United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the Court for preservice screening under the
provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court has the
obligation to screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks
redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of
a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
filed his Complaint on February 25, 2019. (ECF No. 1).
Plaintiff was directed to file a completed IFP application
and did so on March 4, 2019. (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff alleges
he has been incarcerated since September 1, 2017 and has
“yet to see a judge.” (ECF No. 1 at 3). He
describes his Complaint as a “malpractice disagreement
with defendants.” (Id. at 2). As his first
claim, Plaintiff alleges both Defendants committed
malpractice from September 1, 2017 through the filing of his
Complaint. (Id. at 4). He states Defendant Eastman
repeatedly ignored his requests for a trial date, articles of
discovery, and depositions of witnesses. He states Defendant
Eastman “represents three counties and is in pursuit of
pleas only and will not offer the slightest defense.”
(Id.). He does not identify what actions or
inactions of Defendant Stafford constituted malpractice.
(Id.). As his second claim, Plaintiff alleges
Defendant Stafford committed “collusion for the purpose
of incarceration” on January 19 and June 1 of 2018.
Specifically, he states “Dr. Stafford is engaged in
collusion for the purpose of defrauding taxpayers. His
inaction has cost me over a year of incarceration. He and Sam
Eastman are an arms length apart. This is criminal
proceeds against both Defendant in their personal capacity.
(Id. at 4. 5). He seeks compensatory damages and
asks for co-counsel “not from the Public Defenders
Office as they are an agent of the Prosecution.”
(Id. at 7).
the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen the case prior to
service of process being issued. The Court must dismiss a
complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that:
(1) are frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or (2) seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in
law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted if it does not allege “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In evaluating whether a pro
se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a
claim, we hold ‘a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded ... to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Jackson
v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). Even a
pro se Plaintiff must allege specific facts
sufficient to support a claim. Martin v. Sargent,
780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).
review of Plaintiff's state court file in Johnson County
indicates Defendant Eastman was appointed as his Public
Defender in both of his Johnson County criminal cases. To the
extent Plaintiff's allegations can be interpreted as a
claim of ineffective assistance of counsel against Defendant
Eastman, his appointed public defender, it is subject to
dismissal. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege that the defendant, while acting under color of
state law, deprived him of a federal right. In Polk
County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981), the Supreme
Court held that a public defender does not act under color of
state law when performing a lawyer's traditional
functions as counsel to indigent defendants in state criminal
proceedings. Thus, when the claim is merely that the public
defender failed to adequately represent the client in his
criminal proceedings, it does not state a cognizable claim
under § 1983. See also Gilbert v. Corcoran, 530
F.2d 820 (8th Cir. 1976) (conclusory allegations of
ineffective assistance of counsel do not state a claim
against public defenders under § 1983).
Stafford is the psychiatrist who determined Plaintiff was not
fit to stand trial in Arkansas case number 36CR-17-263. To
the extent Plaintiff's allegations against him can be
interpreted as a claim of medical malpractice, he fails to
state a plausible claim against Defendant Stafford. Mere
negligence or medical malpractice are insufficient to rise to
a constitutional violation. Dulany v. Carnahan, 132
F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Further,
“a prisoner's mere difference of opinion over
matters of expert medical judgment or a course of medical
treatment fail[s] to rise to the level of a constitutional
violation.” Taylor v. Bowers, 966 F.2d 417,
421 (8th Cir. 1992).
to the extent his claims could be interpreted as one for
false imprisonment, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted under § 1983. False
imprisonment is a tort under Arkansas state law. Guidry
v. Harp's Food Stores, Inc., 66 Ark.App. 93 (1999).
Because Plaintiff's false imprisonment claim for monetary
relief does not arise under the United States Constitution or
a federal statute, § 1983 provides no remedy. See
Smith v. Garrett, No. 5:06-cv-9281-JLH, 2006 WL 3791951,
at *2 (E.D. Ark. Dec. 21, 2006).
these reasons, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's claims are
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The dismissal of this action
constitutes a “strike” under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(g). The Clerk ...