Stone v. Brandenburg et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge Judith C. Herrera Dismissing Plaintiff's Civil Rights Complaint for failure to state a claim and denying as moot, in light of the dismissal, 4 Plaintiff Stone's Motion for Order Directing U.S. Marshals to Effect Service on All Defendants. (baw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. CV 16-00528 JCH/LF
STATE OF NEW MEXICO DISTRICT
ATTORNEYS OFFICE, CITY OF
ALBUQUERQUE METROPOLITAN DETENTION
CENTER, KARI BRANDENBURG,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 filed by Plaintiff Lafayette Stone on June 2, 2016 (Doc. 1). Also before the Court
is Plaintiff Stone’s Motion for Order Directing U.S. Marshals to Effect Service on All
Defendants (Doc. 4). The Court will Deny Stone’s Motion as moot and dismiss his Complaint
for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
Plaintiff Stone is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. The Court has the discretion
to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted under either Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) or 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Under
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not
conclusory, unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside the pleading.
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1190 (10th
Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a complaint under rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if
“it is ‘patently obvious’ that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting McKinney v. Oklahoma Dep’t of Human Services,
925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim should be dismissed
where it is legally or factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570.
Under § 1915(e)(2)(B) the Court may dismiss the complaint at any time if the Court
determines the action fails to state a claim for relief or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. §
915(e)(2)(B)(2). The authority granted by § 1915 permits the court the unusual power to pierce
the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions
are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). See also Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d at 1109. The authority to “pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations” means
that a court is not bound, as it usually is when making a determination based solely on the
pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations. Denton v. Hernandez,
504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). The Court is not required to accept the truth of the plaintiff's
allegations but, instead, may go beyond the pleadings and consider any other materials filed by
the parties, as well as court proceedings subject to judicial notice. Denton, 504 U.S. at 32-33.
In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court liberally construes the factual allegations. See
Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se plaintiff’s
pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants and a pro se plaintiff
must abide by the applicable rules of court. Ogden v. San Juan County, 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th
Cir. 1994). The Court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or to supply factual
allegations to support the plaintiff’s claims. Nor may the Court assume the role of advocate for
the pro se litigant. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1110.
In deciding whether to dismiss the complaint, in whole or in part, the Court is to consider
whether to allow plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint. Pro se plaintiffs should be
given a reasonable opportunity to remedy defects in their pleadings. Reynoldson v. Shillinger,
907 F.2d 124, 126 (10th Cir. 1990). The opportunity to amend should be granted unless
amendment would be futile. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1109. An amendment is futile if the
amended claims would also be subject to immediate dismissal under the rule 12(b)(6) or §
1915(e)(2)(B) standards. Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004).
Plaintiff Stone names the State of New Mexico District Attorneys Office as a Defendant
in this case.(Doc. 1 at 1). The State of New Mexico District Attorneys Office is a state agency.
As such, the claims against it are claims against the State of New Mexico. The State is not a
“person” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and, therefore, there is no remedy against the
State under § 1983. The claims against the State of New Mexico District Attorneys Office will
be dismissed. Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63-64 (1989).
Stone also names Kari Brandenburg, in her capacity as District Attorney, as a Defendant.
(Doc. 1 at 1; Doc. Doc. 6 at 5-6). Prosecutors are entitled to immunity in the performance of their
prosecutorial functions. Miller v. Spiers, 434 F.Supp.2d 1064 (2006); Johnson v. Lally, 118 N.M.
795, 796, 887 P.2d 1262, 1263 (Ct. App. 1994). The common law has long recognized
prosecutors must be given immunity from the chilling effects of civil liability. Burns v. Reed,
500 U.S. 478, 485, 111 S.Ct. 1934, 114 L.Ed.2d 547 (1991); Griffith v. Slinkard, 146 Ind. 117,
44 N.E. 1001, 1002 (1896); Collins, 111 N.M. at 396, 806 P.2d at 45. Prosecutors are absolutely
immune from damages for their advocacy and activities “intimately associated with the judicial
phase of the criminal process.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976). Stone makes no
factual allegations against Defendant Brandenburg and her name appears in the record only on
the letterhead of target notices sent to Plaintiff Stone by the Office of the District Attorney.
(Doc. 6 at 5-6).
Therefore, Stone makes no allegations of conduct that is outside the
performance of prosecutorial functions and the claims against Defendant Brandenburg will also
Last, Stone names the City of Albuquerque Metropolitan Detention Center as a
Defendant. (Doc. 1 at 2). To hold a municipality liable, a plaintiff must show a government's
policy or custom that caused the constitutional injury. Monell v. Department of Social Services,
436 U.S. 658, 691–92, 694 (1978); see also City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 389 (1989).
The “official policy” requirement was intended to distinguish acts of the municipality from acts
of employees of the municipality, and thereby make clear that municipal liability is limited to
action for which the municipality is actually responsible. Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475
U.S. 469, 479 (1986); Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dep't, 717 F.3d 760, 769–70
(10th Cir. 2013). To the extent Stone seeks to impose municipal liability on the City of
Albuquerque, the Complaint does not allege any policy or custom of the City of Albuquerque
and fails to state a claim for relief.
Last, In Heck v. Humphry, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994), the Supreme Court addressed the
question of when a prisoner may bring a § 1983 claim relating to his conviction or sentence. The
Court held that when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must
consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of
his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487.
Similarly, although in some circumstances a prospective injunction may be available under §
1983, to the extent a request for declaratory or injunctive relief would necessarily invalidate the
prisoner’s conviction or sentence, declaratory and injunctive relief are also barred by the Heck
doctrine. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 80-81 (2005). See also Edwards v. Balisok, 520
U.S. 641 (1997).
Stone’s Prayer for Relief specifically asks the Court to “have this case number dismissed
an for the court to figer out how much money damages I should get
for the days I did in jail.” (Doc. 1 at 5). Stone has been convicted and sentenced on four of the
five felony charges against him in State of New Mexico cause no. D-202-CR-2016-00156.
Because a favorable ruling on Stone’s claims would require treating his criminal prosecution in
Second Judicial District cause no. D-202-CR-2016-00156 as invalid, the civil rights claims in the
Complaint must be dismissed under the Heck doctrine. See, Beck v. City of Muskogee Police
Dept., 195 F.3d 553, 556–57 (10th Cir.1999). The claims against Defendant State of New
Mexico District Attorneys Office, City of Albuquerque Metropolitan Detention Center, and Kari
Brandenburg for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are barred by Heck and, therefore, fail to state a
claim on which relief can be granted.
The Court has considered matters outside the pleading and will dismiss Stone’s
Complaint for failure to state a claim under the 1915(e)(2)(B) standard. The Court will dismiss
all of Stone’s claims in this case without leave to amend. The Court determines that any
amendment of Stone’s Complaint would still be barred under the Heck doctrine and would be
subject to immediate dismissal. Therefore, granting of leave to amend the Complaint would be
futile. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1109; Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d at 901.
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff Stone’s Motion for Order Directing U.S. Marshals to
Effect Service on All Defendants (Doc. 4) is DENIED as moot in light of the dismissal of
Stone’s claims, and the Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by Plaintiff
Lafayette Stone on June 2, 2016 (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED for failure to state a claim under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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