United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE
above-entitled complaint was filed on November 21, 2018,
together with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Because
plaintiff appears indigent, the motion shall be granted.
is incarcerated at the Wicomico County Detention Center. ECF
1. The instant complaint concerns plaintiff’s claims
that Wicomico County State’s Attorney Clay T. Groton IV
violated his rights during his bond hearing when Groton
argued to the court about “jail phone recordings that
stated [plaintiff] had someone on the outside intimidating a
state witness.” Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff
disputes Groton’s claim and argues that Groton’s
argument amounted to slander and defamation. Id.
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 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 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 Atl. 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 that 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, 722-23 (4th Cir.
claims must be dismissed. Defamation or libel and slander
claims do not invoke the application of a federal statute;
they are purely state law claims that lie outside the
jurisdiction of this court. See Paul v. Davis, 424
U.S. 693, 712 (1976) (stating that defamation does not state
a cognizable claim of constitutional dimension under the
Civil Rights Act); R. H. Bouligny, Inc. v. United
Steelworkers of Am., AFL-CIO, 336 F.2d 160, 165 (4th
Cir. 1964) (stating that a slander claim does not implicate a
federal constitutional or statutory right; rather, it is a
state law claim), aff’d, 382 U.S. 145 (1965).
Maryland’s State’s Attorneys are quasi-judicial
officers who enjoy absolute immunity when performing
prosecutorial, as opposed to investigative or administrative,
functions. 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, 890 F.3d 106, 117
(4th Cir. 2018); Springmen v. Williams, 122 F.3d211
(4th Cir. 1997).
immunity is designed to protect 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 423-23). The court must use a “functional
approach” to “determine whether a particular act
is ‘intimately associated with the judicial
phase.’” Nero, 890 F.3d at 117-18
(quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430). The Fourth
Circuit stated in Nero, 890 F.3d at 118: “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