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Moncus v. Lasalle Management Co., LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

October 22, 2019

TYLER MONCUS, Plaintiff,
v.
LASALLE MANAGEMENT CO., LLC, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE

         Plaintiff Tyler Moncus brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim as well as state law tort claims against Defendant Jennifer Dawn Hart and other Defendants.[1](Doc. 1). Before the Court is Defendant Hart's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 27). Defendant argues that she has common law prosecutorial immunity as to Plaintiff's federal action, and that the Eleventh Amendment, the Georgia Constitution, and the Georgia Tort Claims Act (“GTCA”) bar Plaintiff's state law claims against her. Id. The Court finds that Defendant is immune from Plaintiff's suit. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was arrested in Irwin County, Georgia on September 2, 2015 and subsequently indicted on two counts of aggravated assault. (Compl. ¶¶ 20, 22). The Irwin County Detention Center (“Detention Center”) detained Plaintiff for eighteen days before his release on bail. (Id. at ¶ 21). Defendant, in her role as Tifton Circuit District Attorney, prosecuted the criminal charges against Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 23). Plaintiff's defense counsel, Thomas J. Pujadas, and Defendant negotiated a plea agreement to resolve the charges. (Id. at ¶ 25). In accordance with the plea agreement, Plaintiff pled guilty to one count of aggravated assault. (Id.). On August 28, 2017, the Superior Court sentenced Plaintiff to ten days of incarceration followed by five years of probation. (Id. at ¶ 26).

         Plaintiff served the full ten days of his sentence of incarceration. (Id. at ¶ 38). He alleges that he was entitled to and denied credit for the eighteen days he spent in pretrial detention. (Id. at ¶¶ 48-49); see O.C.G.A. § 17-10-11 (“Each person convicted of a crime in this state shall be given full credit for each day spent in confinement awaiting trial.”). According to Plaintiff, the eighteen days he spent in pretrial detention nullified his subsequent ten-day sentence (Compl. ¶¶ 48-49), and he should have been “immediately released upon presentation to [Donnie Youghn, ] the Irwin County Sheriff” at the Detention Center. (Id. at ¶ 30). Instead, Plaintiff was taken into custody. (Id. at ¶ 31). Mr. Pujadas phoned Mr. Youghn to arrange for Plaintiff's release. (Id. at ¶ 32). Plaintiff alleges that while Mr. Pujadas was on the phone with Mr. Youghn, Mr. Pujadas overhead a prison employee say Defendant ordered that Plaintiff remain in custody. (Id. at ¶ 33).

         Mr. Pujadas filed a writ of mandamus seeking Plaintiff's immediate release. (Id. at ¶ 37). However, the state court failed to conduct a hearing and rule on his petition while Plaintiff spent ten days in the county jail. (Id.). Plaintiff filed this suit on May 24, 2019, alleging claims under § 1983 and Georgia tort law. (Doc. 1). Defendant filed her motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on July 9, 2019. (Doc. 27).

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

         When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must accept the facts alleged in the plaintiff's complaint as true and construe all reasonable inference in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). To avoid dismissal, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Prosecutorial immunity may be asserted as an affirmative defense pursuant to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Long v. Satz, 181 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 1999). The district court may dismiss a complaint with prejudice if the defendant's motion demonstrates that the complaint factually supports an immunity defense. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Section 1983 Claim

         Common law grants prosecutors absolute immunity from § 1983 actions that stem from conduct “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976). The Court takes a “functional approach” to evaluate the prosecutor's specific conduct and determine whether it receives absolute or qualified immunity. Hart v. Hodges, 587 F.3d 1288, 1294 (11th Cir. 2009). This approach “looks to the nature of the function performed, not to the identity of the person who performed it.” Id. at 1294-95. Absolute immunity applies to a prosecutor's actions undertaken as an advocate for the State. Id. at 1295. Actions that serve a prosecutor's investigative or administrative roles do not receive absolute immunity. Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 342 (2009). Acting as a complaining witness also does not warrant absolute immunity. Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 129-31 (1997). Prosecutors are “entitled only to qualified immunity” when they function as administrators, investigators, or complaining witnesses rather than as advocates. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993).

         The Supreme Court is clear that the prosecutor's function as an advocate includes preparing to initiate a prosecution and presenting the State's case in judicial proceedings. Id. at 269-70 (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431 n.33). This function encompasses a wide range of conduct-including illegal or unconstitutional actions-for which prosecutors receive absolute immunity. Prosecutors have absolute immunity when “filing an information without investigation, filing charges without jurisdiction, filing a baseless detainer, offering perjured testimony, suppressing exculpatory evidence, refusing to investigate complaints about the prison system, and threatening further criminal prosecutions.” Hart, 587 F.3d at 1295 (quoting Henzel v. Gerstein, 608 F.2d 654, 657 (5th Cir. 1979)); see Imbler, 424 U.S. at 437 (“[A] prosecutor is absolutely immune from suit for malicious prosecution.”).

         Less clear is to what extent common law affords absolute immunity for prosecutors' post-sentencing actions. The Supreme Court has not spoken on the issue. The Eleventh Circuit has indicated that absolute immunity “may extend to certain post-sentencing conduct of a prosecutor.” Hart, 587 F.3d at 1296. For example, prosecutors receive absolute immunity for their advocacy before the Parole Commission and in habeas corpus proceedings. See Wright v. Pearson, 747 Fed.Appx. 812, 814 (11th Cir. 2018) (“[A]bsolute immunity extends to a prosecutor's conduct during post-conviction proceedings.”); Jenkins v. Walker, 620 Fed.Appx. 709, 711 (11th Cir. 2015) (“[A] prosecutor has absolute immunity for presentation of evidence at post-sentencing habeas corpus proceedings.”); Allen v. Thompson, 815 F.2d 1433, 1434 (11th Cir. 1987) (forwarding information to Parole Commission receives absolute immunity because “[p]arole decisions are the continuation of the sentencing process”). At issue in this case is whether a prosecutor receives absolute immunity for actions undertaken to enforce a state sentence, and more specifically, whether absolute immunity applies when such enforcement actions deny the defendant's credit for time served in pretrial detention.

         Defendant relies on Hart v. Hodges to support her Motion to Dismiss. 587 F.3d 1288; see (Doc. 27-1, p. 4). She argues that this opinion “made clear that a prosecutor's role extends to conduct related to the criminal defendant's sentence.” (Doc. 44, p. 2). In Hart, the plaintiff was indicted on both federal and state offenses. 587 F.3d at 1291. The plaintiff's lawyer negotiated a plea agreement with the Assistant United States Attorney and Defendant Hodges, the District Attorney assigned to the plaintiff's state case. Id. The plaintiff agreed to plead guilty in exchange for an agreement that he would serve his state sentence concurrently with his federal sentence, and the state sentence would be the same length as the federal ...


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