Seaton v. Bingham et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER adopting 5 Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge. Ordered that the above-styled civil action is dismissed with prejudice as frivolous and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted as to the Plaintiffs claims for monetary damages, but without prejudice to the Plaintiffs right to challenge his conviction by any lawful means. Ordered that all motions which may still be pending in this civil action are hereby denied. Signed by Judge Ron Clark on 5/14/2017. (bjc, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
MATT BINGHAM, ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:16cv1322
MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
AND ENTERING FINAL JUDGMENT
The Plaintiff Hubert Seaton, proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C.
§1983 complaining of alleged violations of his constitutional rights. This Court referred the case
to the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) and (3) and the Amended
Order for the Adoption of Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrate
Judges. The named Defendants are Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham and two assistant
district attorneys identified as “Prosecutor 1" and “Prosecutor 2.”
Seaton’s complaint reads as follows:
DA Matt Bingham failed to investigate criminal complaints filed by the Plaintiff
against Judge Patterson and others. He failed to investigate the targeting harassment
charges in the evading arrest with a motor vehicle charge in which the Plaintiff
simply drove home because of prior threats that had been made against him. He
never was speeding or evading the ofc [officer]. The ofc pulled and pointed his gun
at the Plaintiff’s head without just cause. Bingham failed to provide the evidence
needed to prove my innocence as requested. Occurred between 2013 and 2016.
For relief, Seaton requests as follows:
Overturn the illegal plea deal, investigate the civil rights violations of the DA’s
office, Judge Jack Skeen Jr., the City Marshal, others. The Klan affiliation of the
arresting officer. Dismiss the evading arrest with a motor vehicle charge with
prejudice. Award the Plaintiff damages of $5,000,000.00.
On May 2, 2016, according to Smith County records, Seaton pleaded guilty to and was
convicted of evading arrest or detention with a vehicle, receiving a fully probated sentence of 10
years in prison. Seaton did not appeal this conviction, nor has he sought state habeas corpus relief.
II. The Report of the Magistrate Judge
After review of the pleadings, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending that the
lawsuit be dismissed. The Magistrate Judge observed that a district attorney and his assistants have
absolute immunity from claims for monetary damages for any actions taken pursuant to their role
as prosecutors in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings and in preparing the State’s case.
This immunity extends to the prosecutor’s actions in initiating, investigating, and pursuing a
criminal prosecution. The Magistrate Judge concluded that Seaton’s claims for monetary
damages are barred by prosecutorial immunity.
While Seaton complained that Bingham did not investigate criminal charges which he,
Seaton, filed, the Magistrate Judge determined that this claim lacked merit because there is no right
to have another person criminally prosecuted. To the extent Seaton complained of the legality of
his conviction, the Magistrate Judge stated that such a claim sounds in habeas corpus, but Seaton
has not exhausted his state court remedies. The Magistrate Judge therefore recommended that the
lawsuit be dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim, with prejudice as to any monetary
relief sought, but without prejudice as to Seaton’s right to challenge his conviction through any
III. Seaton’s Objections
In his objections, Seaton argues that the State had no legal jurisdiction, rendering the charges
and his plea deal illegal and invalid. He asserts that because the State had no legal jurisdiction, he
is not obligated to seek state habeas corpus relief. Furthermore, Seaton contends that where there
is no jurisdiction, there is no absolute immunity from suit.
Seaton maintains that Bingham had “a legal and moral obligation” to investigate the charges
against Judge Patteson. He states that there would never have been a prosecution had Bingham
performed his duties because the District Attorney had a moral and legal obligation to establish legal
jurisdiction, but chose not to do so.
Seaton attaches as exhibits a copies of newspaper articles concerning charges brought against
County Judge Joel Baker alleging violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, but he fails to explain
how these are pertinent to his case. He also attaches a statement by an individual named Benny
Young attesting that Seaton gave him a puppy after receiving a ticket. He indicates that the puppy
often ran away from home and returned to Seaton’s house. Seaton notified Young that the City of
Tyler Animal Control wanted the dog, and Young gave the dog to them, but Animal Control did not
tell Young why they took his dog.
