United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
VANESSA D. GILMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Heath, a former inmate of the Harris County Jail
("HCJ"), sued in September 2017, alleging that the
defendant violated his civil rights by arresting him without
probable cause. Heath, proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis, sues Ed Gonzalez, Sheriff of Harris County.
on a review of the pleadings and the applicable law, this
court dismisses Heath's complaint and enters judgment by
states that he was arrested on March 27, 201, for failure to
signal a lane change. He states that the dash-cam will show
that he was never violent and that he was falsely charged
with a traffic infraction. Heath states that he was never
issued a ticket for a traffic infraction. He complains that
he was arrested because he refused to sign the ticket. Heath
asserts that he was illegally imprisoned without probable
seeks punitive damages of $500, 000.00.
research reveals that the grand jury of the 228th Judicial
District Court of Harris County, Texas, returned an
indictment against Heath on April 27, 2017, charging him with
assault on a public servant. (Cause Number 154562501010). The
indictment charged Heath with causing bodily injury to L.
Fairchild, a person that Heath knew was a public servant,
while Fairchild was lawfully discharging an official duty,
namely, detaining Heath. Heath was charged with kicking
Fairchild with his foot.
Standard of Review
district court must dismiss a prisoner's § 1983
complaint if the action is malicious or frivolous, fails to
state a claim, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Under §
l9l5(e)(2)(B)(i), the court may dismiss an in forma pauperis
complaint as frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis in law
or fact. Hutchins v. McDaniels, 512 F.3d 193, 195
(5th Cir. 2007) (citing Black v. Warren, 134 F.3d
732, 734 (5th Cir. 1998)). A complaint is frivolous if it
lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. See Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Richardson v.
Spurlock, 260 F.3d 495, 498 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing
Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir.
1997)). "A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if
it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such
as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest
which clearly does not exist." Davis v. Scott,
157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting McCormick v.
Stalder, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997)).
construed, Heath complains that his arrest was illegal
because it was not based on probable cause. On-line records
show that a grand jury indicted Heath for assault on a public
servant. "An arrest is unlawful unless it is supported
by probable cause." Flores v. City of Palacios,
381 F.3d 391, 402 (5th Cir. 2004). "Probable cause
exists when the totality of facts and circumstances within a
police officer's knowledge at the moment of arrest are
sufficient for a reasonable person to conclude that the
suspect had committed or was committing an offense."
Ramirez v. Martinez, 716 F.3d 369, 375 (5th Cir.
probable cause inquiry focuses on the validity of the arrest,
not the validity of each individual charge made during the
course of the arrest. See Price v. Roark, 256 F.3d
364, 369 (5th Cir. 2001); Wells v. Bonner, 45 F.3d
90, 95 (5th Cir. 1995). A grand jury indictment is sufficient
to establish probable cause. See Gerstein v. Pugh,
420 U.S. 103, 117 n.19 (1975). When the facts supporting an
arrest "are placed before an independent intermediary
such as a magistrate or grand jury, the intermediary's
decision breaks the chain of causation for false arrest,
insulating the initiating party." Cuadra v. Hous.
Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 813 (5th Cir. 2010).
The chain of causation remains intact, however, if "it
can be shown that the deliberations of that intermediary were
in some way tainted by the actions of the defendant."
Hand v. Gary, 838 F.2d 1420, 1428 (5th Cir. 1988).
In other words, "the chain of causation is broken only
where all the facts are presented to the grand jury, where
the malicious motive of the law enforcement officials does
not lead them to withhold any relevant information from the
independent intermediary . . . ." Id. at
the grand jury indicted Heath, he must show that Sheriff
Gonzalez tainted the grand jury's deliberations in some
way. There is no evidence, however, that Sheriff Gonzalez
played any role in the indictment process.
claim against Sheriff Gonzalez for false arrest is dismissed