United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. JUDGE
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Amended
Complaint by Special Appearance (Doc. 29.) For the following
reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED. As a result,
Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED. The Clerk of Court is
DIRECTED to close this case.
case revolves around Plaintiff Douglas Echols's
exoneration for rape and kidnapping
convictions. In 1987, Plaintiff was convicted in the
Superior Court of Chatham County of those two offenses and
sentenced to a fifteen-year term of imprisonment. (Doc. 26,
¶¶ 8, 13.) While imprisoned, Plaintiff endured
numerous attacks because he had been convicted of a sex
offense. (Id. ¶¶ 14-16.) Plaintiff was
also dishonorably discharged from the United States Army.
(Id. ¶ 17.) After serving five years in prison,
Plaintiff was released on parole, monitored using an ankle
bracelet, and required to register as a sex offender.
(Id. ¶¶ 19-21.) In an effort to secure
meaningful employment, Plaintiff violated his parole by
traveling outside the Savannah area. (Id. ¶
22.) Ultimately, Plaintiff served an additional two-years
imprisonment based on that parole violation. (Id.)
2001, a DNA test conducted by a third party determined that
the semen obtained from the rape victim was not from
Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff promptly
presented this DNA evidence to the Chatham County District
Attorney-Defendant Spencer Lawton. (Id. ¶ 24.)
Defendant ordered additional DNA testing from the Georgia
State Crime Lab, which confirmed that the semen collected in
connection with the rape conviction was not from Plaintiff.
(Id. ¶¶ 25-26.)
hearing this new evidence, the Chatham County Superior Court
concluded that it was "so material that it would likely
result in a different outcome at trial." (Id.
¶ 27.) That court granted Plaintiff a new trial, and the
rape and kidnapping indictment against Plaintiff was
dismissed. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) Ultimately, the
State declined to proceed and entered a nolle
prosequi with respect to those charges. (Id.
on the vacated convictions, a local member of the Georgia
House of Representative presented House Resolution 96 to the
Georgia General Assembly. (Id. ¶ 36.) That
resolution sought to provide Plaintiff with $1, 600, 000 in
compensation for losses related to his vacated convictions.
(Id.) On two occasions, the Georgia Claims Advisory
Board considered House Resolution 96 and unanimously
determined that Plaintiff should receive compensation in an
amount to be determined by the General Assembly.
(Id. ¶¶ 38-39.)
in this process, Defendant sent Senator Jack Hill a February 8,
2006 letter regarding House Resolution 96. (Id.
¶ 40.) Defendant also emailed a memorandum to several
other legislators. (Id. ¶ 41.) In these
communications,  Defendant "claimed that
Plaintiff's conviction and imprisonment for the crimes of
rape and kidnapping were proper and fitting, even though
Plaintiff's conviction had been vacated and a new trial
had been granted." (Id. ¶ 45.) In
addition, Defendant stated that Plaintiff remained under
indictment, despite knowing that a nolle prosequi
had been entered on those charges in October 2002.
(Id. ¶¶ 46-47.) Defendant also opined that
"the Georgia Legislature should not give Plaintiff the
benefit of the presumption of innocence of the crimes of rape
and kidnapping for which he had been imprisoned, " and
that "the vacation of Plaintiff's conviction[s] and
grant of a new trial did not establish Plaintiff's
innocence." (Id. ¶ 48.) Defendant
"insisted that Plaintiff should not be compensated for
his imprisonment for nearly sixteen years under 
conviction[s] that had been overturned, unless Plaintiff
actually proved that he was innocent of the crimes of rape
and kidnapping." (Id. ¶ 4 9.) According to
Plaintiff, the General Assembly failed to pass House
Resolution 96 "specifically due to Defendant
Lawton's correspondence." (Id. ¶ 55.)
on those events, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this court
(Doc. 1), which he later amended (Doc. 26). In the amended
complaint, Plaintiff brings three substantive counts against
Defendant, all based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id.
