United States District Court, N.D. New York
Quentin J. Hicks, Pro Se, Watertown Correctional Facility Watertown, NY, for the Plaintiff.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
GARY L. SHARPE, Chief Judge.
Plaintiff pro se Quentin Hicks commenced this action against defendants Steven C. Buitron, Esq., Hon. Gregory Oakes, Hon. Donald H. Dodd, and Oswego County, NY, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. ( See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) In an Order and Report-Recommendation (R&R) issued on May 24, 2013, Magistrate Judge Therèse Wiley Dancks recommended that Hicks' claims against Oakes, Dodd, and Buitron be dismissed without leave to amend, and that his claims against the County of Oswego be dismissed with leave to amend. (Dkt. No. 7 at 8.) Pending before the court are Hicks' timely objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 8.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted in part and rejected in part.
Hicks claims that during the relevant time period he was confined at Oswego County Jail after being charged with conspiracy. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 13.) Hicks alleges that defendants "unlawfully distributed or assisted in the distribution of [his] Psychological Evaluation... [to] depriv[e] [him] his Constitutional right to reasonable bail, which was set at one million dollars and never lowered, " ( id. at 1), in violation of his First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. ( Id. ¶¶ 7, 19(4).) Hicks claims that, during his bail hearing, he learned that his psychological evaluation had been distributed to family members, the media, the judge, the District Attorney's office, and the Department of Corrections and Parole. ( Id. ¶ 13.)
III. Standard of Review
Before entering final judgment, this court reviews report and recommendation orders in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party properly objects to a specific element of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. Civ. 904CV484GLS, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In those cases where no party has filed an objection, only vague or general objections are made, or a party resubmits the same papers and arguments already considered by the magistrate judge, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge for clear error. See id. at *4-5.
Hicks filed both general and specific objections to the R&R, which are considered below. (Dkt. No. 8.)
1. Specific Objections
Hicks asserts two specific objections, which the court reviews de novo. See Almonte, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5. First, Hicks specifically objects to the portion of the R&R in which Judge Dancks found that Oakes, the district attorney at the time of Hicks' bail hearing, is immune from liability; Hicks claims that Oakes should not be immune because "he crossed the line and should be held accountable (personally)." ( Id. at 2; Compl. ¶ 4.) Hicks' argument is without merit. Prosecutorial immunity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 applies to individual district attorneys for claims arising out of acts "within the scope of [their] duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution." Pinaud v. Cnty. of Suffolk, 52 F.3d 1139, 1147 (2d Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Since Hicks' claims against Oakes arise from acts that Oakes performed within the scope of his duties in pursuing the prosecution of Hicks, Oakes is immune from suit, and Hicks' claims against him are dismissed.
Second, Hicks specifically objects to Judge Dancks' characterization of Buitron as Hicks' attorney; instead, Hicks gives new details and asserts, "Buitron was definitely not my defense attorney. At times he was my wife's divorce attorney, at other times he was the owner of a law firm who subcontractored [sic] attorneys to litigate divorce cases, defense cases." (Dkt. No. 8 at 1.) Hicks identifies his attorney at the time as James Eby. ( Id. at 2.) While the court appreciates Hicks' distinction that Buitron was not his criminal defense attorney, it is of no moment. It is axiomatic that there must be state action before a suit will be cognizable under § 1983. See Fabrikant v. French, 691 F.3d 193, 206 (2d Cir. 2012). Judge Dancks recommended dismissal of Hicks' claims against Buitron because "criminal defense attorneys, whether private or court-appointed, are not state actors for the purposes of Section 1983." (Dkt. No. 7 at 6-7.) Even though, as it turns out, Buitron was not Hicks' defense attorney, Hicks has still not shown that Buitron was a state actor. Therefore, Hicks' § 1983 claims are not ...