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Graham v. Potter

December 15, 2006

SHAWN W. GRAHAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY DALE POTTER, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Dale Potter ("Defendant") (Court File No. 6). Defendant filed a memorandum in support of his motion (Court File No. 7). Defendant presents several reasons why this action should be dismissed, such as the claim against Defendant is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity bars all money damages against Defendant individually; the allegations in the complaint are merely conclusory; and a suit against Defendant in his official capacity would essentially be a suit against the state, which is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Pro se*fn1 Plaintiff Shawn Graham ("Plaintiff") filed a response in opposition to the motion to dismiss (Court File No. 10). For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendant's motion to dismiss.

I. RELEVANT FACTS

Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of Van Buren County, Tennessee. At some point, Plaintiff alleges Defendant issued a warrant for "voter fraud" against him in order to "bring political pressure upon the plaintiff." Court File No. 3 (Complaint, ¶ 6). Plaintiff alleges Defendant wanted to force Plaintiff not to support Defendant's opponents in the district attorney election being held on August 3, 2006. After the warrant was issued, officers arrived at Plaintiff's home and conducted a visual search. Plaintiff was arrested, and his bond was set for $40,000. Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Board of Professional Responsibility, alleging Defendant committed several inappropriate acts.

Plaintiff alleges Defendant, acting in his official capacity as the local district attorney, conducted an investigation against his family and him in a manner that violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court notes the complaint does not state whether Plaintiff is asserting claims against Defendant in his individual capacity.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Even if he had been granted such status, he still would not be authorized to sign any pleadings or motions submitted by the plaintiff to the Court. Therefore, it was improper for him to do so, and he should refrain from signing any further pleadings and from acting on behalf of Shawn Graham in any manner.

When reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Bloch v. Ribar, 156 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 1998); State of Ohio ex rel. Fisher v. Louis Trauth Dairy, Inc., 856 F. Supp. 1229, 1232 (S.D. Ohio 1994), accept all the complaint's factual allegations as true, Bloch, 156 F.3d at 677; Broyde v. Gotham Tower, Inc., 13 F.3d 994, 996 (6th Cir. 1994), and determine whether "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-6, (1957); see also Ziegler v. IBP Hog Mkt., Inc., 249 F.3d 509, 511-12 (6th Cir. 2001); Coffey v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hosp. Auth., 932 F. Supp. 1023, 1024 (E.D. Tenn. 1996). The Court may not grant a motion to dismiss based upon a disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 377 (6th Cir. 1995) (noting that courts should neither weigh evidence nor evaluate the credibility of witnesses); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1199 (6th Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the party opposing the motion and may dismiss the case only where no set of facts could be proved consistent with the allegations which would entitle the plaintiff to a recovery. Hishon v. Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Miller, 50 F.3d at 377.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the question is "not whether [the] plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002). However, bare assertions of legal conclusions are insufficient. Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988). The "complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Id. (emphasis in original).

While applying this standard, the Court must be mindful of the fact that a pro se complaint must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Montgomery v. Huntington Bank, 346 F.3d 693, 698 (6th Cir. 2003); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the Court "need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences." Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987).

III. ANALYSIS

Defendant moves to dismiss this action for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendant argues (1) the action is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 since criminal proceedings against Plaintiff were never reversed, expunged, or impugned by the grant of habeas corpus; (2) the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity bars all money damages against Defendant individually since he was performing a prosecutorial function intimately related to the judicial process in investigating and charging Plaintiff with a crime; (3) the allegations in the complaint are merely conclusive; and (4) a suit against Defendant in his official capacity is, in essence, a suit against the state, and the state is not a "person" subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Further, Defendant asserts the Eleventh Amendment bars all money damages against Defendant in his official capacity for civil rights violations. Because issues number one and three essentially involve the same analysis in that the Court is required to review whether Plaintiff has stated a claim under § 1983, the Court will address those issues as one.

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claim

Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated his rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution by conducting an investigation against his family and him for voter fraud. He also alleges Defendant issued a warrant against him to exert political pressure upon him; the arresting officer conducted a visual search of his home without permission and in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and Defendant was biased when he set ...


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