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Bale v. Hauge

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

July 29, 2014

JOHN MICHAEL BALE, Plaintiff,
v.
RUSSELL D HAUGE, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

J. RICHARD CREATURA, Magistrate Judge.

The District Court has referred this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights matter to United States Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rules MJR 1, MJR 3, and MJR 4.

Plaintiff has filed a proposed complaint (Dkt. 1). The Court has reviewed the complaint at the screening stage pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. As explained below, the Court recommends dismissing this action for failure to state a claim because defendant Hague has absolute immunity and plaintiff cannot seek release from prison through a civil rights action. This dismissal would count as a strike pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915(g).

FACTS

Plaintiff names the prosecuting attorney for Kitsap County, Russell Hauge, as defendant (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff alleges that he was held 32 days in custody prior to arraignment (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff seeks six million two hundred thousand dollars in damages and release from prison.

DISCUSSION

The Prison Litigation Reform Act changed the processing of prisoner pro se complaints in a number of ways, one of which applies here. Courts now review complaints to determine if the complaint is frivolous, fails to state a claim, or seeks relief from a defendant who is immune from monetary relief. See 28 U.S.C. §1915A.

A. Absolute immunity.

Defendant Russell Hauge - the Kitsap County prosecutor - cannot be sued for damages for filing charges and prosecuting plaintiff. Prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity from liability for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427 (1976). Prosecutorial immunity protects a prosecutor who "acts within his or her authority and in a quasi-judicial capacity." Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118 (1997). If the prosecutor acts as an advocate "in initiating a prosecution and in presenting the State's case, '" absolute immunity is warranted. Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Village, 723 F.2d 675, 678 (9th Cir. 1984) ( quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430-31).

A prosecuting attorney who initiates and prosecutes a criminal action is immune from a civil suit for money damages in a civil rights action. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976). A prosecutor's activities in connection with the preparation and filing of charges are protected by absolute immunity. Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 126 (1997). Neither a conspiracy nor a personal interest will pierce a prosecutor's absolute immunity. Ashelman, 793 F.2d at 1078. Prosecutorial immunity extends to the process of plea bargaining as an integral part of the judicial process. Miller v. Barilla, 549 F.2d 648, 649 n. 3 (9th Cir. 1977).

Thus, plaintiff's claims against the attorney who represented the state in his criminal action fail as a matter of law. The Court recommends dismissing plaintiff's action at the screening stage for failure to state a claim.

B. Release from prison.

Plaintiff seeks release from prison in this action (Dkt. 1). If a plaintiff is challenging the very fact or duration of physical imprisonment, and the relief sought will determine whether plaintiff is or was entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, plaintiff's sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973).

The United States Supreme Court held that "[e]ven a prisoner who has fully exhausted available state remedies has no cause of action under § 1983 unless and until the conviction or sentence is reversed, expunged, invalidated, or impugned by the grant of a writ of habeas ...


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