United States District Court, D. Maryland
Frederick Motz United States District Judge.
civil rights complaint was filed on June 16, 2017, together
with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF 2. Because he
appears to be indigent, plaintiffs motion shall be granted.
The complaint must be dismissed.
Alexander Jiggetts alleges that Ashley Stewart, a forensic
psychologist appointed by the Circuit Court for Baltimore
City to determine if he was competent to stand trial, misled
him during the interview she had with him, practiced law
without a license, discriminated against him on the basis of
his mental illness, failed to advise him of the law, and
caused him to be hospitalized at Spring Grove Hospital where
he was medicated. ECF 1. Jiggetts claims that Stewart asked
him if he wanted to answer questions and he declined because
he felt it violated his privacy. He faults Stewart for not
telling him that if he did not cooperate with the interview
he would be found not competent and would not be allowed to
go home. In addition, he takes issue with the nature of the
questions he was asked during the interview and asserts none
were relevant to the issue of whether he was capable of
assisting in his defense against charges of telephone misuse.
He alleges that Stewart's observation that he was alert
and oriented and that he understood legal concepts is proof
that he was competent to stand trial. He claims that
Stewart's conclusion that he is not competent to stand
trial constitutes practicing law without a license, but also
claims that Stewart should have asked him legal questions.
Because Stewart noted that Jiggetts has mental illness and
that he was not currently capable of addressing the criminal
charges against him in a rational manner, Jiggetts claims
Stewart discriminated against him due to his mental illness.
He seeks 10 million dollars in damages. ECF 1 at pp. 1 - 2.
filed this Complaint in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
S 1915(a)(1), which permits an indigent litigant to commence
an action in this Court without prepaying the filing fee. To
guard against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute
requires dismissal of any claim that is frivolous or
malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted. 28 U.S.C. S 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). This Court is
mindful, however, of its obligation to liberally construe
self-represented pleadings, such as the instant Complaint.
See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In
evaluating such a Complaint, the factual allegations are
assumed to be true. Id. at 93 (citing Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).
Nonetheless,, liberal construction does not mean that this
Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege
facts which set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990);
see also Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274,
1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a district court may not
"conjure up questions never squarely presented.").
In making this determination, A[t]he district court need not
look beyond the complain''s allegations.... It must
hold the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than
pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint
liberally.@ White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-723
(4th Cir. 1989).
only defendant named in the complaint that is amenable to
suit under 42 U.S.C. S1983 is Ashley Stewart. Spring Grove
Hospital Center is not a person within the meaning of the
statute and there are no claims raised against the remaining
claims against Stewart are barred by the doctrine of
quasi-judicial immunity or derivative absolute immunity.
Where a party is required to exercise a discretion similar to
that exercised by judges because the exercise of their duties
requires insulation from liability, they are afforded
absolute judicial immunity. See McCray v. State of
Md, 456 F.2d 1, 3-4 (4th Cir. 1972), see also Moses
v. Parwatikar, 813 F.2d 891 (8th Cir. 1987)
(psychiatrist who performed competency examination entitled
to derivative absolute immunity). Here Stewart was appointed
by the court to do what the judge's expertise did not
encompass: determine if Jiggetts' mental state was such
that a trial on the merits of the criminal charges against
him would be futile because he could not address the matter
with a rational, sound mind and a full understanding of the
matters to be determined. The notation that Jiggetts suffers
from a mental illness; that he understood only some of the
issues involved in the pending criminal case; and that he was
not capable of addressing the matters rationally are all
matters that are within Stewart's discretion to determine
based on her interview of Jiggetts and her expertise.
Stewart's role is similar to that of a witness in a
judicial proceeding. Such parties are entitled to absolute
immunity because "anything less . . .
would defeat the requirement that the 'paths which lead
to the ascertainment of truth ... be left as free and
unobstructed as possible.'" Moses 813 F.2d
at 892, quoting Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 333
fact that Steward did not advise Jiggetts of legal
consequences regarding his lack of cooperation with the
interview is without legal significance. Jiggetts had
court-appointed counsel for the purposes of advising him of
such matters; his choice not to consult with the "
attorney or to ignore the attorney's advice does not
impose liability on Stewart for ...