him for two crimes for the same act, maliciously prosecuted him ,
and knew of Defendant Weimer's perjury on the arrest warrant affidavit. (Doc. 1, pp. 7,9).
Plaintiff alleges Public Defender Vaught committed deliberate indifference when he kept
Defendant Weimer's perjury on the arrest warrants from the Court. (Doc. 1, p. 10).
As relief, Plaintiff asks for punitive damages and any other fines , fee , penalties the
Court finds it should impose. (Doc 1, p. 12).
Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen a case prior to service of process
being issued. A claim is frivolous when 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 At/. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). However,
the Court bears in mind that when "evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted
sufficient facts to state a claim , we hold 'a prose complaint, however inartfully pleaded ,
... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. "'
Nixon , 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 , 94
Plaintiff's claims are subject to dismissal because they are barred by the Younger
abstention doctrine. Pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971 ), federal courts
are required to abstain from hearing cases when "(1) there is an ongoing state judicial
proceeding which (2) implicates important state interests, and when (3) that proceeding
affords an adequate opportunity to raise the federal questions presented. " Norwood v.
Dickey, 409 F.3d 901 , 903 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Fuller v. Ulland, 76 F.3d 957, 959 (8th
Cir. 1996)). Ongoing state criminal proceedings implicate the important state interest of
enforcing state criminal law, and constitutional claims relating to that proceeding should
be raised there . Meador v. Paulson , 385 Fed. App'x 613 (8th Cir. 201 O); see also Gillette
v. N. Dakota Disc. Bd. Counsel, 610 F.3d 1045, 1046 (8th Cir. 2010) ("federal courts may
not enjoin pending state court criminal proceedings absent a showing of bad faith ,
harassment, or any other unusual circumstance that would call for equitable relief. ")
(internal quotations omitted).
Further, prosecuting attorneys are 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); Brodnicki v. City of Omaha, 75 F.3d 1261 (8th Cir. 1996) (county prosecutors
were entitled to absolute immunity from suit).
Finally, Plaintiff failed to state a cognizable claim against the public defender. To
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant, while acting under
color of state law, deprived him of a federal right. In Polk County v. Dodson , 454 U.S.
312, 325 (1981 ), the Supreme Court held that a public defender does not act under color
of state law when performing a lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to indigent
defendants in state criminal proceedings. Thus, when the claim is that the public defender
failed to adequately represent the client in his criminal proceedings, it does not state a
cognizable claim under § 1983. See also Gilbert v. Corcoran , 530 F .2d 820 (8th Cir.
1976) (conclusory allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel do not state a claim
against public defenders under§ 1983).
The Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim under§ 1983 and is frivolous and/or
asserted against an individual immune from suit.
The case is DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE as to John Doe Prosecuting Attorney and Public Defender Vaught, and
WITHOUT PREJUDICE as to Detective Weimer. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8)(1)-(iii)
(IFP action may be dismissed at any time due to frivolousness or for failure to state a
IT IS SO ORDERED on this
~5 day of April , 2017 .
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