¶¶ 56-66.) In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant violated § 1983 by denying Plaintiff's
"constitutional rights to substantive and procedural due
process, which rights are fundamental and guaranteed by the
Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
Constitution." (Id. ¶ 57.) Count Two
argues that Defendant interfered and abridged
"Plaintiff's constitutional rights to freedom of
speech and right to petition the Government for redress of
his grievances, which rights are fundamental and guaranteed
by the First and Fourteenth Amendments." (Id.
¶ 61.) Finally, Count Three claims that Defendant
"retaliate[d] against Plaintiff Douglas Echols for
exercising his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and
to petition the Government for redress of his
grievances." (Id. ¶ 65.) Based on these
claims, Plaintiff seeks both compensatory and punitive
damages, as well as attorney fees and costs. (Id.
¶ 71.) In his Motion to Dismiss, Defendant contends that
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims lack merit because
Plaintiff has immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of
the United States that was denied by Defendant. (Doc. 29,
Attach. 1 at 7.) In addition, Defendant argues that he is
entitled to both prosecutorial (id. at 15-20) and
qualified immunity (id. at 21-25).
response, Plaintiff maintains that Defendant deprived
Plaintiff of his constitutional rights by denying him
substantive due process (Doc. 30 at 10-11); procedural due
process (id. at 15-17); liberty, property, and the
presumption of innocence (id. at 12-14); and the
First Amendment right to petition and seek redress from the
General Assembly (id. at 17-18). Also, Plaintiff
argues that Defendant is not entitled to absolute
prosecutorial immunity because the nolle prosequi
entered on the rape and kidnapping charges ended the judicial
process. (Id. at 3-8.) Finally, Plaintiff reasons
that qualified immunity is inapplicable in this case because
Defendant was not exercising his discretionary authority and
deprived Plaintiff of clearly established constitutional
rights. (Id. at 18-20.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) (2) requires a complaint to
contain "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
"[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require 'detailed factual allegations, ' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007)). "A pleading that offers 'labels and
conclusions' or a 'formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.' "
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
"Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders
'naked assertion[s]' devoid of
'further factual enhancement.' " Id.
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (alteration in
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' "
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570) .
For a claim to have facial plausibility, the plaintiff must
plead factual content that "allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola
Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1261 (11th Cir. 2009) (quotations
omitted) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Plausibility does not require probability, "but it asks
for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
"Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely
consistent with' a defendant's liability, it
'stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of entitlement to relief.' "
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Additionally, a complaint is sufficient only if it gives
"fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests." Sinaltrainal, 57 8 F.3d
at 1268 (quotations omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. At 555) .
the Court considers a motion to dismiss, it accepts the
well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true.
Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d 1252 at 1260. However, this
Court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation." Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. Moreover, "unwarranted deductions of fact
in a complaint are not admitted as true for the purpose of
testing the sufficiency of [plaintiff's]
allegations." Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d at 1268
(citing Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A.,
Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005)). That is,
"[t]he rule Moes not impose a probability requirement at
the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough
facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of the necessary element." Watts v.
Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295-96
(11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545).
42 U.S.C. § 1983
1983 does not include any provision that creates substantive
rights, but provides only a remedy for -deprivations of
federal statutory and constitutional rights." Almand
v. DeKalb Cty., 103 F.3d 1510, 1512 (11th Cir. 1997)
(citing Whiting v. Traylor, 85 F.3d 581, 583 (11th
Cir. 1996)) . A requirement of any valid claim under §
1983 is the alleged deprivation of at least one of the
plaintiff's federal constitutional or statutory rights by
a defendant acting under color of state law.Id.
(citing Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127, 1130 (11th
Cir. 1992)). The specific facts peculiar to each case
determine whether a plaintiff was deprived of such a right.
Sinqletary v. Vargas,804 F.3d 1174, 1180 (11th Cir.
2015) (citing McCullouqh v. Antolini, 559 F.3d 1201,
1202 (11th Cir. 2009)). In this case, Plaintiff alleges that