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Dasilva v. State

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

February 25, 2015

ROBERT AYRES DASILVA, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MONTANA; CASCADE COUNTY EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT AND OFFICIALS in their official capacities; JOEL THOMPSON, Deputy County Attorney; and JOHN PARKER, Deputy County Attorney, Defendants.

OPINION and ORDER

SUSAN P. WATTERS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert DaSilva brings this action prose and seeks money damages stemming from a vacated conviction. United States Magistrate Judge John Johnston issued Findings and Recommendations in which he recommends tbat DaSilva's Complaint be dismissed. DaSilva timely objected and attempts to add additional defendants. After a de novo review, this Court adopts Judge Johnston's Findings and Recommendations and dismisses tbe Complaint.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

DaSilva was convicted after a jury trial for failing to register as a sex offender in state district court in October 2009. Robert Ayres DaSilva, Jr. v. Warden Sam Law, et al., CV 13-25-GF-DWM-RKS, Doc. 32 at 7 (D. Mont. April 16, 2014). DaSilva was sentenced to the Montana State Prison for five years, and the Montana Supreme Court affirmed his conviction. Id. The state district court and the Montana Supreme Court also denied DaSilva's petitions for post-conviction relief. Id.

On May 15, 2014, United States District Court Judge Donald W. Molloy granted in part DaSilva's petition for writ of habeas corpus and vacated the judgment entered by the state court. Robert Ayres DaSilva, Jr. v. Warden Sam Law, et al., CV 13-25-GF-DWM-RKS, Doc. 34 at 7 (D. Mont. May 15, 2014). Judge Molloy concluded that the state court violated DaSilva's due process rights by refusing to allow the jury to consider an essential element of the charged offense. Id. at 6. While the State initially renewed proceedings against DaSilva, see Robert Ayres DaSilva, Jr. v. Warden Sam Law, et al., CV 13-25-GF-DWM-RKS, Doc. 54 (June 23, 2014), the state district court ultimately dismissed the case "in the interests of justice." (Doc. 2-4 at 7).

DaSilva filed the instant action on January 13, 2015. In the Complaint, DaSilva seeks damages for "post tramatic [sic] stress, unconstitutional incarceration of 5 years, due process, and liberty [lost]." (Docs. 2-1, 2-2 at 1). DaSilva initially listed the following defendants: (1) the State of Montana; (2) Cascade County District Court and Officials; (3) Joel Thompson, Deputy County Attorney, in his official capacity; and (4) John Parker, Deputy County Attorney, in his official capacity. (Doc. 2 at 1).

Since DaSilva proceeds in forma pauperis, Judge Johnston screened the Complaint before serving the Defendants. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Judge Johnston concluded that the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution barred DaSilva's claims against the State of Montana and the Cascade County District Court. (Doc. 6 at 5-6). Judge Johnston also found that the deputy county attorneys enjoy prosecutorial immunity. (Id. at 6). Accordingly, Judge Johnston recommended that this Court dismiss DaSilva's Complaint. (Id. at 7).

DaSilva timely objected. (Doc. 7). In his objection, DaSilva also includes "Amended Defendants" in his caption. With exception of the State of Montana, all of the "Amended Defendants" are sued in their "professional, individual, and official capacities." The "Amended Defendants" include: (1) the State of Montana; (2) Eighth Judicial District Court officials; (3) "Steve Bullock (2009) Attorney General of Montana;" (4) Tim Fox, Attorney General of Montana; (5) Joel Thompson and John Parker, Deputy County Attorneys for Cascade County; (6) Great Falls Police Department John and Jane Does; and (7) Warden Sam Law and other Department of Corrections and Montana State Prison officials. (Id. at 1). DaSilva does not provide an explanation as to why he added the additional defendants.

II. Standard of Review

This Court is required to review de nova the portions of the Findings and Recommendations to which DaSilva objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l)(B). DaSilva only challenges Judge Johnston's legal conclusions that the defendants are entitled to immunity.

III. DaSilva's objection to the Findings and Recommendations

DaSilva objects to Judge Johnston's conclusion that Eleventh Amendment and prosecutorial immunities apply to the initially named defendants. DaSilva argues that Judge Johnston erred in not conducting the proper qualified immunity analysis. Judge Johnston did not err, as qualified immunity is a separate concept from Eleventh Amendment immunity and prosecutorial immunity.

Qualified immunity "protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). In contrast, the Eleventh Amendment protects states from suits brought by citizens in federal court. Douglas v. California Dep't of Youth Auth., 271 F.3d 812, 817 (9th Cir. 2001). One exception to this rule is if a state waives its Eleventh Amendment defense. Id. While the State of Montana has waived its sovereign immunity against tort actions filed in state court, Mont. Code Ann. § 2-9-102, it has not waived its sovereign immunity for actions filed in federal court, State of Montana v. Gilham, 133 F.3d 1133, 1139 (9th Cir. 1998). Since the Eleventh Amendment protects the State of Montana and its agencies from tort lawsuits in federal court, a qualified immunity analysis is unnecessary.

In addition, prosecutors are absolutely immune for actions taken in judicial proceedings. Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 342-43 (2009). Here, the alleged tortious actions taken by the prosecutors, Joel Thompson and John Parker, occurred at DaSilva's trial. Accordingly, Thompson and Parker are protected from this suit by ...


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