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Gallagher v. Paxton

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

September 10, 2019

RYAN GALLAGHER
v.
KEN PAXTON, ET AL.

          Nowak, Judge

          MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          AMOS L. MAZZANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Came on for consideration the reports of the United States Magistrate Judge in this action, this matter having been heretofore referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. On May 15, 2019, the reports of the Magistrate Judge (Dkts. #80, #81) were entered containing proposed findings of fact and recommendations that: (1) each of Defendants Collin County and Judge Rippel's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Dkt. #51), Judge Wheless's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #58), and Attorney General Paxton's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #59) be granted and Plaintiff's “Request for Writs of Quo Warranto, Prohibition and Mittimus” (Dkt. #36) be denied; and (2) Defendant Collin County's Motion for Sanctions and to Declare Plaintiff a Vexatious Litigant (Dkt. #65) and Supplement (Dkt. #73) be granted in part and denied in part. Having received the reports of the Magistrate Judge, having considered Defendant Collin County's Limited Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. #82), Plaintiff's Objection (Dkts. #83, #84, #85), Defendant Collin Count's Response to Plaintiff's Objection (Dkt. #86), and having conducted a de novo review, the Court is of the opinion that the Magistrate Judge's reports should be adopted, as set forth herein.

         RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         On July 2, 2018, Plaintiff Ryan Gallagher initiated suit in the Northern District of Texas (Dkt. #3). The Northern District of Texas transferred the matter to the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, on August 13, 2018 (Dkts. #33, #34). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 21, 2018, against Defendants Collin County, Texas, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Judge David Rippel, and Judge Ray Wheless (Dkt. #39).

         In 2010, Plaintiff was charged in Collin County with a violation of Texas Penal Code § 481.121(b)(1), possession of marijuana, in a quantity of less than two ounces after a search of his residence revealed the presence of marijuana.[1] State of Texas v. Ryan Gallagher, Cause No. 0058313010. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to the criminal charges, and was placed on deferred adjudication, sentenced to one year of probation, thirty hours of community service, and directed to attend the Drug Offenders Program. Plaintiff failed to report for probation, and instead fled Texas for Colorado, among other states, until he returned to Texas, where he served time at the Collin County jail (Dkt. #39 at pp. 2-3). Throughout his incarceration, Plaintiff avers that his religious rights were violated because he was not permitted to smoke marijuana and was told he could not be Hindu (Dkt. #39 at p. 3). Plaintiff was released from custody in 2015. Plaintiff contends he was unable to obtain employment or rent property following his release due to being “labeled a ‘Criminal.'” In addition, when trying to apply for a job in 2017, Plaintiff alleges his record erroneously or falsely showed a felony (not misdemeanor) conviction (Dkt. #39 at p. 3).

         Plaintiff sued Collin County in state court on March 20, 2017, raising his alleged right to smoke marijuana as part of his religion (the “2017 State Court Lawsuit”). Ryan Gallagher v. Collin County, Cause No. 005-00650-2017. On March 27, 2017, the 2017 State Court Lawsuit was transferred to Judge Cynthia Wheless, Cause No. 417-01458-2017.[2] On November 14, 2017, the state court dismissed the 2017 State Court Lawsuit (Dkts. #51-4, #51-5).

         In the instant suit, which also seeks to litigate Plaintiff's religious beliefs related to marijuana, Plaintiff does not delineate specific claims against each of Defendants, but instead, lists his various grievances with how his state criminal proceedings and the 2017 State Court Lawsuit were handled. Relevant to Plaintiff's Objection (hereinafter defined), as relief, Plaintiff requests to “[o]verturn these Sanctions simply on Free Speech and Redress of Grievance Grounds, if not on Texas Statutory Grounds, provide Declaratory Relief, Injunctive Relief, and Investigation, and Punitive, Real and other Damages as requested in the Original Lawsuit against the County 417-01458-2017, in the amount of $10, 000, 000.00” (Dkt. #39 at p. 4). Plaintiff does not clarify what specific declaratory or injunctive relief he seeks.

         Defendants Collin County and Judge Rippel, Judge Wheless, and AG Paxton all filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims (Dkts. #51, #58, #59). Defendant Collin County also filed a Motion for Sanctions and Supplement, requesting monetary sanctions, a declaration that Plaintiff is a vexatious litigant, and pre-filing injunction (Dkts. #65, #73). On May 15, 2019, the Magistrate Judge entered two Reports, recommending that: (1) each of Defendants Collin County and Judge Rippel's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Dkt. #51), Judge Wheless's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #58), and Attorney General Paxton's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #59) be granted and Plaintiff's “Request for Writs of Quo Warranto, Prohibition and Mittimus” (Dkt. #36) be denied; and (2) Defendant Collin County's Motion for Sanctions and to Declare Plaintiff a Vexatious Litigant (Dkt. #65) and Supplement (Dkt. #73) be granted in part and denied in part. The Report recommending dismissal of Plaintiff's claims specifically found that: (1) his claims against Judges Rippel and Wheless and AG Paxton in their official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity; (2) Plaintiff's claims against Judges Rippel and Wheless in their individual capacities are barred by judicial immunity; (3) Plaintiff's claims against AG Paxton in his individual capacity are barred by prosecutorial immunity; and (4) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not reference any county policy or a persistent, widespread practice, and therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a § 1983 claim against Collin County. On May 16, 2019, Defendant Collin County filed its “Limited Motion for Reconsideration of the Scope of the Pre-filing Restrictions Contained in the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation” (Dkt. #82), asking only to modify the terms of the pre-filing injunction recommended by the magistrate judge. On May 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed his “Motion to End ECF, Request for Transfer and Response to Magistrate” (“Plaintiff's Objection”) (Dkts. #83, #84, #85). Defendant Collin County responded to Plaintiff's Objection on May 24, 2019, reasserting its request to alter the language of the proposed pre-filing injunction (Dkt. #86).

         OBJECTIONS TO REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         A party who files timely written objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation is entitled to a de novo review of those findings or recommendations to which the party specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2)-(3). Plaintiff's Objection does not specify to which of the Magistrate Judge's Reports he objects; rather, Plaintiff broadly asserts three arguments in “response to the Magistrate:” (1) “[t]his Magistrate failed to recognize the key issue in the case, the fact that [Plaintiff] was given a false felony for 7 years. . . .which affected [his] ability to get jobs and rent”; (2) this case belongs in the Northern District of Texas, and “[i]f this were a Case meant to be dismissed, it would have been dismissed in the Northern District”; and (3) “[Plaintiff] also asked for declaratory relief. . . .[judges] are not immune from declaratory relief” (Dkts. #83, #84, #85).

         False Felony

         Plaintiff argues that “[t]his Magistrate failed to recognize the key issue in the case, the fact that [Plaintiff] was given a false felony for 7 years. A false felony, which affected my ability to get jobs and rent. This Magistrate has ignored the main issue in the case” (Dkt. #83). Plaintiff is mistaken; the Report expressly enumerated and considered Plaintiff's argument:

Plaintiff also contends that as a result of his criminal proceedings, he could not receive employment or rent property due to being “labeled a ‘Criminal;'” Plaintiff specifically recounts trying to apply for a job in 2017, but having his record erroneously show a felony conviction, which he attributes to “Judge Rippel ...

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