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Jenkins v. Chuang

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 10, 2017

THOMAS KEVIN JENKINS, #901396 Plaintiff,
v.
THEODORE D. CHUANG Judge, United States District Court for the District of Maryland JOSEPH BALDWIN Prosecutor, United States Attorneys's Office, District of Maryland, Greenbelt Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

         On August 2, 2017, plaintiff Thomas Kevin Jenkins filed this self-represented action captioned as a "Federal Tort Claim" in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking compensatory, nominal and punitive damages totaling $1, 500, 000.00. [1] The case was ordered transferred to this court on September 6, 2017, and received by the Clerk on October 5, 2017. Jenkins' motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis shall be granted. The complain,, however, is summarily dismissed.

         The in forma pauperis statute authorizes a district court to dismiss a case if satisfied that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, is frivolous or malicious, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. &e28U.S.C. S 1915(e)(2)(B). Because Jenkins is proceeding in forma pauperis, the court must conduct a sua sponte screening of his complain.. It must dismiss any part of the action which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         Jenkins complains that the "prompt and impartial administration of justice" has been hindered in his pending federal criminal case of United States v. Jenkins, Criminal No. TDC-15-492 (D. Md.). He primarily takes issue with the denial of his request to represent himself, his numerous pro se motions being "overlooked" by presiding Judge Theodore D. Chuang, and the ordering of competency examination.. ECF No.l.

         Jenkins' claims are subject to dismissal as filed against United States District Court Judge Chuang who is entitled to absolute immunity. It is well-established that judges, in exercising the authority vested in them, are absolutely immune from civil lawsuits for money damages. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991) (per curiam) ("A long line of this Court's precedents acknowledges that, generally, a judge is immune from a suit for money damages."); Chu v. Griffith, 771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985);see also Mandel v. O'Hara, 320Md. 103, 107, 576 S.2d 766, 768 (1990) ("Absolute 'immunity protects ... judges ... so long as their acts are "judicial" ... in nature and within the very general scope of their jurisdiction' "). Judicial immunity applies to judicial action taken in error, done maliciously, or in excess of authority. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). Essentially, a judge is entitled to absolute immunity ifthe judge acted in his judicial capacity and had jurisdiction over the subject matter. See King v. Myers, 973 F.2d 354, 356-57 (4th Cir. 1992). Accordingly, a plaintiff alleging a claim for money damages against a judge can overcome absolute judicial immunity only by showing (1) the judgess actions were taken outside of the judges judicial capacity or (2) the judge acted in the complete absence of jurisdiction. Id. Jenkins has not made such a showing.

         Further, the complaint for damages may not proceed against prosecutor Baldwin. A prosecutor is a quasi-judicial officer who enjoys absolute immunity when performing prosecutorial functions. See Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31 (1976); Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 343 (2009); Springmen v. Williams, 122 F.3d 211, 212133 (4th Cir. 1997); Lyles v. Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 376-77 (4th Cir. 1996). General decisions whether or not to prosecute a case fall within that parameter.

         Because Jenkins' prisoner 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. S 1915(e).[2] 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 S 1915(e) or Rule 12(b)(6). [3] This constitutes the first S 1915(e) strike to be assessed against Jenkins. A separate order follows.

---------

Notes:

[1] According to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator website, Jenkins is currently confined the Federal Medical Center at Butner, P. O. Box 1600, Butner, North Carolina 27509.

[2] 28 U.S.C. S 1915(e)(2) states that:

Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that-

(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or
(B) the action or appeal-(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such ...

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