United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
TYLER B. GOODWIN, Plaintiff,
KIMBERLY JONES, ET AL., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. O'TOOLE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
February 16, 2016, plaintiff Tyler B. Goodwin
("Goodwin"), a prisoner in custody at MCI Concord,
filed a self-prepared civil rights complaint against a number
of defendants including the Marshfield Police Department and
its detective, the Plymouth District Attorney's Office
and one of its criminal prosecutors, and purported
victims/witnesses. The matter stems from Goodwin's
criminal prosecution in Plymouth County for rape. After a
jury trial, Goodwin was found to be not guilty. Among other
things, Goodwin alleges in his complaint that the defendant
police investigator and the Assistant District Attorney
failed to investigate DNA evidence in connection with the
rape, and, once it was discovered that the DNA evidence did
not belong to him, the Assistant District Attorney continued
to prosecute him. He also alleges the victims/witnesses made
various false statements in connection with his criminal
prosecution. He seeks monetary relief and an order
prohibiting the defendants from retaliating against him.
March 16, 2016, this Court issued a Procedural Order (Docket
No. 6) directing Goodwin to pay the $350.00 filing fee and
the $50.00 administrative fee by April 6, 2016, or in the
alternative, file a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma
pauperis along with his certified prison account
statement. On March 25, 2016, Goodwin submitted an in
forma pauperis motion (Docket No. 8) with his prison
account statement as directed.
April 18, 2016, Goodwin filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel
(Docket No. 9) on the grounds that he is unable to afford to
pay for an attorney and that he suffers from a learning
disability and has difficulties in understanding the law.
The Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
review of Goodwin's financial affidavit and prison
account statement, this Court finds that he lacks funds to
pay the filing and administrative fees for this action.
Nevertheless, because he is a prisoner, he is obligated to
pay the filing fee in installments pursuant to the Prison
Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §
1915 (the in forma pauperis statute).
Goodwin's Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma
pauperis (Docket No. 8) is ALLOWED, and he is
Ordered to pay an initial partial filing fee of
$1.69, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(B);
and the remainder of the fee $348.31 is to be
assessed and collected in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
of this Memorandum and Order shall be sent to the
Treasurer's Office at MCI Concord to facilitate payments
to this Court.
The Complaint is Subject to Preliminary Screening
Goodwin is a prisoner, the PLRA comes into play. The PLRA
contains several provisions which grant this Court the
authority to screen and dismiss prisoner complaints.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (proceedings in forma
pauperis); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (screening of suits
against governmental officers and entities). Section 1915
authorizes federal courts to dismiss actions in which a
plaintiff seeks to proceed without prepayment of fees if the
action lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact,
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), or if
the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and (iii). Section 1915A also authorizes
the Court to review prisoner complaints in civil actions in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or
officers or employees of a governmental entity, and to
dismiss the action regardless of whether or not the plaintiff
has paid the filing fee, if the complaint lacks an arguable
basis in law or fact, fails to state a claim, or seeks relief
from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
connection with this preliminary screening, Goodwin's
pro se complaint is construed generously. Hughes
v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Instituto de
Educacion Universal Corp. v. U.S. Dept. of Education,
209 F.3d 18, 23 (1st Cir. 2000). Even under a broad reading,
however, Goodwin's claims are subject to dismissal for
the reasons set forth below.
Claims Against Assistant District Attorny Jessica Elumba
Are Not Cognizable
claims that Assistant District Attorney Jessica Elumba
("ADA Elumba") failed to investigate the DNA
evidence and continued to prosecute him even though the DNA
evidence exonerated him. Based on reasonable inferences from
the complaint, the claims against ADA Elumbra are barred
because prosecutors " are entitled to absolute immunity
when they engage in activities that are ‘intimately
associated with the judicial phase of the criminal
process.'" Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S.
409, 430 (1976); Reid v. State of New Hampshire,
56 F.3d 332, 337 (1st Cir. 1995). Conduct falling within this
category is not limited to conduct occurring in the
courtroom. It includes actions where prosecutors are acting
"in the course of [their] role as an advocate for the
State, " including "acts undertaken by a prosecutor
in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or
for trial . . . ." Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509
U.S. 259, 273 (1993). "Those acts must include the
professional evaluation of the evidence assembled by the
police and appropriate preparation for its presentation at
trial or before a grand jury after a decision to seek an
indictment has been made." Id. It may include
obtaining evidence for the initiation of criminal process.
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431 n.33. Moreover,
"[a]bsolute immunity is not defeated by a showing that
the prosecutor acted wrongfully or even maliciously, so long
as the prosecutor is exercising quasi-judicial power and not
merely operating in an investigatory or administrative
role." Easton v. Gianetti, 1997 WL 220312 (N.D.
Cal. 1997) (citing Imbler, 424 U.S. at 427 and
n.27). On the other hand, prosecutors are entitled only to
qualified immunity when they perform investigatory or
administrative functions, or are essentially functioning as
police officers or detectives. Buckley, 509 U.S. at
distinction between the roles of "prosecutor" and
"investigator" is not always clear.
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431 n.33. At some point, a
prosecutor stops functioning as an officer of the court and
loses absolute immunity, but this determination must be made
on a case-by-case or function-by-function basis. To determine
whether an action is "prosecutorial" (and thus
entitled to absolute immunity), the United States Supreme
Court has adopted a "‘functional approach, '
which looks to ‘the nature of the function performed,
not the identity of the actor who performed it.'"
Buckley, 509 U.S. at 269 (quoting Burns v.
Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 486 (1991)). If the nature of the
function requires legal knowledge and the related exercise of
discretion in whether and how to use the material
(e.g., advocacy inside the courtroom or
"quasi-judicial" activities related to the
preparation for advocacy after criminal proceedings have
begun), then absolute immunity is available. See Van de
Kamp v. Goldstein, 129 S.Ct. 855, 861-862
case, ADA Elumba's decision to prosecute Goodwin
(presumably based on the victims/witnesses statements
notwithstanding the lack of DNA evidence incriminating him)
clearly falls within the purview of the absolute
prosecutorial immunity doctrine. Moreover, Goodwin's
amorphous allegation that ADA Elumba violated his civil
rights in failing to investigate the DNA evidence does not
set forth any underlying facts from which it could be
inferred that she acted in a purely investigatory role rather
than in a prosecutorial role with respect to the use DNA
evidence. Thus, all of Goodwin's claims against ADA
Elumba are subject to dismissal in their entirety.
The Claims Against Detective Kimberly Jones ...