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Frazier v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 28, 2018

Johnnie Frazier, #265586, Plaintiff,
Judge James W. Johnson; Solicitor C. Dayton Riddle; and Solicitor David M. Stumbo, Defendants.


          Shiva V. Hodges Columbia, South Carolina United States Magistrate Judge

         Johnnie Frazier (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is an inmate incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Institution. He filed this civil action alleging violations of his constitutional rights by Judge James W. Johnson and Solicitors C. Dayton Riddle (“Riddle”) and David M. Stumbo (“Stumbo”) (collectively “Defendants”). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the complaint in this case without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed this complaint asserting claims for wrongful imprisonment and malicious prosecution. [ECF No. 1 at 4]. Plaintiff alleges Defendants used malicious tactics at his trial to ensure his conviction and incarceration. Id. at 6. Plaintiff argues he is being wrongfully incarcerated and claims the conditions of his confinement have left him physically and mentally incapacitated. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and release from incarceration. Id.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff filed his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

         Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         1. Judicial Immunity

         It is well-settled that judges have immunity from claims arising out of their judicial actions. Mireless v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 12 (1991). Judicial immunity is a protection from suit, not just from ultimate assessment of damages, and such immunity is not pierced by allegations of corruption or bad faith. Id. at 11; see also Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356‒57 (1978) (“A judge will not be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather, he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the ‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.'”) (citation omitted). As Plaintiff's claims against Judge Johnson relate to his judicial actions, he is entitled to absolute immunity. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against Judge Johnson should be summarily dismissed.

         2. Prosecutorial immunity

         Prosecutors have absolute immunity for activities in or connected with judicial proceedings, such as a criminal trial, bond hearings, bail hearings, grand jury proceedings, and pretrial hearings. See Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259 (1993); Dababnah v. Keller-Burnside, 208 F.3d 467 (4th Cir. 2000). Because Plaintiff sues Riddle and Stumbo for actions associated with the prosecution of his criminal charges, his claims against these defendants are barred by prosecutorial immunity. Accordingly, the undersigned recommends Riddle and Stumbo be summarily dismissed from this case.

         3. Heck bars Plaintiff's claims related to his ...

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