United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE.
pending before the Court is the Recast Complaint of pro
se Plaintiff Robert McCray, an inmate most recently
confined at the Thomas County Jail in Thomasville, Georgia.
Plaintiff's claims are now ripe for preliminary screening
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and § 1915(e).
After conducting this review, the Court finds that Plaintiff
has failed to state a viable claim upon which relief may be
granted. Plaintiff's Recast Complaint is accordingly
DISMISSED without prejudice.
Standard of Review
accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), the district courts are obligated to
conduct a preliminary screening of every complaint filed by a
prisoner who seeks redress from a government entity,
official, or employee. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a). Screening is also required under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e) when the plaintiff is proceeding IFP. Both statutes
apply in this case, and the standard of review is the same.
When conducting preliminary screening, the Court must accept
all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Boxer X
v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006);
Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir.
2003). Pro se pleadings, like the one in this case,
are “held to a less stringent standard than pleadings
drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally
construed.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). Still, the Court must dismiss a prisoner complaint
if it “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).
is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in
law or in fact.” Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d
1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court may dismiss claims that are based on
“indisputably meritless legal” theories and
“claims whose factual contentions are clearly
baseless.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not
include “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
to ‘state a claim to relief 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)). The factual
allegations in a complaint “must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level” and cannot
“merely create a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable
right of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(first alteration in original). In other words, the
complaint must allege enough facts “to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence” supporting a claim. Id. at 556.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right,
privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a
statute of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was
committed by a person acting under color of state law.
Hale v. Tallapoosa Cnty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th
Cir. 1995). If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements
or fails to provide factual allegations in support of his
claim or claims, the complaint is subject to dismissal.
See Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1282-84 (11th
Factual Allegations and Plaintiff's Claims
only named Defendant in this case is Cathren Smith,
Plaintiff's former public defender. Recast Compl. 5, ECF
No. 7. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Smith is now a
prosecutor and that she is “holding [Plaintiff's]
past against [him]” because he “got away wit[h]
too much in the past.” Id. Plaintiff states
that in 2010, Defendant Smith “forced” him
“to take 10 years probation” and would not
“sign off” on releasing Plaintiff from probation.
Id. On May 22, 2016, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant Smith “made” Plaintiff “take a 5
year plea” and told Plaintiff that if he did not take
the plea deal she would “take [him] to probation court
snatch all my pappers [sic] left and . . . try every charge
one by one and give [him] the max on each one of them
charges.” Id. Plaintiff states that these
actions show that Defendant Smith has a “personal
grudge against” Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant's conduct violated his civil
rights, and as a result he seeks “conviction over turn,
money back, an[d] compensation for pain and suffering.”
Id. at 6.
Plaintiff's allegations liberally, as the Court must at
this stage, it appears Plaintiff is claiming that Defendant
Smith maliciously prosecuted Plaintiff. The Eleventh Circuit
recognizes that a malicious prosecution can be a violation of
the Fourth Amendment cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See, e.g., Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 881 (11th
Cir. 2003); see also Carter v. Gore, 557 F.
App'x 904, 906 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (noting that
a claim for malicious prosecution “is the
constitutional tort available to people who have been
wrongfully arrested pursuant to legal process”).
Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims fail, however,
for at least two independent reasons.
to state a claim for malicious prosecution in the Eleventh
Circuit, a plaintiff must show a violation of his Fourth
Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures as well
as: “(1) a criminal prosecution instituted or continued
by the present defendant; (2) with malice and without
probable cause; (3) that terminated in the plaintiff
accused's favor; and (4) caused damage to the plaintiff
accused.” Wood, 323 F.3d at 882. In this case,
Plaintiff does not allege that any criminal prosecution
against him has terminated in his favor. Because Plaintiff
has failed to allege an essential element of his claim,
Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims are subject to
addition, Defendant Smith is entitled to immunity in this
case. A prosecutor is generally “entitled to absolute
immunity for acts undertaken . . . in preparing for the
initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which
occur in the course of [her] role as an advocate for the
State.” Mastroianni v. Bowers, 173 F.3d 1363,
1366 (11th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted).
These acts include, but are not limited to,
“appearances in judicial proceedings, including
prosecutorial conduct before grand juries, statements made
during trial, examination of witnesses, and presentation of
evidence in support of a search warrant during a probable
cause hearing.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 611 F.3d
828, 837-38 (11th Cir. 2010). In this case, Plaintiff has
alleged only that Defendant Smith decided to prosecute
Plaintiff for the crimes with which he had been charged.
“A prosecutor's decision to bring charges against a
person, so long as the prosecutor is acting within the scope
and territorial jurisdiction of his office, is immune from an
action for damages under § 1983.” Elder v.
Athens-Clarke Cnty., 54 F.2d 694, 695 (11th Cir. 1995);
see also Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 558-59
(11th Cir. 1984) (prosecutor is entitled to immunity even
when she knowingly uses perjured testimony, files an
information without an investigation, files charges without
jurisdiction, files a baseless detainer, or threatens a
criminal defendant with further prosecution, among other
things). Plaintiff's single, conclusory statement that
Defendant Smith harbored a “grudge” against him
does not demonstrate that Defendant Smith's conduct fell
outside her role as an advocate for the State or that she
acted outside the territorial jurisdiction of her office.
Defendant Smith is therefore also entitled to prosecutorial
immunity, and Plaintiff's claims against her are subject
to dismissal for this reason.
foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's claims must be
DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A and § 1915(e) because they fail to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted and/or seek