United States District Court, D. Maryland
May 7, 2014
KENNEDY SMITH, #362092 Plaintiff,
CRAIG TAWES (AGENT OF P & P) Defendant.
ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.
On May 1, 2014, the court received for filing the above-captioned civil rights action submitted by Maryland Division of Correction inmate Kennedy Smith, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Smith complains that defendant, an agent for the Department of Parole and Probation in Princess Anne, Maryland, slandered him by labeling him as a "sex offender" on two 2014 parole warrants. He states that he was never convicted of sex offenses. ECF No. 1. Smith seeks compensatory damages of $150, 000.00 for alleged "defamation of character" and asks that "Parole and Probation stop labeling me as a sex offender." Id. Because he appears indigent, Smith shall be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See ECF No. 2. His complaint shall, however, be summarily dismissed.
Insofar as Smith has raised an allegation of slander, he has failed to state a claim under § 1983. The decision of the Supreme Court in Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976) is dispositive here. In that case, the Supreme Court discussed at some length the limits of a protected liberty interest and held that a plaintiff may not rely on defamatory statements as the basis for a due process claim asserted under § 1983. Harm or injury to a plaintiff's interest to his reputation does not result in the deprivation by a state of a plaintiff's due process "liberty" or "property" interests. Id. at 712.
In this case, it is apparent that Smith is seeking damages and other relief primarily because his reputation was allegedly damaged by public disclosures. Under Paul, a claim of this sort is not maintainable under § 1983. See also Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 233 (1991). An action for damages to reputation "lies...in the tort of defamation, not in 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Fleming v. Dep't of Public Safety, 837 F.2d 401, 409 (9th Cir. 1988).
Because Smith's prisoner civil rights case fails to state a claim and is premised on an "indisputably meritless legal theory, " his case shall be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). He is hereby notified that he may be barred from filing future suits in forma pauperis if he continues to file federal civil rights actions that are subject to dismissal under § 1915(e) or Rule 12(b)(6). This constitutes the first § 1915(e) strike to be assessed against Smith. A separate Order follows.