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McKinney v. Gilreath

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

May 7, 2019

KWASI MCKINNEY PLAINTIFF
v.
TENNILLE GILREATH Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Thirteenth Judicial District and JOSH Q. HURST Attorney, Hurst Law Firm DEFENDANTS

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HON. JAMES R. MARSCHEWSKI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action provisionally filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3)(2011), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey, United States District Judge, referred this case to the undersigned for the purpose of making a Report and Recommendation.

         The 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).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 6, 2019, in the Eastern District of Arkansas. (ECF No. 2). The case was transferred to this District on March 7, 2019. (EC No. 3). On March 8, 2019, the Court entered an Order directing Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 7). Plaintiff did so on March 14, 2019. (ECF No. 9).

         Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights were violated by an unlawful property forfeiture on May 11, 2016. (Id. at 4). At that time, Plaintiff was a free-world citizen with charges pending. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff alleges Defendant Hurst was hired to represent him in his criminal case 14CR-16-35. (Id. at 6).

         Plaintiff proceeds against both Defendants in their personal and official capacities. (Id. at 4). He seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and the return of the seized property. (.i at 9).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under 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. § 1915A(b).

         A claim 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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Defendant Gilreath

         Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Gilreath, a deputy prosecutor, are subject to dismissal. A prosecutor is absolutely immune from suit for any conduct undertaken in his or her role as advocate for the state. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976). Absolute prosecutorial immunity protects the prosecutor as a key participant in the criminal justice process, such that the prosecutor need not be inhibited from performing his or her functions by a constant fear of retaliation. Id. at 428. This is true no matter the underlying motive of the prosecutor or the propriety of the actions taken. Myers v. Morris, 810 F.2d. 1437, 1446 (8th Cir. 1987) (finding that allegations that a prosecutor proceeded with a prosecution based on an improper motive did not defeat absolute prosecutorial immunity); Schenk v. Chavis, 461 F.3d 1043, 1046 (8th Cir. 2006) (“Actions connected with initiation of prosecution, even if those actions are patently improper are immunized.”) (internal quotation omitted).

         B. ...


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