Seaton stated in his objections that he would provide more cause not to dismiss his case in
a few days, but he did not do so. A month after filing the objections, Seaton filed a motion for
appointment of counsel Two months after that, Seaton filed a motion asking that the federal court
order Bingham to show proof of legal jurisdiction. He again states that he can prove the State lacked
jurisdiction, but offers nothing to substantiate this assertion.
The Supreme Court has explained that a prosecutor’s absolute immunity will not be stripped
because of action which was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority;
instead, the prosecutor will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the clear absence of all
jurisdiction. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978).
Seaton does not make clear which prosecution he complains of. He refers in his complaint
to a charge of evading arrest, but in his objections, Seaton discusses a prosecution in municipal court
for failing to vaccinate a dog. See Seaton v. Tyler Municipal Court, et al., civil action no.
6:16cv1271 (complaining that Judge Patteson allowed an illegal prosecution regarding Plaintiff’s
unvaccinated dog); Young, et al. v. Animal Control Department, et al., civil action no. 6:17cv23
(lawsuit by Seaton and Benny Young complaining that the City of Tyler Animal Control Department
confiscated Benny Young’s dog without explanation); Seaton v. Kenison, et al., civil action no.
6:16cv1318 (lawsuit against animal control officer Deb Kenison for issuing him an illegal dog
vaccination ticket and committing perjury at his trial on the charge); Seaton v. Director, Smith
County Probation, civil action no. 6:17cv36 (habeas corpus petition challenging illegal dog
vaccination ticket). Compare Seaton v. Chambliss, et al., civil action no. 6:16cv1319 (lawsuit
against City Marshal Chambliss alleging an unjust arrest for the offense of evading arrest with a
motor vehicle); Seaton v. Director, Smith County Probation, civil action no. 6:17cv37 (habeas
corpus petition challenging conviction for evading arrest with a motor vehicle).
While Seaton does not specify the conviction to which he refers, his objections fail in any
event because he has offered nothing to suggest that the prosecutors acted in the clear absence of
all jurisdiction in either of these prosecutions. See Kerr v. Lyford, 171 F.3d 330, 339 (5th Cir.
1999), abrogated in part on other grounds by Castellano v. Fragozo, 352 F.3d 939, 948-49 (5th Cir.
2003); Champluvier v. Couch, 309 F.App’x 902, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 2690, 2009 WL 320829
(5th Cir., February 10, 2009).
Seaton argues that Bingham had “a moral and legal obligation” to investigate the charges he
filed against Judge Patteson, but offers no basis for this assertion. The Magistrate Judge correctly
determined that Seaton has no constitutional right to have other persons criminally prosecuted.
Oliver v. Collins, 914 F.2d 56, 60 (5th Cir. 1991). Seaton has not shown that he is entitled to
appointment of counsel. Ulmer v. Chancellor, 691 F.2d 209, 212 (5th Cir. 1982). His objections
are without merit.
The Court has conducted a careful de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate Judge’s
proposed findings and recommendations to which the Plaintiff objected. See 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)
(district judge shall “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.”) Upon such de novo review,
the Court has determined the Report of the Magistrate Judge is correct and the Plaintiff’s objections
are without merit. It is accordingly
ORDERED that the Plaintiff’s objections are overruled and the Report of the Magistrate
Judge (docket no. 5) is ADOPTED as the opinion of the District Court. It is further
ORDERED that the above-styled civil action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as
frivolous and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted as to the Plaintiff’s claims
for monetary damages, but WITHOUT PREJUDICE to the Plaintiff’s right to challenge his
conviction by any lawful means. It is further
ORDERED that all motions which may still be pending in this civil action are hereby
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 14 day of May, 2017.
Ron Clark, United States District Judge
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