Chapman v. Sosa-Gayton et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION - A separate judgment will be entered in accordance with this memorandum opinion. Ordered by Senior Judge Lyle E. Strom. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(GJG)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
BILLIE JOE CHAPMAN,
YVONNE D. SOSA-GAYTON, TIM
BURNS, DOUGLAS COUNTY PUBLIC )
DEFENDERS OFFICE, and JUDGE
Plaintiff Billie Joe Chapman (“Plaintiff” or “Chapman”)
filed his pro se complaint (Filing No. 1) on July 7, 2014.
Court gave Chapman leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Filing No.
To date, Chapman has not paid the initial partial filing fee
in this case, a step ordinarily required before initial review is
Regardless, in the interest of progressing this case
to disposition, the Court now conducts an initial review of his
complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Chapman is currently incarcerated at the Iowa Medical
and Classification Center in Coralville, Iowa.
His claims are
based on incidents that occurred when he was extradited from
Nebraska to Iowa.
Liberally construed, Chapman alleges
defendants Yvonne Sosa-Gayton and Tim Burns, his public defenders
in Douglas County, Nebraska, did not effectively represent his
interests during state-court extradition proceedings.
alleges the state court judge, defendant Judge Coniglia, refused
to allow Chapman to “speak for himself.”
(Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF
For relief, Chapman seeks $20,000 from each of the
named defendants, as well as $40,000 from the defendants’
STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
The Court is required to review in forma pauperis
complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
The Court must dismiss a complaint or
any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim,
that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual
allegations to “nudge their claims across the line from
conceivable to plausible,” or “their complaint must be
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70
(2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”).
“The essential function of a complaint under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party
‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and
a general indication of the type of litigation involved.’”
Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th
Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th
However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally
construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading
standard than other parties.”
Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Liberally construed, plaintiff here alleges federal
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the
United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also
must show that the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a
person acting under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487
U.S.42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir.
Federal Tort Claims Act
Chapman purports to bring this suit under the Federal
Tort Claims Act, a federal statute that permits private parties
to sue the United States in federal court for some torts
committed by persons acting on behalf of the United States.
28 U.S.C. § 1346.
Here, Chapman has sued his state court-
appointed public defenders for actions they took in representing
him in state court, and a state court judge for actions he took
in presiding over a state criminal matter.
CM/ECF pp. 2-3.)
(See Filing No. 1 at
The Federal Tort Claims Act is inapplicable.
Accordingly, the Court will consider Chapman’s claims as if they
were brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Chapman alleges Sosa-Gayton and Burns provided him with
ineffective assistance of counsel because they did not
sufficiently protect his rights prior to his extradition.
(Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 3-4.)
However, as Chapman’s public
defenders, Sosa-Gayton and Burns are not subject to suit in this
To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that the defendant, while acting under color of state law,
deprived him of a federal right.
In Polk Cnty. 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.
See Holbird v. Armstrong-Wright,
949 F.2d 1019, 1020 (8th Cir. 1991) (“The conduct of counsel,
either retained or appointed, in representing clients, does not
constitute action under color of state law for purposes of
section 1983 violations.”).
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss
Chapman’s claims against Sosa-Gayton and Burns without prejudice
to reassertion in a habeas corpus action or similar proceeding.
Chapman also alleged Judge Coniglia refused to allow
Chapman “to speak for himself all under case # CR10-33631.”
judge is immune from suit, including suits brought under section
1983 to recover for alleged deprivation of civil rights, in all
but two narrow sets of circumstances.
F.3d 370, 373 (8th Cir. 2012).
Schottel v. Young, 687
“First, a judge is not immune
from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken
in the judge’s judicial capacity.
Second, a judge is not immune
for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in the complete
absence of all jurisdiction.”
Id. (internal citations omitted).
An act is judicial if “it is one normally performed by a judge
and if the complaining party is dealing with the judge in his
Id. (internal citations omitted).
Chapman alleged no facts against Judge Coniglia that would fall
outside the scope of his duties in presiding over a state-court
Accordingly, he is immune from suit.
A separate judgment
will be entered in accordance with this memorandum opinion.
DATED this 1st day of July, 2015.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Lyle E. Strom
LYLE E. STROM, Senior Judge
United States District Court
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