United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Christopher Wayne Deshazo (Inmate #122439), is
presently in custody of the Brazos County Detention Center.
Deshazo has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging violations of his civil rights in connection with
his arrest and prosecution on state court criminal charges
that are pending against him. He has filed an amended version
of his complaint [Doc. # 31], a summary of the offense report
detailing the investigation by police [Doc. # 20], a
declaration with exhibits in support [Doc. # 35], as well as
motions for appointment of counsel, preliminary injunctive
relief, discovery, and removal of his state court prosecution
[Docs. # 26, # 29, # 36, # 39]. Because Deshazo is a prisoner
who proceeds in forma pauperis, the Court is
required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act the
(“PLRA”) to scrutinize the pleadings and dismiss
the case if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B).
After reviewing all of the pleadings as required, the Court
concludes that this case must be dismissed for reasons that
is in custody at the Brazos County Detention Center as the
result of his arrest by officers with the College Station
Police Department on charges of burglary of a habitation and
assault, which were lodged against him by a woman named
Myriah Del Rossi. Records provided by Deshazo reflect that
these charges were filed against him after he kicked in the
door of her apartment and assaulted her.The charges remain
pending against Deshazo in the 272nd District Court for
Brazos County, Texas.
has filed this lawsuit against the College Station Police
Department, prosecutors with the Brazos County District
Attorney's Office, the 272nd District Court for Brazos
County, his appointed criminal defense counsel E.R.
“Ned” Turnbull, and Ms. Del Rossi. Deshazo contends
that Del Rossi lied about being assaulted and that she is
liable for “slander” for making false statements
to police.Deshazo accuses the police of false arrest
and the prosecutors assigned to his case of misconduct
resulting in his wrongful imprisonment. Deshazo also
accuses his defense counsel of incompetence by allowing his
civil rights to be violated. Deshazo seeks compensatory and
punitive damages in excess of $1 million for his false arrest
and wrongful prosecution.
Claims of False Arrest by Police
does not state an actionable claim concerning his arrest by
officers with the College Station Police Department. To
prevail on his claim of false arrest, Deshazo must show that
there was no probable cause to arrest him. See Haggerty
v. Texas Southern Univ., 391 F.3d 653, 655 (5th Cir.
2004). “Probable cause exists ‘when the totality
of the 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.'” Id. at
655-56 (quoting Glenn v. City of Tyler, 242 F.3d
307, 313 (5th Cir. 2001)). The accusations made by Del Rossi,
as outlined in records that Deshazo provides, gave the
officers probable cause to make his arrest. See, e.g.,
Jones v. Sparta Comm. Hosp., 716 Fed.Appx. 547, 49 (7th
Cir. 2018) (rejecting a claim of false arrest after
concluding that domestic-battery accusations by the
plaintiff's ex-wife constituted probable cause for his
arrest). Because Deshazo does not demonstrate that probable
cause was lacking, he fails to state a claim for false arrest
or wrongful imprisonment against the police.
Claims Against the Trial Court and Prosecutors
cannot recover damages from the 272nd District Court for
Brazos County or the presiding judge in connection with the
criminal proceedings referenced in the complaint. It is well
established that judges are entitled to absolute immunity
from claims arising out of acts performed in the exercise of
their judicial functions. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435
U.S. 349, 355 (1978); Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279,
284 (5th Cir. 1994). The doctrine of absolute judicial
immunity protects judges not only from liability, but also
from suit. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991).
Judicial immunity may be overcome only by showing that the
actions complained of were non-judicial in nature or were
taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. See
Id. at 11-12. Because Deshazo does not allege facts
showing that the trial court engaged in any conduct that is
not judicial in nature, he fails to overcome the state
court's entitlement to immunity.
similar reasons, Deshazo cannot recover damages from the
Brazos County District Attorney's Office or any of the
prosecutors for their role in handling the criminal charges
filed against him. Prosecutors are entitled to absolute
immunity from civil rights claims for actions taken in the
scope of their duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal
prosecution. See Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S.
335, 343 (2009) (citing Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478,
492 (1991)); see also Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S.
409, 431 (1976) (holding that prosecutors are absolutely
immune from a civil suit for damages for initiating a
prosecution and in presenting the state's case). To the
extent that Deshazo's claims relate to the prosecution of
the charges against him during his state court criminal
proceedings, the Court must dismiss his claims for seeking
monetary relief from defendants who are immune from such
Claims Against Defense Counsel
addition, Deshazo cannot maintain an action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against his criminal defense counsel. To make a
claim under § 1983 a plaintiff must demonstrate that a
constitutional violation was “caused by the exercise of
some right or privilege created by the State or by a rule of
conduct imposed by the State or by a person for whom the
State is responsible.” Lugar v. Edmundson Oil
Co., 457 U.S. 922, 936 (1982). This means that
“the party charged with the deprivation must be a
person who may fairly be said to be a state actor, ”
that is, one who is in fact a state official, one who
“has acted with or has obtained significant aid from
state officials, ” or one whose “conduct is
otherwise chargeable to the State.” Id.
defense attorneys, even court-appointed ones, are not state
actors for purposes of a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See Hudson v. Hughes, 98 F.3d 868, 873 (5th Cir.
1996) (citing Polk Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312,
324-25 (1981); Mills v. Criminal Dist. Court No. 3,
837 F.2d 677, 679 (5th Cir. 1988)). Because a civil rights
complaint made against a criminal defense attorney contains
no state action, such a complaint fails to state a claim upon