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Marx v. Oatman

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

June 28, 2017

JEFFERY MARX #716623
v.
SAM OATMAN AND THE MUNICIPALITY OF BURNET, TEXAS

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          ANDREW W. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         TO: THE HONORABLE SAM SPARS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Magistrate Judge submits this Report and Recommendation to the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 1(f) of Appendix C of the Local Court Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrate Judges. Before the Court is Plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         At the time he filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff was confined in the Estelle Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division. Plaintiff was convicted in Burnet County, Texas of aggravated sexual assault of child and sentenced to 23 years in prison on April 25, 1995. Plaintiff was subsequently convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison on June 23, 1998.

         Plaintiff alleges Burnet County District Attorney Sam Oatman used an illegal statement that was not electronically recorded in Plaintiff's criminal proceedings. Plaintiff further alleges he was not given any warnings of his rights on an electronic recording. Plaintiff argues Burnet County through its judges have allowed his two convictions to stand, violating Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Plaintiff sues District Attorney Oatman and Burnet County. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that his constitutional rights were violated and an injunction ordering the defendants to stop his illegal confinement. Plaintiff also seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages.

         DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

         A. Standard Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)

         An in forma pauperis proceeding may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if the court determines the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from suit. A dismissal for frivolousness or maliciousness may occur at any time, before or after service of process and before or after the defendant's answer. Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1119 (5th Cir. 1986).

         When reviewing a plaintiff's complaint, the court must construe plaintiff's allegations as liberally as possible. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). However, the petitioner's pro se status does not offer him “an impenetrable shield, for one acting pro se has no license to harass others, clog the judicial machinery with meritless litigation and abuse already overloaded court dockets.” Farguson v. MBank Houston, N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359 (5th Cir. 1986).

         B. Prosecutorial Immunity

         Plaintiff's claims against District Attorney Oatman are barred by prosecutorial immunity. Prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability under the federal civil rights statutes with regard to actions taken by them within the course and scope of representing the governmental agencies and subdivisions in judicial proceedings. Under the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity, a prosecutor is absolutely immune in a civil rights lawsuit for any action taken in connection with a judicial proceeding. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 487-92 (1991); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427-31 (1976). “[A]cts undertaken by the prosecutor in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an advocate for the State, are entitled to the protection of absolute immunity.” Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 285 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Buckley v. Fitzsimmons 509 U.S. at 273). Prosecutorial immunity applies to the prosecutor's actions in initiating the prosecution and in carrying the case through the judicial process. Boyd, 31 F.3d at 285; Graves v. Hampton, 1 F.3d 315, 318 (5th Cir. 1993). Thus, a prosecutor is immune from civil rights liability for actions taken in connection with a judicial proceeding, even if taken maliciously. Brummett v. Camble, 946 F.2d 1178, 1181 (5th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 965 (1992); Rykers v. Alford, 832 F.2d 895, 897 (5th Cir. 1987).

         The Court recognizes that not all prosecutorial functions are protected. In Imbler, the Court declared that absolute immunity applied to a prosecutor's actions in “initiating a prosecution and in presenting the State's case.” Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431. This immunity protected the alleged knowing use of false testimony at trial and the alleged deliberate suppression of exculpatory evidence. In Imbler, the Court left open the issue of whether absolute immunity applied to administrative or investigative acts. However, in Burns, the Court answered that question, stating that absolute immunity does not apply to investigative or administrative acts performed by prosecutors. Burns, 500 U.S. at 493.

         In the case at hand, Plaintiff challenges actions taken by the prosecuting attorney during Plaintiff's criminal proceedings which are clearly protected by prosecutorial immunity. In this action Plaintiff does not allege any actions taken by the defendant that were outside the course and scope of representing the District Attorney's Office in ...


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