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Case Number: 4:23-CV-016
Judge: Reed O'Connor
Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Tarrant County)
Description: Fort Worth, Texas civil rights lawyer represented Plaintiff who sued Defendant seeking to vacate indictments and judgements of four state criminal cases he received in the 297th District Court,
Tarrant County, Texas: Case Nos. 1277347D (possession with intent to deliver heroin), 1277348D (possession with intent to deliver cocaine), 1277349D (unlawful possession of a firearm), and 1369654D (aggravated assault with a deadly weapon-a firearm). Id. at 3.
Gibson is aware of the distinction between the types of cases, as he has filed both kinds of suits in this district. See e.g., Gibson v. Hagerman, No. 4:22-cv-0173-P (N.D. Tex. Nov. 30, 2022) (§ 1983 case); Gibson v. Lumpkin, No. 4:21-cv-1203-P (N.D. Tex. Nov. 2, 2021) (§ 2254 case). The documents Gibson filed in this case, however, reflect confusion. In documents filed after the motion to dismiss, Gibson appears to seek both kinds of relief. In an address update, Gibson expressly writes, “I ask the Courts to adhere to this request (to pursue a civil rights suit) . . . I am asking the court to proceed as this is a (Nature of Suit) 440 Civil Action Suit Gibson should be perceived as a (Nature of Suit) 550 due to incarcerated housing it is CIVIL SUIT.” Address Update 4, ECF No. 9. Yet, in his response to Sorrells's motion to dismiss, Gibson challenges the sufficiency of his indictments and the state criminal court's jurisdiction. Response 2-4, ECF No. 10. Thus, the Court will address both of Gibson's attempts at relief....
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To the extent Gibson sues Sorrells under § 1983 for any alleged constitutional violation arising out of Gibson's prosecution of him, all claims for monetary damages against Sorrells are barred by the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity. Prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability when performing their prosecutorial functions. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 411 (1976). Federal law imports absolute immunity to prosecutors. Under the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity, a prosecutor is absolutely immune in a civil-rights lawsuit for recovery of monetary damages in an action taken in connection with a judicial proceeding. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993); Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 487-92 (1991). “[A]cts undertaken by the prosecutor in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an advocate for the State, are entitled to the protection of absolute immunity.” Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 285 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273). Absolute immunity only protects individuals from claims for damages. See Singleton v. Cannizzaro, 372 F.Supp.3d 389, 405 (E.D. La. 2019) (citations omitted).
Prosecutorial immunity applies to the prosecutor's actions in initiating the prosecution and in carrying the case throughout the judicial process. Graves v. Hampton, 1 F.3d 315, 318 (5th Cir. 1993), abrogated on other grounds, Arvie v. Broussard, 424 F.3d 249, 251 (5th Cir. 1994). Thus, a prosecutor is immune from civil-rights liability for actions taken in connection with a judicial proceeding, even if taken maliciously. Cousin v. Small, 325 F.3d 627, 635 (5th Cir. 2003). The scope of what constitutes a prosecutorial function is broad. The duties of the prosecutor in his or her role as advocate for the state may include actions preliminary to the initiation of a prosecution, within the courtroom, and actions apart from the courtroom. Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431, n.33.
Gibson's allegations about Sorrells concern his indictments, pretrial proceedings, plea proceedings, and sentencing in state case numbers 1277347D, 1277348D, 1277349D, and 1369654D. Compl. 2, ECF No. 1. All of Gibson's allegations deal with prosecutorial functions.
Outcome: For all of the above and foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED that Defendant Phil Sorrells's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 6) is GRANTED.
It is further ORDERED that Plaintiff's civil-rights claims against Phil Sorrells are DISMISSED with PREJUDICE and, alternatively, DISMISSED with PREJUDICE to their being asserted again until the Heck v. Humphrey conditions are met. See Johnson v. McElveen, 101 F.3d 423, 424 (5th Cir. 1996).
It is further ORDERED that Gibson's habeas corpus claims are DISMISSED as successive. This dismissal is without prejudice to Gibson's right to seek authorization from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to file a successive habeas corpus petition.