United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
civil rights complaint was filed on May 29, 2018, along with
a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff
Deangelo Savage is incarcerated at Jessup Correctional
Institution and alleges that the named Defendants deprived
him of his constitutional rights in connection with his
criminal case. See State of Maryland v. Savage, No.
22-K-110264 (Wicomico Co. Cir. Ct. 2011) at
was convicted on charges of first degree burglary and
accessory before the fact; and was sentenced to serve eight
years imprisonment. Id. The conviction has not been
overturned through appellate or post-conviction review. For
the following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed and
Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis
(ECF No. 2) will be granted.
noted, Savage filed this complaint in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 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 the 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. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). This court is mindful, however, of
its obligation to construe liberally 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,
“[t]he district court need not look beyond the
complaint'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.
Ella Disharoon is the State's Attorney involved in
prosecuting Savage. ECF No. 1 at p. 5. Savage claims that she
had “knowledge of the defective indictment” and
assisted “other defendants cover up major deficiencies
of fraudulent documents” which Savage alleges
constitutes malicious prosecution. Id.
Maryland's States Attorneys are quasi-judicial officers
who enjoy absolute immunity when performing prosecutorial
functions, as opposed to investigative or administrative
ones. See Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 422-23
(1976); see also Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118,
127 (1997); Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259,
273 (1993); Nero v. Mosby, ___ F.3d ___, 2018 WL
2090902, at *4-5 (4th Cir. May 7, 2018); Springmen v.
Williams, 122 F.3d211 (4th Cir. 1997). Absolute immunity
is designed to protect the judicial process. Thus, the
inquiry is whether a prosecutor's actions are closely
associated with judicial process. See Burns v. Reed,
500 U.S. 478, 479 (1991) (citing Imbler, 424 U.S. at
422-23). The court must use a “functional
approach” to “determine whether a particular act
is ‘intimately associated with the judicial
phase.'” Nero, 2018 WL 2090902, at *5
(quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430). The Fourth
Circuit recently stated in Nero, 2018 WL 2090902, at
*5: “A prosecutor acts as an advocate when she
professionally evaluates evidence assembled by the police,
Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273, decides to seek an arrest
warrant, Kalina, 522 U.S. at 130, prepares and files
charging documents, id., participates in a probable
cause hearing, Burns, 500 U.S. at 493, and presents
evidence at trial, Imbler, 424U.S. at 431.”
Thus, Savage's claims against Disharoon are barred and
must be dismissed.
also names as a Defendant Michael J. Richardson, the public
defender who represented him at trial. ECF No. 1 at p. 7. He
asserts that Richardson knew about the “production and
manufactured (sic) of fraudulent legal documents, i.e. arrest
warrant, defective indictment” and alleges that because
Richardson knew the indictment was defective he also knew
that Savage was illegally incarcerated because the court had
no jurisdiction and thus Richardson participated in the
malicious prosecution. Id. Public defenders do not
act under color of state law when performing a lawyer's
traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal
proceeding. Polk Cty v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 453-54
(1981). While an attorney who conspires with a state official
to violate constitutional rights does act under color of
state law, evidence of the conspiracy is required. See
Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 920 (1984); Phillips
v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984)
(plaintiff must make more than naked assertion of
conspiracy). Here, Savage does not offer anything in support
of his assertion that Richardson conspired with the state
officials; he does not explain how the indictment is
allegedly defective, nor how the defect deprived the court of
jurisdiction over the criminal case against him. This claim
is a naked assertion of conspiracy and must be dismissed.
remaining Defendants are the police officers involved in the
investigation of the criminal case against Savage. As noted,
Savage's conviction has not been overturned or otherwise
invalidated, but there appears to be a pending
post-conviction proceeding. See State of
Maryland v. Savage, No. 22-K-110264 (Wicomico Co. Cir.
Ct. 2011) at
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), the
Supreme Court ruled:
We hold that, in order to recover damages for alleged
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other
harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a
conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must
prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for
damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence
that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under
§ 1983. . . . But if the district court determines that
the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not
demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal
judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed
to proceed in the absence of some other bar to the suit.
complaint allegations, if allowed to proceed, will go to the
validity of the criminal judgment. As in Heck
itself, the pendency of an appeal or post-conviction
proceedings does not change the result. Unlike where criminal
trial proceedings are ongoing or imminent, as in Wallace
v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 393-94 (2007), a judgment has
been entered in this case. Accordingly, the claims against
the police officers and “John Doe” will be
dismissed without prejudice.
separate Order follows.
 The electronic docket entries do not
reflect whether post-conviction relief has been