United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil rights complaint was filed on October 19, 2018, along
with a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. Plaintiff Donald
Thomas Maziarz is incarcerated at Jessup Correctional
Institution and alleges the named Defendants deprived him of
his constitutional rights in connection with his criminal
case. See State of Maryland v. Maziarz, No.
CT821458A (Prince George's County Cir. Ct.
1982); Maziarz v. State, 485 A.2d 245
(Md. 1984). Maziarz was convicted of first degree murder,
first-degree rape, robbery and arson; he was ultimately
sentenced to a life term of incarceration. 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, Maziarz 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 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. 1989).
Arthur A. Marshall, Jr. and David M. Simpson were the
State's Attorneys involved in prosecuting Maziarz. ECF
No. 1 at pp. 4, 8-9. Maziarz claims that they each had
knowledge that the indictment was defective. Id. at
pp. 8-9. 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, 890 F.3d 106, 117-118 (4th Cir. 2018);
Springmen v. Williams, 122 F.3d 211 (4th Cir. 1997).
Absolute 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 422-23). 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 (quoting
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430). The Fourth Circuit
recently 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
evidence at trial, Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431.”
Maziarz's claims against Marshall and Simpson are barred
and must be dismissed.
also names as a Defendants Thomas Saunders, Donna Shearer,
and George Lipman, public defenders appointed to represent
him in his criminal trial. ECF No. 1 at pp. 9-10. He asserts
that his public defenders also knew or should have known that
the indictment was defective. Id. Defense attorneys,
whether appointed or privately retained, do not act under
color of state law when performing a lawyer's traditional
functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding.
See Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800, 800 (4th Cir.
1976); see also Hall v. Quillen, 631 F.2d 1154,
1155-56 (4th Cir. 1980); 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, Maziarz does not offer
anything in support of his assertion that Thomas Saunders,
Donna Shearer, or George Lipman conspired with the state
officials. This claim is a naked assertion of conspiracy and
must be dismissed.
remaining named Defendants are the police officers involved
in the investigation of the criminal case against Maziarz. As
noted, Maziarz's conviction has not been overturned or
otherwise invalidated. In 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. Accordingly, the claims
against the police officers and “John and Jane
Doe” will be dismissed without prejudice.
separate Order follows.
 The Clerk shall amend the docket to
reflect the correct name of Defendant George Lipman.