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Coleman v. Oneida County

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 9, 2014

BEAU COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
ONEIDA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

BEAU COLEMAN, Plaintiff, pro se


ANDREW T. BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

The Clerk has sent to the Court a civil rights complaint, filed by pro se plaintiff Beau Coleman. (Dkt. Nos. 1). Plaintiff originally filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") on August 8, 2014. (Dkt. No. 2). On August 12, 2014, Senior Judge McAvoy ordered administrative closure of this action and gave plaintiff the opportunity to either pay the filing fee or submit the proper documentation for his IFP application. (Dkt. No. 4). On August 22, 2014, the case was reopened after plaintiff informed the court that he was no longer incarcerated, and that the Inmate Authorization Form that was missing from his initial application was no longer required. (Dkt. No. 6). Plaintiff's updated motion for IFP status is currently before me for review. (Dkt. No. 7). For the following reasons, this court will grant plaintiff's IFP application, and will recommend dismissal with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii) as against the named defendants, but will recommend dismissal without prejudice to the extent that plaintiff is able to submit a proposed amended complaint stating a claim based on the discussion below.

I. IFP Application

A review of plaintiff's updated IFP application shows that he declares he is unable to pay the filing fee. (Dkt. No. 7). This court agrees, and finds that plaintiff is financially eligible for IFP status.

In addition to determining whether plaintiff meets the financial criteria to proceed IFP, the court must also consider the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in the complaint in light of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which provides that the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that the action is (i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).

In determining whether an action is frivolous, the court must consider whether the complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Dismissal of frivolous actions is appropriate to prevent abuses of court process as well as to discourage the waste of judicial resources. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; Harkins v. Eldridge, 505 F.2d 802, 804 (8th Cir. 1974). Although the court has a duty to show liberality toward pro se litigants, and must use extreme caution in ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before the adverse party has been served and has had an opportunity to respond, the court still has a responsibility to determine that a claim is not frivolous before permitting a plaintiff to proceed. Fitzgerald v. First East Seventh St. Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 363 (2d Cir. 2000) (finding that a district court may dismiss a frivolous complaint sua sponte even when plaintiff has paid the filing fee).

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is "plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555). The court will now turn to a consideration of the plaintiff's complaint under the above standards.

II. Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that between March of 2010 and July of 2011 the Oneida County District Attorney and the Rome City Court Judge[1] issued an "illegal order of protection" against plaintiff, causing his arrest, "malicious prosecution, " "unlawful imprisonment, " and "descrimination [sic]" "on numerous occasions" during the same time period. (Complaint ("Compl. ¶ 4) (Dkt. No. 1). He states that the District Attorney maliciously prosecuted plaintiff, which led to his unlawful imprisonment. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims violations of his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. ( Id. ) He seeks substantial monetary relief.

III. Absolute Immunity

A. Legal Standards

Prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity from suit under section 1983 in matters associated with their prosecutorial functions, regardless of motivation. Flagler v. Trainor, 663 F.3d 543, 546-47 (2d Cir. 2011) (prosecutors are generally immune from liability under section 1983 for conduct in furtherance of prosecutorial functions that are "intimately associated with initiating or presenting the State's case.); Dory v. Ryan, 25 F.3d 81, 83 (2d Cir. 1994) (prosecutorial immunity covers virtually all acts associated with the prosecutor's function, including conspiracies to present false evidence); Bernard v. County of Suffolk, 356 F.3d 495 (2d Cir. 2004) (absolute immunity shields prosecutors from suit pursuant to section 1983 for their alleged malicious or selective prosecution as well as for any misconduct in the presentation of evidence to the Grand Jury).

Absolute immunity is defeated only when the prosecutor is engaging in investigative functions. Bernard v. County of Suffolk, 356 F.3d at 502-503 (citation omitted). The initiation and pursuit of prosecution, regardless of any alleged illegality, is protected by absolute prosecutorial immunity. Peay v. Ajello, 470 F.3d 65, 67-68 (2d Cir. 2006). It has also been held that a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for his or her decision ...

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