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Arthurs v. Washington County

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

October 17, 2019

MOSES ARTHURS #2209122
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, TX; JULIE RENKEN; LAUREN HAVISHEIRER; AND JUDGE CARSON CAMPBELL

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          SUSAN HIGHTOWER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         TO THE HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Magistrate Judge submits this Report and Recommendation to the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 1(f) of Appendix C of the Local Court Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrate Judges.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         I. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         At the time he filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff was confined in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division. Plaintiff alleges he was arrested in Houston on a warrant out of Washington County, Texas. Plaintiff was subsequently convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to two years in prison. Plaintiff maintains his innocence. He sues Washington County, District Attorney Julie Renken, Assistant District Attorney Lauren Havisheirer, and Judge Carson Campbell. Plaintiff requests that the Court reverse his sentence and award him an unspecified amount of monetary damages.

         II. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

         A. Standard Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)

         An in forma pauperis proceeding may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if the court determines the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from suit. A dismissal for frivolousness or maliciousness may occur at any time, before or after service of process and before or after the defendant's answer. Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1119 (5th Cir. 1986). When reviewing a plaintiff's complaint, the court must construe plaintiff's allegations as liberally as possible. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). However, the petitioner's pro se status does not offer him “an impenetrable shield, for one acting pro se has no license to harass others, clog the judicial machinery with meritless litigation and abuse already overloaded court dockets.” Farguson v. MBank Houston, N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359 (5th Cir. 1986).

         B. Judicial Immunity

         Plaintiff's claims against Judge Carson Campbell are barred by judicial immunity. It is well settled law that a judge enjoys absolute immunity from liability for damages for judicial acts performed within his jurisdiction. Hale v. Harney, 786 F.2d 688, 690 (5th Cir. 1986). The doctrine of absolute judicial immunity protects judges not only from liability, but also from suit. Mireless v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991). Motive of the judicial officer is irrelevant when considering absolute immunity. See Mitchell v. McBryde, 944 F.2d 229, 230 (5th Cir. 1991) (“The judge is absolutely immune for all judicial acts not performed in clear absence of all jurisdiction, however erroneous the act and however evil the motive.”).

         Absolute judicial immunity is overcome in only two rather narrow sets of circumstances: First, a judge is not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity, and second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireless, 502 U.S. at 11-12. “A judge's acts are judicial in nature if they are ‘normally performed by a judge' and the parties affected ‘dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.'” Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 285 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Mireless, 502 U.S. at 12). In the case at bar, Plaintiff does not complain of any actions taken by Judge Campbell that were nonjudicial in nature; nor does he show that he was acting in the clear absence of all jurisdiction. Accordingly, Judge Campbell is protected by absolute immunity.

         C. Prosecutorial Immunity

         Plaintiff's claims against District Attorney Renken and Assistant District Attorney Havisheirer are barred by prosecutorial immunity. Prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability under the federal civil rights statutes with regard to actions taken by them within the course and scope of representing the governmental agencies and subdivisions in judicial proceedings. Under the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity, a prosecutor is absolutely immune in a civil rights lawsuit for any action taken in connection with a judicial proceeding. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 487-92 (1991); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427-31 (1976). “[A]cts undertaken by the prosecutor in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an advocate for the State, are entitled to the protection of absolute immunity.” Boyd, 31 F.3d at 285 (quoting Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. at 273). Prosecutorial immunity applies to the prosecutor's actions in initiating the prosecution and in carrying the case through the judicial process. Boyd, 31 F.3d at ...


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