United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
A. White United States District Judge
is a pretrial detainee proceeding in forma pauperis
who is incarcerated in the Muskogee County Jail in Muskogee,
Oklahoma. At the direction of the Court (Dkt. 10), he filed
an amended civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (Dkt. 11). The defendants are the Muskogee Police
Department; Officer Jeremy Garcia of the Muskogee Police
Department; and Nalani Ching, Muskogee County prosecutor. He
is seeking compensation for his mental anguish, attorney and
court costs, and bonds, as well as dismissal of his pending
charges and removal from the sex offender registry list.
alleges that, without an investigation and because of a
“computer qulich” [sic], on March 5, 2019, he was
unlawfully arrested and charged with failure to register as a
sex offender (Dkt. 11 at 5). He also asserts Defendant Garcia
defamed his character by telling Plaintiff's neighbors
that he had been “arrested as an incompliant sex
offender & assault battery w/ deadly and placed my name
address & picture all over the news stations.”
Id. (errors in original).
further complains that on May 30, 2019, there was no
follow-up investigation, and the “victim/witness made
conflicting statements [and] prejuried [sic] himself on stand
during investigation.” Id. at 6. In addition,
Plaintiff claims he was falsely arrested, because Defendant
Garcia stated he had known Plaintiff's address for 14
months, and Plaintiff had been on a “delinquent
list” since July 20, 2017. Id. Further, there
had been an outstanding warrant for Plaintiff by the Oklahoma
Department of Corrections, although he was not under DOC
supervision or required to register. Id.
to the Oklahoma State Courts Network, Plaintiff has pending
charges in Muskogee County District Court Nos. CF-2019-150
(Failure to Register as a Sex Offender) and CF-2019-447
(Assault and Battery with a Deadly Weapon).
courts must engage in a screening of cases in which prisoners
seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The Court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any
claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
pleading standard for all civil actions was articulated in
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). To
avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must present factual
allegations, assumed to be true, that “raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must contain “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. at 570. A court must accept all the
well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, even if
doubtful in fact, and must construe the allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at
555-56. “So, when the allegations in a complaint,
however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to
relief, ” the cause of action should be dismissed.
Id. at 558. The Court applies the same standard of
review for dismissals under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) that is employed for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Kay v.
Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007).
se plaintiff's complaint must be broadly construed under
this standard. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
The generous construction to be given to the pro se
litigant's allegations, however, “does not relieve
the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on
which a recognized legal claim could be based.”
Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir.
1991). Notwithstanding a pro se plaintiff's various
mistakes or misunderstandings of legal doctrines or
procedural requirements, “if a court can reasonably
read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the
plaintiff could prevail, it should do so . . . .”
Id. A reviewing court need not accept “mere
conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson
v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990).
“While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (quotations and citations omitted). The court
“will not supply additional factual allegations to
round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal
theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New
Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).
initial matter, Plaintiff's claim for his mental anguish
is not viable. “No Federal civil action may be brought
by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other
correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury
suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical
injury . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). While claims
for mental and emotional distress can be brought pursuant to
§ 1983, § 1997e(e) provides that “such a suit
cannot stand unless the plaintiff has suffered a physical
injury in addition to mental or emotional harms.”
Perkins v. Kansas Dep't of Corr., 165 F.3d 803,
807 (10th Cir. 1999) (quotations omitted). Plaintiff has not
made this showing.
to the extent Plaintiff is alleging a claim for defamation,
there is no § 1983 cause of action for defamation.
See Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 234 (1991)
(stating that there is no “constitutional protection
for the interest in reputation”). Therefore, this claim
also is meritless.
the Court finds Defendant Muskogee Police Department is not a
proper party in this civil rights action. “Courts
routinely dismiss § 1983 claims that name and seek to
impose liability directly upon municipal and county police
departments because police departments are not separate
suable entities.” Harper v. City of Cortez,
No. 14-2984-KLM, 2015 WL 4720311, at *5 (D. Colo. Aug. 10,
2015) (citing cases) (unpublished). See also Martinez v.
Winner, 771 F.2d 424, 444 (10th Cir. 1985), vacated
on other grounds by Tyus v. Martinez, 475 U.S. 1138
(1986) (“The ‘City of Denver Police
Department' is not a separate suable entity”).
Defendant Nalani Ching, Muskogee County prosecutor, she is
entitled to prosecutorial immunity. A prosecutor possesses
prosecutorial immunity from § 1983 lawsuits for damages
which are predicated on her performance of functions
“in initiating a prosecution and in presenting the
State's case.” Imbler v. ...