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Westfall v. Oliver

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

September 12, 2017

PAUL DAVID WESTFALL PLAINTIFF
v.
STEVEN OLIVER DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          SUSAN O. HICKEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation filed June 26, 2017, by the Honorable Mark E. Ford, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. ECF No. 60. Objections to Judge Ford's Report and Recommendation were due by July 10, 2017. On July 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed Plaintiffs' Objections to Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and Motion for Reconsideration. ECF No. 61. Plaintiff's objections were not timely filed and are not directly responsive to the Report and Recommendation and raise no specific objections for the Court to consider. Accordingly, the Court overrules Plaintiff's objections and adopts Judge Ford's Report and Recommendation insofar as he recommends that Plaintiff's individual-capacity claim be dismissed with prejudice as Defendant is shielded by absolute prosecutorial immunity.

         However, after reviewing the Report and Recommendation, the Court notes that Judge Ford failed to address Plaintiff's official-capacity claim. Accordingly, the Court finds that this matter requires further consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this matter on September 30, 2014, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees. ECF No. 1, pp. 20, 22. Plaintiff's claims arise from the fact that he was convicted twice for the same Fleeing offense-once in Hot Spring County, Arkansas, and subsequently in Garland County, Arkansas. On July 22, 2009, Plaintiff was sentenced to three years' probation for Fleeing in Hot Spring County, Arkansas. ECF No. 55, ¶ 18; ECF No. 59, ¶ 18. However, on June 29, 2009, Defendant in his capacity as prosecutor for the Eighteenth Judicial District charged Plaintiff, in the Circuit Court of Garland County, Arkansas, by criminal information with Fleeing. ECF No. 53-4. Those charges were based on the same events underlying Plaintiff's conviction in Hot Spring County, Arkansas. ECF No. 53-4. Plaintiff subsequently entered a guilty plea in the Garland County Circuit Court and was sentenced to eighteen months' incarceration in the Arkansas Department of Correction. ECF No. 58, p. 1; ECF No. 55, ¶ 23; ECF No. 59, ¶ 23.

         However, on September 23, 2011, the Honorable John Homer Wright vacated Plaintiff's Garland County, Arkansas, conviction upon a finding that “the Garland Circuit conviction for Fleeing violated Westfall's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right against double jeopardy, because he had already been convicted of the same offense for the same conduct in Hot Spring County.” ECF No. 53-5, p. 2. The order vacating Plaintiff's sentence was filed on October 5, 2011. ECF No. 53-5.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant in both his official and individual capacities. ECF No. 1, p. 8. Plaintiff claims that Defendant “used court papers from H.S. County after sentenced to obtain warrant then tried again on same crime and sentenced again.” ECF No. 1, pp. 7-8. Subsequently, on February 10, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 53. That motion was referred to Judge Ford, who now recommends that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and this matter be dismissed with prejudice, as “Defendant is shielded by absolute immunity for his conduct as prosecuting attorney in preparing and filing the Information against Plaintiff in Garland County.” ECF No. 60, p. 6.

         Plaintiff's objections do not address Judge Ford's conclusion that Defendant is shielded by prosecutorial immunity. Plaintiff's objections simply state, in relevant part:

Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and requests reconsideration from the Court. Plaintiff submits the evidence is clear that the prosecuting attorney's office in this matter had knowledge of the information filed in Hot Spring County and also had knowledge of Plaintiff's arrest in Hot Spring County. Plaintiff submits the officer's report that caused Plaintiff's arrest in both counties was the same report as it was the same arresting officer. The State had to have known that Plaintiff suffered prosecution in Hot Spring County for the exact same facts he was prosecuted for in Garland County. The State had to have conducted some kind of preliminary investigation before prosecuting Plaintiff in Garland County and had to have reviewed the Hot Spring County reports, pleadings and information. Plaintiff was sent to the penitentiary for a crime for which he voluntarily pled guilty to and previously accepted responsibility for.

ECF No. 61.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that when a party moves for summary judgment “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Supreme Court has issued the following guidelines for trial courts to determine whether this standard has been satisfied:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial-whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); see also Agristor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732 (8th Cir. 1987); Niagara of Wis. Paper Corp. v. Paper Indus. Union-Mgmt. Pension Fund, 800 F.2d 742, 746 (8th Cir. 1986). A fact is material only when its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that ...


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