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Spikes v. O'Berry

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 19, 2015



JOSEPH C. WILKINSON, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, James Jerrod Spikes, is a prisoner currently incarcerated in the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility in Ferriday, Louisiana. He filed this complaint pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officers Wendall O'Berry, Kendall Bullen and Tobey Leos, Assistant District Attorney Leann Wahl, Michael Brister, Trudy Brister, the Bogalusa Police Department, 22nd Judicial District Court and 22nd Judicial District Attorney's Office. Spikes alleges that defendants have engaged in a conspiracy to make a false arrest and bring false charges against him for aggravated assault with a firearm and as a felon in possession of a weapon.

Spikes claims that the victim of the aggravated assault with a weapon, Michael Brister, fabricated the charges against him. He also claims that Brister's girlfriend, Chantel Walker, falsified her story as a witness to accuse Spikes of the shooting incident because she was coached to do so by defendant Officer O'Berry. He also claims that Officers O'Berry, Leos and Kendall Bullen, with the help of Assistant District Attorney Leann Wahl, conspired to drop other charges against Brister and proceed with these charges against Spikes. Spikes asserts that he is currently being falsely imprisoned based on these conspiracy and false charges. Record Doc. No. 7 (Complaint and attachments).

As relief, Spikes seeks to "file criminal charges on all conspirators and be compensated for my pain and suffering." Id . (Complaint at ¶ V, p. 6.)



A prisoner's pro se complaint for alleged civil rights violations must be screened by the court as soon as practicable after docketing, regardless whether it has also been filed in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a); Lewis v. Estes, 242 F.3d 375, 2000 WL 1673382, at *1 (8th Cir. 2006); Shakur v. Selsky, 391 F.3d 106, 112 (2d Cir. 2004); Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 579-80 (5th Cir. 1998). Such complaints by prisoners must be dismissed upon review if they are frivolous or fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1); Shakur, 391 F.3d at 113; Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1999).

"A federal court may dismiss a claim in forma pauperis if satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious.'" Moore v. McDonald, 30 F.3d 616, 620 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), now incorporated in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), as amended). A complaint is frivolous "if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact." Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005 (5th Cir. 1998); Reeves v. Collins, 27 F.3d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1994). The law "accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Macias v. Raul A. (Unknown), Badge No. 153, 23 F.3d 94, 97 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

"A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.'" Davis, 157 F.3d at 1005 (quoting McCormick v. Stalder, 105 F.3d 1059, 1061 (5th Cir. 1997)). "When a complaint raises an arguable question of law which the district court ultimately finds is correctly resolved against the plaintiff, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate; however, dismissal under the section 1915(d) standard is not." Moore v. Mabus, 976 F.2d 268, 269 (5th Cir. 1992). An in forma pauperis complaint which is legally frivolous, fails to state a claim or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief may be dismissed sua sponte at any time under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

In this case, plaintiff's Section 1983 complaint must be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) as legally frivolous because it seeks relief against one defendant who is immune and otherwise barred under applicable United States Supreme Court law.


Assistant District Attorney Leann Wahl has been named as a defendant in this case based solely upon her actions as a prosecutor in connection with pending state court criminal proceedings against Spikes. Because Spikes asserts claims against this defendant seeking "compensation" in her individual capacity, Wahl is immune from suit.

Courts employ a "functional" test to determine whether officials are entitled to absolute immunity, in which they look to the "nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it." Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227-29 (1988); accord Hill v. City of Seven Points, 31 Fed.Appx. 835, 2002 WL 243261, at *10 (5th Cir. 2002); Hulsey v. Owens, 63 F.3d 354, 356 (5th Cir. 1995).

It is well established that prosecutors are immune from liability under Section 1983 for actions taken as an advocate in pursuit of a criminal prosecution. Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 200 (1985); Quinn v. Roach, 326 Fed.Appx. 280, 2009 WL 1181072, at *9 (5th Cir. 2009); Hill, 2002 WL 243261, at *10. This immunity applies to a prosecutor's actions in "initiating prosecution and carrying [a] criminal case through the judicial process." Id ...

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