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Martinez v. Resendiz

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

September 12, 2019

Roberto Martinez, #02067337, Plaintiff,
Officer Resendiz, et al., Defendants.



         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Special Order 3, this case was referred to the United States magistrate judge for pretrial management, including making findings and a recommended disposition. The Court granted Plaintiff Roberto Martinez's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, but did not issue process pending preliminary screening. Upon review of the relevant pleadings and applicable law, this case should be summarily DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as frivolous and for failure to state a claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 4, 2019, Plaintiff Roberto Martinez, a state prisoner, filed his pro se complaint against Dallas County Sheriff Detective Resendiz and Parole Officer Willis, alleging civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 3 at 4. The complaint is inartfully pled and difficult to decipher. Martinez alleges violations of his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, stemming from his arrest on August 22, 2017, the ensuing prosecution, and his conviction for failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements. Doc. 3 at 4- 5; State v. Martinez, No. F17-18761-K (Crim. Dist. Court No. 4, Dallas Cty., Dec. 19, 2017).[1]He claims false arrest and malicious prosecution, arguing that he was purposefully “assigned fugitive status” and that an arrest warrant was subsequently issued. Doc. 3 at 5, 15; Doc. 10 at 2. He also avers that both Resendiz and Willis presented perjured testimony at his December 19, 2017 trial. Doc. 3 at 15, 17. Martinez asserts that “Resendiz deliberately misleadingly made false statements of noncompliance with conditions of release, ” with Willis acting as a “direct accomplice, ” and that, as a result, “there was no evidence presented” to support his conviction. Doc. 3 at 15, 17. Martinez requests that the Court grant “redress of grievances, ” damages, attorney's fees and court costs. Doc. 3 at 5.

         In his Answers to Magistrate Judge's Questionnaire, Martinez reiterates that Resendiz “selfish[ly], recklessly, negligent[ly] assumed parole official jurisdiction, called [Martinez's] landlord and disapproved [his address]…, used evidence in an unfair manner ad assigned [him] fugitive status, initiated criminal proceeding[s]… disregard[ed] the procedural due process requirement [of the U.S. Constitution]… [and] told the court that [Martinez] was not in compliance with conditions of release.” Doc. 10 at 2. Furthermore, he contends that Willis “committed perjury” at trial. Doc. 10 at 3.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, his complaint is subject to screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Those statutes provide for the sua sponte dismissal of a complaint if the Court finds that it (1) is frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         The Court must always liberally construe pleadings filed by pro se litigants. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (noting pro se pleadings “must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers”); Cf. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.”). Even under this most liberal construction, however, Martinez's claims are frivolous.

         Martinez seeks monetary damages and declaratory relief for his false arrest, malicious prosecution, and subsequent conviction in No. F17-18761-K. However, while Martinez alleges a multitude of wrongdoings by Defendants and others in connection with his arrest, detention, and criminal conviction, the doctrine espoused in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), bars any challenge to Martinez's state conviction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Heck, the United States Supreme Court unequivocally held:

In order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

Id. at 486-487 (footnote omitted). Without the threshold showing, a claim for damages “would necessarily imply the invalidity of [the prisoner's] conviction” in the criminal proceeding, thus, is simply “not cognizable under § 1983.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. The Heck doctrine also applies to claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005).

         Here, a ruling in Martinez's favor on the claims pled “would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction” in No. F17-18761-K. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. “[F]alse-arrest and malicious-prosecution claims challenge the existence of probable cause and, thus, by their essence are [also] collateral attacks on a criminal judgment's validity.” Cormier v. Lafayette City-Par. Consol. Gov't, 493 Fed.Appx. 578, 583 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing Wells v. Bonner, 45 F.3d 90, 94-96 (5th Cir. 1995). Consequently, they “run afoul of Heck's ‘policy of finality'” just like a Section 1983 claim directly challenging Martinez's underlying conviction. Cormier, 493 Fed.Appx. at 583 (quoting Connors v. Graves, 538 F.3d 373, 377-78 (5th Cir. 2008)); Ducksworth v. Rook, 647 Fed.Appx. 383, 386-87 (5th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (applying Heck to bar the plaintiff's claim for false arrest for crimes for which he was ultimately convicted “because his convictions necessarily imply that there was probable cause for his arrest”).

         Martinez concedes that no court has reversed or invalidated his 2017 conviction, Doc. 10 at 5; thus, his false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims as well as the claims challenging his 2017 conviction-sufficiency of the evidence, perjury, and purported Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment violations-are clearly barred by Heck.[2] As such, Martinez's claims lack any basis in law and should be dismissed with prejudice as frivolous until such time as Plaintiff satisfies the conditions set forth in Heck. See Hamilton v. Lyons, 74 F.3d 99, 102 (5th Cir. 1996) (Heck-barred claim is legally frivolous).

         In addition, Martinez and Willis are absolutely immune from claims arising from testimony given at any trial or adversarial proceeding. SeeMoffett v. Bryant,751 F.3d 323, 326 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Rehberg v. Paulk,566 U.S. 356, 367 (2012) (“[A] trial witness has absolute immunity with respect to any claim based on the witness' testimony.”); see alsoPropes v. Wolf,178 Fed.Appx. 388, 389 (5th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (citing Enlow v. Tishomingo County, Miss.,962 F.2d 501, ...

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