United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Librace brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action pro se
against Andre Valley in his official capacity as City
Attorney of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. Librace alleges
that Valley signed affidavits for arrest warrants without
probable clause, one of which led to his arrest, prosecution,
and conviction for communicating a false report. Librace
seeks a “temporary injunction . . . to prevent any
further form of harassment and slander by the
Defendant.” Valley has filed a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the
following reasons, Valley's motion is granted.
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8(a)(2) does
not require a complaint to contain detailed factual
allegations, it does require a plaintiff to state the grounds
of his entitlement to relief, which requires more than labels
and conclusions. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L.Ed.2d 929
(2007). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must
accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and
review the complaint to determine whether its allegations
show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Gorog v.
Best Buy Co., Inc., 760 F.3d 787, 792 (8th Cir. 2014).
All reasonable inferences from the complaint must be drawn in
favor of the nonmoving party. Id. The Court need
not, however, accept as true legal conclusions, even those
stated as though they are factual allegations. Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50,
173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). A pro se complaint must be
liberally construed, however inartfully pleaded, and held to
less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197,
2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Jackson v. Nixon, 747
F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014).
complaint makes several allegations regarding the manner in
which Valley and other unnamed city officials handle criminal
prosecutions. Librace alleges that Valley has been signing
affidavits for arrest warrants without probable cause since
January 31, 2017; that the affidavits are based on hearsay;
that defendants are not given the opportunity to make a
statement or ensure that evidence is preserved; that if a
defendant does not plead guilty, the case is set for a trial
twenty days out and the judge instructs the defendant to
bring all evidence and witnesses to the trial; that the judge
does not allow defendants to put on evidence, but allows
Valley to put on whatever evidence he likes; that Valley does
not disclose to the defendant the names of the
prosecution's witnesses or the evidence the prosecution
will present; and that Valley has violated his civil rights
guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Arkansas
Constitution. He alleges “Andre Valley continues to
sign affidavit after affidavit and trying to harass,
embarrass, and is maliciously and prosecuting cases with
outrage.” Document #2 at 3. Librace also alleges that
Valley is a partner in the law firm of Wilson, Valley and
Etherly, a firm partners of which hold various city
positions, including prosecutor, judge, and public defender.
Librace ran for mayor against Valley's brother, James
Valley. Librace alleges that the conduct of which he
complains is an attempt to silence him. Despite these broad
allegations claiming a pattern of false affidavits for
arrest, the complaint specifies only one incident, which led
to Librace being convicted on March 23, 2017, for filing a
false report. Librace attaches to his response to the motion
to dismiss several documents, including arrest warrants that
he did not mention in the complaint, but the Court may
consider only what is alleged in the complaint or
incorporated therein when deciding a motion to dismiss under
argues that Librace's claims based on his arrest,
prosecution, and conviction for communicating a false report
are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the
narrow focus of which is to bar state court losers from
obtaining federal review of state court judgments. See
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S.
280, 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005);
Karsjens v. Piper, 845 F.3d 394, 406 (8th Cir.
2017). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that
district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over
challenges to state court decisions in judicial proceedings,
with the exception of habeas corpus petitions. Charchenko
v. City of Stillwater, 47 F.3d 981, 983 (8th Cir. 1995)
(citing District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 1311, 75
L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co.,
263 U.S. 413, 416, 44 S.Ct. 149, 150, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923)).
“The doctrine precludes district courts from obtaining
jurisdiction both over the rare case styled as a direct
appeal, [Rooker, 263 U.S. at 416, 44 S.Ct. 149], as
well as more common claims which are ‘inextricably
intertwined' with state court decisions.
[Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483, 103 S.Ct. 1303].”
Simes v. Huckabee, 354 F.3d 823, 827 (8th Cir.
mentioned, the complaint alleges that a judgment of
conviction was entered against Librace on March 30, 2017,
after a trial in state court. Librace asserts that his arrest
was unlawful because the affidavit supporting the warrant did
not establish probable cause and bases his request for
injunctive relief on injuries sustained from the unlawful
arrest, prosecution, and conviction.
the arrest that resulted in the conviction on March 30, 2017,
this case is in substance an appeal from a state-court
judgment by an aggrieved party and falls squarely within the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Robins v.
