Ferguson v. Dunn et al
ORDER overruling objections and adopting 60 Report and Recommendation by granting 25 Motion to Dismiss. Pltf has 14 days from receipt of this order to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies described in Judge Hawthorn's report reg arding pltf's federal law claims against Beckman, Kelley, Morrow, Pitts, Thurman and Willis. Because pltf has pled his best case against Ponthier, Hilton, Judge Mixson and Judge Smith, pltf's federal law claims against those defts are dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Judge Ron Clark on 7/17/17. (tkd, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
RALPH LYNN FERGUSON, JR.
ERIC MARCINE DUNN, et al.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:16-CV-272
ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS AND ADOPTING
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
The court referred this case by order to the Honorable Zack Hawthorn, United States
Magistrate Judge, for pretrial management pursuant to General Order 05-07. The court has
received and considered Judge Hawthorn’s report and recommendation (Doc. No. 60), which
recommends granting Defendants Josh Beckman, Robert Hilton, Gwen Kelley, Judge Craig
Mixson, Ashley Morrow, Linda Pitts, Courtney Ponthier, Judge Connie Smith, Brandon Thurman
and Charles Willis’ (collectively, the “County Defendants”) second motion to dismiss (Doc. No.
25). The court has also received the objections of Plaintiff Ralph Lynn Ferguson (Doc. No. 72).
A party who files timely, written objections to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation is
entitled to a de novo determination of those findings or recommendations to which the party
specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(2)-(3). After undertaking a
de novo review of Judge Hawthorn’s report, the court concludes that Ferguson’s objections are
without merit. As a result, the court adopts the report and recommendation of Judge Hawthorn.
Because Ferguson is proceeding pro se, his pleadings are necessarily held to “less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,” and are liberally construed by the court. See
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Perez v. U.S., 312 F.3d 191, 194-95 (5th Cir. 2002).
“Parties filing objections must specifically identify those findings [to which they object].
Frivolous, conclusive or general objections need not be considered by the district court.” Nettles
v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 410 n.8 (5th Cir. 1982) (en banc), overruled on other grounds by
Douglass v. United Servs. Auto. Ass’n, 79 F.3d 1415 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc). Notwithstanding
the lesser pleading standards afforded to pro se parties, Ferguson’s objections to Judge Hawthorn’s
report and recommendation are both difficult to decipher and largely conclusory. The court will
address several of Ferguson’s more fully articulated objections below.
Judges Smith and Mixson
Liberally construing his objections, Ferguson appears to argue that Judge Smith had
“ulterior motive(s)” for issuing Ferguson’s arrest warrant. Doc. No. 72, at 3. Ferguson alludes to
financial gain as Judge Smith’s motive for issuing the warrant for Ferguson’s arrest, stating that
Judge Smith’s motives were displayed “when she informed [Ferguson] when and where to pay her
court’s fine money for the charge against him . . . though [Ferguson] did not plead guilty or ask
for the information.” Id. Judges are entitled to immunity for their actions even where the judge is
alleged to have acted maliciously, corruptly, or in bad faith. Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554
(1967). Ferguson’s other arguments focus on the propriety of Judges Smith and Mixson’s actions
as a Justice of the Peace and State District Court judge, respectively. Doc. No. 72, at 4-6.
However, both judges’ actions were a result of, and in connection with, their regular judicial
functions. Thus, as recommended in Judge Hawthorn’s report, both Judge Smith and Judge
Mixson enjoy judicial immunity from suit.
Ponthier and Hilton
Ferguson also argues that Ponthier and Hilton acted with “malice” in pursuing charges
against Ferguson when “they knew no probable cause exist(ed).” Doc. No. 72, at 7. Ferguson
also alleges that Ponthier and Hilton “refused to disclose (DPS Officer) Dunn’s cruzer [sic]
recording of the arrest[,] which was mitigating evidence they held in the case file even though
[Ferguson] specifically made this request for same in writing.” Id. As explained in Judge
Hawthorn’s report, prosecutors such as Ponthier and Hilton are completely immune for the
initiation and subsequent investigation involved in a criminal prosecution. See Loupe v. O'Bannon,
824 F.3d 534, 539 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted). Ferguson does not explain why his
allegations, even if they are to be believed, are sufficient to overcome the generous grant of
immunity afforded prosecutors during the course of their investigations. Accordingly, the court
concludes that Ferguson’s objections are without merit.
Thus, after completing a de novo review of Judge Hawthorn’s report and Ferguson’s
objections, the objections are overruled and the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge
is ADOPTED. Ferguson shall be allowed fourteen (14) days from the receipt of this order to
amend his complaint to address the deficiencies described in Judge Hawthorn’s report regarding
Ferguson’s federal law claims against Beckman, Kelley, Morrow, Pitts, Thurman and Willis.
Because Ferguson has pled his best case against Ponthier, Hilton, Judge Mixson and Judge Smith,
Ferguson’s federal law claims against those defendants are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 17 day of July, 2017.
Ron Clark, United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?