Stansbury v. Waldron et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Levi Russell, III on 12/19/2016. (krs, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CHARLES F. STANSBURY, JR.,
HONORABLE STEPHEN M. WALDRON,
HONORABLE YOLANDA L. CURTAIN,
LISA HYLE MARTS,
HONORABLE ANGELA M. EAVES,
ERIC P. MACDONNELL,
Civil Action No. GLR-16-3888
Plaintiff Charles Stansbury, Jr., a resident of Abingdon, Maryland, filed this Complaint
against three Harford County Maryland Circuit Court Judges, an Assistant State’s Attorney, and an
Assistant Public Defender, seemingly invoking this Court’s civil rights jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1343. ECF No. 1 at p. 4. Stansbury claims that he was subject to “double jeopardy, due process,
deprivation of rights, cruel and unusual punishment, malicious prosecution, obstruction of justice”
under the federal Constitution and criminal code. Id. He appears to take issue with various
proceedings before the aforementioned judges in the Circuit Court for Harford County in 2014 and
2015, as well as the decisions made by the prosecution and defense counsel in those proceedings.1
Stansbury alleges that he has suffered social and economic injury and experienced emotional distress
and severe depression. He seeks $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Id., at pp. 5–
11. Because he appears indigent, Stansbury’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis shall
Stansbury checks off the tort, civil rights, and statutory boxes of the Nature of Suit section
of his Civil Cover Sheet.
be granted. The Court, however, will summarily dismiss Stansbury’s Complaint.
The in forma pauperis statute authorizes district courts to dismiss a case if it is satisfied that
the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, is frivolous or malicious, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)
(2012). Because Stansbury is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must conduct a sua sponte
screening of this Complaint.2 See id.
Although the Complaint lacks any clear factual allegations regarding Stansbury’s criminal
case history, the Court sees no need to obtain supplemental materials from him in this case as the
State court judges named are not subject to suit. The alleged actions (or inactions) of Judges
Waldron, Curtain, and Eaves occurred in their capacity as judges. Therefore, Stansbury’s claims
against the judges are barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity and must be dismissed. See
Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9–11 (1991); Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 226–27 (1988); Stump
v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355–56 (1978). Further, his claim against Assistant State’s Attorney
Marts for “prosecuting an illegal sentence” is subject to dismissal. Assistant State’s Attorney Marts
is absolutely immune from damage liability for actions taken in her prosecutorial capacity, because
the decision whether to prosecute plainly falls under such protected actions. See Imbler v. Pachtman,
A self-represented party’s complaint must be given a liberal construction. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007). A party proceeding pro se, however, has “the burden of alleging
sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106,
1110 (10th Cir. 1991). To state a claim for relief, the complaint must present allegations of fact,
assumed to be true, that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Complaint must present “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. At this stage, the Court accepts all well-pleaded
allegations as true and views them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Id. at 555.
424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976); Springman v. Williams, 122 F.3d 211, 213-14 (4th Cir. 1997); Lyles v.
Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 376-77 (4th Cir. 1996).
Finally, Stansbury’s damage claim against Assistant Public Defender MacDonnell may not
proceed. Jurisdictional and threshold requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil actions require that a
substantial federal question be asserted and that the named defendant be acting “under color of” state
law. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343(a)(3) and (4); West v. Adkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988); Lugar v.
Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 928-930 (1982). A defense attorney, whether privately retained
or court-appointed, represents only his client, not the State. See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S.
312, 325 (1981); Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800 (4th Cir. 1976). Defendant MacDonnell is not a person
acting under color of state law.
To the extent that Stansbury wishes to raise a common-law tort claim in the federal court, he
may not so do. This is a court of limited original jurisdiction that does not sit to review every claim
related to alleged tortious or fraudulent conduct involving non-federal parties. It only has authority
to review such claims filed pursuant to a federal district court’s diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction.
When a party seeks to invoke diversity jurisdiction under § 1332, he bears the burden of
demonstrating that the grounds for diversity exist and that diversity is complete. See Advani
Enterprises, Inc. v. Underwriters at Lloyds, 140 F.3d 157, 160 (2d Cir. 1998). The requirement of
complete diversity of citizenship mandates that each plaintiff meet the diversity requirements as to
each defendant. See Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 829 (1989). “It is well
established that diversity jurisdiction attaches only when all parties on one side of the litigation are of
a different citizenship from all of those on the other.” Stouffer Corp. v. Breckenridge, 859 F.2d 75,
76 (8th Cir. 1988) (citing Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267, 2 L.Ed. 435 (1806)).
According to the Complaint, all parties reside in Maryland. Thus, Stansbury’s vague allegations of
tortious conduct cannot meet federal diversity requirements.
To the extent that Stansbury alleges that Defendants have violated several provisions of
Article 18 of the federal criminal code, the court notes that, as a private citizen, he lacks a judicially
cognizable interest in the prosecution or non-prosecution of Defendants for their alleged unlawful
acts. See Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973); see also Otero v. United States
Attorney General, 832 F.2d 141 (11th Cir. 1987). That power is invested exclusively in the
executive branch. Therefore, Stansbury’s “criminal complaint” may not stand against the named
For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that the instant matter is subject to dismissal under
28 U.S.C. § 1915. A separate order follows.
Entered this 19th day of December, 2016
George L. Russell, III
United States District Judge
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