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Nash v. The Eagle Newspaper

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 4, 2018

CORLES THEODORE NASH, a/k/a CARLOS THEODORE NASH, Plaintiff,
v.
THE EAGLE NEWSPAPER, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITHT. ELLISON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a state inmate, filed this section 1983 complaint alleging violations of his constitutional rights by a newspaper editor, a state prosecutor, and a state trial judge. A prisoner lawsuit brought under federal law must be dismissed if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A.

         Having screened the complaint pursuant to these provisions, the Court DISMISSES this lawsuit for the reasons that follow.

         I. Background and Claims

         Plaintiff was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Brazos County, Texas and sentenced to forty-five years incarceration on March 28, 2018. He complains in this lawsuit that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by publishing, and allowing to be published, a newspaper article concerning his criminal trial and history. He seeks $45 million in damages.

         II. Analysis

         A. Newspaper Editor

         Section 1983 provides a vehicle for redressing the violation of federal law by those acting under color of state law. Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 643 (2004). To prevail on a section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must prove that a person acting under the color of state law deprived him of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         Plaintiff names as a defendant the editor of The Eagle newspaper. However, section 1983 applies only to state actors and not private citizens. Thibodeaux v. Bordelon, 740 F.2d 329, 332-33 (5th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff alleges no facts establishing the editor as a state actor for purposes of section 1983. In complaining that the editor published information regarding his criminal prosecution and history, plaintiff raises no cognizable section 1983 cause of action against the editor.

         Plaintiffs claims against the newspaper editor are dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a colorable claim for relief under section 1983.

         B. State Prosecutor

         Plaintiff claims that the state prosecutor in his case was aware that the editor of The Eagle newspaper had obtained documents or information regarding his criminal case, and that the information appeared in a newspaper article the day he was convicted and sentenced. Plaintiff complains that the prosecutor did nothing in response to the article, and that the article caused a "tainted trial."

         The existence of plaintiff s prosecution, facts regarding his incarceration and criminal history, as well as facts presented by witnesses in open court during plaintiffs trial, are matters of public record. Plaintiff had no constitutional right to privacy regarding these matters. Moreover, plaintiff does not allege that the trial court had issued any orders regarding the media that were breached by the prosecutor. His conclusory claim that the article resulted in a "tainted trial" is not supported by any factual allegations, and no issue of constitutional dimension is raised for purposes of section 1983.

         Moreover, plaintiffs claims against the state prosecutor are barred by prosecutorial immunity. "A prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity when her actions are 'intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.'" Loupe v. O'Bannon,824 F.3d 534, 538 (5th Cir. 2016). When prosecutors act in their roles as advocates, absolute immunity applies. Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 487-96 (1991) (holding prosecutor absolutely immune from liability for presenting false statements in a probable cause hearing); Imbler v. Pachtman,424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976) (holding prosecutor absolutely immune from liability for using false testimony at trial). Absolute immunity applies even when a plaintiff establishes that the prosecutor acted intentionally, in bad faith, or with ...


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