ECHEVERRIA v. CORVASCE et al
Amended OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Freda L. Wolfson on 5/20/2014. (kas, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
LUIS TORRES ECHEVERRIA,
Civil Action No. 13-1852 (FLW)
MAURO CORVASCE, et al.,
LUIS TORRES ECHEVERRIA
45 River Drive, #417
Passaic, NJ 07055
Plaintiff Pro Se
WOLFSON, District Judge:
Luis Echeverria seeks to file a Complaint asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 without
prepayment of the filing fee. This Court will grant Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma
pauperis.1 For the reasons expressed in this Opinion, and as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B),
this Court will dismiss the Complaint.
Luis Echeverria brings this Complaint for violation of his constitutional rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Police Officers Mauro Corvasce and Eugene Tacher. He asserts that he
On August 13, 2013, this Court denied without prejudice Plaintiff’s application to proceed in
forma pauperis because he did not include adequate information concerning his income and
expenses. Plaintiff thereafter submitted an amended application.
was indicted under Indictment Number 95-03-0401 for unspecified crimes in the Superior Court of
New Jersey, Monmouth County, he was found guilty, and he completed serving his sentence. He
alleges that the named police officers violated his constitutional rights by planting evidence used
against him in the criminal case, committing perjury, and fraudulently obtaining his conviction.
He seeks damages for violation of his constitutional rights. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.)
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to
1321-77 (April 26, 1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in
which a person is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), or a prisoner seeks
redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). The PLRA directs
district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. Id. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under these statutes because
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
“[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim2,
the complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible.
Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “A claim has facial
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6).” Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v.
Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012)
(discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)).
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.” Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc.,
708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se
pleadings are liberally construed, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to
support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted) (emphasis added).
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Mansfield, C. & L. M. Ry. Co. v. Swan,
111 U.S. 379, 383 (1884). “[T]hey have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the
Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto.” Bender v. Williamsport Area
School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a
cause of action for violation of constitutional rights by a person acting under color of state law. 3 To
recover under § 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him to
be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation
was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Liberally construing
The statute provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory . . . subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the
party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress.
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff’s allegations, the Court reads the Complaint as attempting to state claim for perjury,
fabrication of evidence contrary to due process, and unconstitutional malicious prosecution in
violation of the Fourth Amendment.
To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to assert an independent § 1983 claim based on
Defendants’ perjured testimony, this Court will dismiss the claim because a witness who testifies
(falsely) has absolute immunity from any § 1983 claim based on the witness’s testimony. See
Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1506 (2012); Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 332-33 (1983).
Plaintiff further claims that Defendants planted fabricated evidence to obtain his
conviction. This raises two potential claims under § 1983, i.e., fabrication of evidence to obtain
Plaintiff’s conviction in violation of due process and malicious prosecution in violation of the
Fourth Amendment. See Halsey v. Pfeiffer,
, 2014 WL 1622769 (3d Cir. Apr. 24,
2014). In Halsey v. Pfeiffer, the Third Circuit held that “if a defendant has been convicted at a
trial at which the prosecution has used fabricated evidence, the defendant has a stand-alone claim
under section 1983 based on the Fourteenth Amendment if there is a reasonable likelihood that,
without the use of that evidence, the defendant would not have been convicted.” Halsey, 2014
WL 1622769 at *15. A “reasonable likelihood” means that “plaintiffs bringing fabrication claims
must draw a meaningful connection between their conviction and the use of fabricated evidence
against them.” Id. at n.19. However, the Supreme Court held in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477, 486-87 (1994), that an action under § 1983 seeking “damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would
render a conviction or sentence invalid” is not cognizable under § 1983 unless “the conviction or
sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a
state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's
issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” See also Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005);
Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 751 (2004); Halsey, 2014 WL 1622769. Because federal
habeas petitions may not be granted unless available state court remedies have been exhausted, see
28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A), “conditioning the right to bring a § 1983 action on a favorable result in
state litigation or federal habeas serve[s] the practical objective of preserving limitations on the
availability of habeas remedies.” Close, 540 U.S. at 751.
This Court finds that Plaintiff’s due process fabrication of evidence claim is barred by
Heck because a favorable judgment on the claim would necessarily imply the invalidity of
Plaintiff’s conviction, which has not been overturned in the state courts or called into question by
issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. See Long, 670 F.3d at 447 (holding that Long’s claim that
defendants violated his rights by committing perjury and fabricating evidence to obtain his
conviction was “barred by Heck because he s[ought] § 1983 relief on the ground that the
defendants conspired to obtain a . . . conviction against him, but he has not demonstrated that his
conviction has already been invalidated.”)
Plaintiff’s allegations also raise a potential malicious prosecution claim under the Fourth
Amendment. To state a claim for malicious prosecution brought under § 1983, a plaintiff must
satisfy each of the following elements: “(1) the defendants initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the
criminal proceeding ended in [plaintiff’s] favor; (3) the defendant initiated the proceeding without
probable cause; (4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing the
plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept
of seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding.” Halsey, 2014 WL 1622769 at *17 (quoting
Johnson v. Knorr, 477 F.3d 75, 82 (3d Cir. 2007)). The favorable termination requirement serves
“to avoid ‘the possibility of the claimant succeeding in the tort action after having been convicted
in the underlying criminal prosecution, in contravention of a strong judicial policy against the
creation of two conflicting resolutions arising out of the same or identical transaction.’” Kossler
v. Crisanti, 564 F.3d 181, 187 (3d Cir. 2009) (en banc) (citation omitted). The Third Circuit has
“held that a prior criminal case must have been disposed of in a way that indicates the innocence of
the accused in order to satisfy the favorable termination element.” Id.
Without considering the other elements, this Court will dismiss the malicious prosecution
claim because Plaintiff’s allegations do not show that the criminal proceeding pursued against him
by the Defendants terminated in his favor. Plaintiff asserts that he was found guilty and he served
his sentence; he does not allege facts showing that his criminal conviction was reversed on appeal
or otherwise disposed of in a way that indicates his innocence. Accordingly, he has not stated a
malicious prosecution claim under § 1983. See Morris v. Verniero, 453 F.App’x 243, 246 (3d
Cir. 2011); Poku v. Himelman, 448 F.App’x 217 (3d Cir. 2011); Donahue v. Gavin, 280 F.3d 371
(3d Cir. 2002).
Because Plaintiff’s Complaint does not assert cognizable claims against
Defendants Corvasce and Tacher under § 1983, this Court is constrained to dismiss the Complaint
for failure to state a claim under § 1983 upon which relief may be granted.
A District Court generally grants leave to correct the deficiencies in a complaint by
amendment. See DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Properties Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 251 (3d Cir. 2012);
Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000). However, in this case, the Court will not grant
Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint because the allegations set forth by Plaintiff do not suggest
that he would be able to state a cognizable § 1983 claim by amending the Complaint.4
For the reasons set forth in this Opinion, this Court will grant Plaintiff’s application to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss the Complaint.
/s/ Freda L. Wolfson
FREDA L. WOLFSON, U.S.D.J.
May 20, 2014
Plaintiff asserts that he was found guilty and he served his sentence. In the event that Plaintiff’s
conviction is overturned in the future, or called into question by the issuance of post-conviction
relief or a writ of habeas corpus, then he may bring a new action under § 1983 at that time.
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