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Howard v. Goodwin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

December 17, 2018

JACKIE DORAIL HOWARD PLAINTIFF
v.
LISA GOODWIN, Manager, Whataburger; CHARLES BLACK, District Attorney, Miller County, Arkansas; DETECTIVE BRIAN TRIBBLE, Texarkana Arkansas Police Department; and SERGEANT ZACHERY WHITE, Texarkana Arkansas Police Department DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          SUSAN O. HICKEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Charles Black's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff has filed a response. (ECF No. 21). The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently an inmate in the Miller County Detention Center (“MCDC”) in Texarkana, Arkansas. On September 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1). His application to proceed in forma pauperis was granted the same day. (ECF No. 3). In addition to Black, Plaintiff names Lisa Goodwin, Brian Tribble, and Zachery White as Defendants in this lawsuit.

         Defendant Black is employed by the State of Arkansas as a prosecuting attorney in Miller County, Arkansas. Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when he was “accused…of stealing out of a business …I didn't do it.” Plaintiff states as a result, he was arrested and incarcerated based on charges that were eventually nolle prossed. (ECF No. 1, pp. 4-7). In addition, Plaintiff states that he was forced to accept three years of probation for a crime he did not commit, was threatened by the District Attorney with the Habitual Offender's Act, was retaliated against by the District Attorney's Office, and mistakenly had his parole revoked. (ECF No. 1, pp. 15-18).

         Plaintiff attached the Criminal Information sheet from his criminal case signed by Defendant Black for the theft of property charge and the supporting Affidavit of Defendant Brian Tribble, dated June 7, 2018, to his Complaint.[1] Plaintiff is suing Defendant Black in his individual and official capacities. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and states that he would like Defendant Black to “[d]o [a]way” with his probation, fines, and assessments in Miller County. (ECF No. 1, p. 14).

         Defendant Black argues in the instant Motion to Dismiss that Plaintiff failed to state any claim against him because, as a prosecuting attorney, he is entitled to both sovereign and absolute immunity. In addition, he states that Plaintiff's allegations are barred as a matter of law by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) and that the Court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction of the state law claim of false imprisonment. (ECF No. 18). Plaintiff filed a Response stating that “the Fraud[u]lent Accusations of Lisa Goodwin in The Police Report generated by Detectives Brian Tribble and Sergeant Zachary White Insinuated felonious Activities Perpetrated by Another Indivi[d]ual that Legally and Publicly Impugh [sic] my char[c]ater, and stole my freedom.” (ECF No. 21). Plaintiff does not mention Defendant Black in his Response.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         Rule 8(a) contains the general pleading rules and requires a complaint to present “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “In order to meet this standard, and survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. While the Court will liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's complaint, the plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to support his claims. See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Black violated his civil rights when Defendant Black charged him with a crime he did not commit and then, after the charges were dropped, retaliated against him by revoking his probation.

         A. Immunity

         As previously stated, Defendant Black is employed by the State of Arkansas as a prosecuting attorney in Miller County, Arkansas. The United States Supreme Court in Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976), established the absolute immunity of a prosecutor from a civil suit for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “in initiating a prosecution and in presenting the State's case.” Id. at 427. This immunity extends to all acts that are “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.” Id. at 430; see also Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259 (1993) (holding that a prosecutor acting as an advocate for the state in a criminal prosecution is entitled to absolute immunity while a prosecutor acting in an investigatory or administrative capacity is only entitled to qualified immunity).

         In addition, “A claim for damages against a state employee in his official capacity is barred under the Eleventh Amendment.” Andrus Ex Rel. Andrus v. Arkansas, 197 F.3d 953, 955 (8th Cir. 1999) (citing Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989)). As such, a state official sued in his official capacity is protected by the sovereign immunity of the Eleventh Amendment from all claims except equitable relief. Reynolds v. Dormire, 636 F.3d 976, 981 (8th Cir. 2011). Based on the allegations in his Complaint, all actions ...


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