Ritchie, 631 F.3d 919, 925 (8th Cir. 2011). Even though
Librace casts his claims in part as based on his arrest as
opposed to his conviction, his conviction is conclusive proof
of the existence of probable cause for the underlying arrest.
See Brown v. Willey, 391 F.3d 968, 969 (8th Cir.
2004); McSwain v. Hastings, No. 4:13CV00122-DPM,
2015 WL 731286 at *2 (E.D. Ark. Feb. 17, 2015). Librace's
attack on the constitutionality of his arrest, therefore,
amounts to an attack on the constitutionality of his
conviction. See Skit Inter., Ltd. v. DAC Tech. of Ark.,
Inc., 487 F.3d 1154, 1156-57 (8th Cir. 2007); cf.
Skinner v. Switzer, 526 U.S. 521, 531-33, 131 S.Ct.
1289, 179 L.Ed.2d 233 (2011) (holding that plaintiff's
claims were not barred Rooker-Feldman because he did
not challenge a state-court ruling, the prosecutor's
conduct, or the state-court conviction; rather, he challenged
as unconstitutional the Texas statutes the state court
construed). Without declaring Librace's state court
conviction unlawful, the Court would have no basis for
granting the relief that he seeks. This Court has no
appellate jurisdiction over the Arkansas courts and cannot
review their decisions except to the limited extent it is
authorized to do so in cases in which prisoners seek writs of
habeas corpus. Mosby v. Ligon, 418 F.3d 927, 931
(8th Cir. 2005); Hunt v. Smith, No. 2:03CV00194-WRW,
2008 WL 491678 at *6 (E.D. Ark. Feb. 19, 2008).
also argues that even if the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
does not apply, Librace's claims are barred by Heck
v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed. 383
(1994). The United States Supreme Court held in Heck
that in order to recover damages under section 1983 for an
unconstitutional conviction, or other harms that would render
a conviction invalid, a plaintiff must prove the sentence has
been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order,
declared invalid by a state tribunal, or called into question
by a court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.
Id. at 486-87, 114 S.Ct. 2364; Newmy v.
Johnson, 758 F.3d 1008, 1009 (8th Cir. 2014). Librace
does not seek to recover damages. His request for injunctive
relief is nevertheless barred because his claims if
successful would necessarily imply the invalidity of his
conviction and he has not alleged that the conviction has
been reversed, expunged, declared invalid, or called into
question by a writ of habeas corpus. See Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82, 125 S.Ct. 1242, 161 L.Ed.2d
253 (2005) (state prisoner's section 1983 barred under
Heck no matter the relief sought); see also
Gautreaux v. Sanders, 395 Fed.Appx. 311, 312 (8th Cir.
2010) (unpublished) (citing Smithart v. Towery, 79
F.3d 951, 952 (9th Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (allegations that
defendants lacked probable cause to arrest him and brought
unfounded criminal charges challenge validity of conviction
and are Heck barred)); Thomas v. Polk Cnty.
Minn., No. 15-CV-4479 (DWF/SER), 2016 WL 861328 at *2
(D. Minn. Jan. 12, 2016); see also Wells v. Bonner,
45 F.3d 90, 95 (5th Cir. 1995) (“He seeks to prove that
his arrest lacked a basis in probable cause. It is
immediately clear that again the rationale of Heck
precludes his claim of false arrest.”). Even if the
Court had subject-matter jurisdiction over Librace's
claims pertaining to his arrest, prosecution, and conviction
for communicating a false report, those claims would be
barred by Heck.
Librace's allegations of other affidavits for arrest
warrants, the complaint consists of nothing more than labels
and conclusions - it does not meet the Twombly
plausibility standard. “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. As mentioned above, Librace has
made more specific allegations in a brief in response to his
response brief, but those allegations are not part of his
complaint and cannot be considered in ruling on the motion to
addition to his arguments based on the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine and Heck v.
Humphrey, Valley argues that the complaint fails because
the claims against him in his official capacity are claims
against the City and the complaint fails to allege the
essential elements of municipal liability. Because the
complaint fails for other reasons, the Court need not address
foregoing reasons, the defendant's motion to dismiss is
GRANTED. Document #6. David Librace's complaint is
dismissed without prejudice. If Librace wishes to amend his
complaint, he must file an appropriate motion within fourteen
(14) days from the entry of this Opinion and Order. If he
fails to do so, a judgment will be entered dismissing this