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Librace v. Florida Department of Law Enforcement

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Helena Division

June 25, 2018

DAVID LIBRACE, PLAINTIFF
v.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT and FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY OFFICE, First Judicial Circuit, DEFENDANTS

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) have been sent to United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the entry of this Recommendation. The failure to timely file objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         On June 5, 2018, Plaintiff David Librace (“Librace”) filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and this pro se § 1983 action alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. Docs. 1 and 2. The case has been referred for recommended disposition. Doc. 3.

         Because Librace is not a prisoner, his § 1983 Complaint must be screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), rather than under the counterpart provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Pursuant to the screening function mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), [1] the Court has carefully considered the Complaint and finds that Librace's claims are legally frivolous, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and seek monetary relief against defendants immune from such relief.

         II. Discussion

         Librace alleges that, in December of 1999, the State Attorney Office for the 1st Judicial Circuit of Florida (“Florida State Attorney Office”) filed an amended plea and probation stipulation in a criminal case against him without a hearing and without notifying Librace or his counsel.[2] He further claims that some thirteen years later, on April 7, 2015, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (“FDLE”) filed a response to the Librace's request to seal his criminal record in state court and refused to correct alleged errors in his criminal record when brought to its attention. Id. Librace seeks “damages for libel, slander, and the denial of Civil Rights guaranteed by the Constitution, ” and further requests that this Court order the Defendants to seal and correct their records or “completely dismiss the charges.” Doc. 2, p. 4. Liberally construing the Complaint, Librace asserts due process violations and defamation claims against both Defendants.

         A. Sovereign Immunity

         The FDLE and State Attorney Office are the sole Defendants to whom Librace attributes all acts and omissions forming the basis for his claims.[3] These entities are not suable under § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63 (1989) (state is not a “person” under § 1983); Alsbrook v. City of Maumelle, 184 F.3d 999, 1010 (8th Cir.1999) (§ 1983 suit cannot be brought against state agency); Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 81 (8th Cir.1992) (departments or subdivisions of local government are “not juridical entities suable as such”); Midflet v. Circuit Court of Jackson Cnty., 827 F.2d 343, 345 (8th Cir.1987) (“[S]tate courts as entities are not vulnerable to a § 1983 suit because they are protected by immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.”). Therefore, this suit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and the Court recommends dismissal without prejudice for this reason.

         B. Absolute Immunity

         Prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity from lawsuits arising from their prosecutorial functions, such as the initiation and pursuit of a criminal prosecution. Reasonover v. St. Louis County, Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 580 (8th Cir. 2006); Anderson v. Larson, 327 F.3d 762, 768 (8th Cir. 2003); see also Hayden v. Nevada Cty., AR, 664 F.3d 770, 772 (8th Cir. 2012) (holding that a prosecutor's conduct related to plea bargaining is entitled to absolute immunity). Librace's claims against the Florida State Attorney Office arise from its prosecutorial functions. Thus, those claims must be dismissed, with prejudice, because the Florida State Attorney Office and its prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity.

         Likewise, FDLE's response to Librace's request to seal his criminal record in state court is entitled to absolute immunity.[4] Therefore, the Court recommends dismissing Librace's claims, with prejudice, because Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity.

         C. Defamation

         Librace also claims “the incorrect and altered documents have been used to slander, insult, and have acts of violence against” him. Doc. 2, p. 4. Librace does not say who has used the documents against him, or how. Thus, this allegation is insufficient to state a defamation claim against either Defendant. More importantly, “[d]amages for defamation are not recoverable under § 1983 because a defamed person has not been deprived of any right, privilege or immunity secured to him by the Federal Constitution or laws of the United States.” Ellingburg v. Lucas, 518 F.2d 1196, 1197 (8th Cir. 1975). Therefore, the Court recommends dismissing Librace's defamation claims for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted.

         D. Ro ...


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