United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
ORDER GRANTING RYAN BALL'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
P. WAITERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Ryan Ball's motion for summary
judgment (Doc. 41) on the claims Plaintiffs Dan and Julie
Doran brought against him in their Amended Complaint (Doc.
17). The Court holds Ball is entitled to absolute
prosecutorial immunity, grants his motion for summary
judgment, and enters judgment in his favor. Because the Court
finds the issue of absolute prosecutorial immunity
dispositive, it does not address the remaining issues Ball
raises in his motion.
September 2015, Loretta Day passed away and left her home in
Great Falls, Montana, to her son, Dan Doran, and her two
other children. (Doc. 50-8 at 7-9.) After a January 2016 fire
destroyed the home, a City of Great Falls Police Department
investigation produced information that led Ryan Ball, a
Deputy Cascade County Attorney, to file charges against Dan
Doran for arson and theft. (Doc. 50 at ¶ 13.)
on the official police reports, Ball filed an affidavit in
support of the information and charges with the District
Court. (Doc. 42-2.) In the affidavit, Ball alleged the family
had difficulty selling the house after Loretta's death.
(Doc. 42-2 at 4.) He outlined the investigation the Great
Falls police and fire departments conducted and the
suspicious circumstances they uncovered surrounding the fire.
(Doc. 42-2 at 4-5.) He stated that the morning of the fire,
the police department received a phone call from an
individual stating Dan set the fire and had set fires in the
past when he needed money. Ball stated officers found the
individual's information reliable because they confirmed
Dan had been linked to other fire investigations in Great
Falls. Id. Ball described an interview officers had
with Dan where he claimed to have stayed in Helena the night
of the fire, but cell phone tower data placed him much closer
to Great Falls. Ball also stated detectives reviewed video
surveillance footage from a local business that showed a
dark-colored truck consistent with Dan's vehicle driving
in Great Falls the night of the fire. Id. Based on
this information, Ball moved the court for leave to file an
information charging Dan with arson and theft (the theft
stemming from alleged insurance fraud). (Doc. 42-2 at 5.)
District Court found probable cause existed to grant Ball
leave to file the information and issued a warrant for
Dan's arrest. (Doc. 50 at ¶¶ 16-17.) Dan filed
a motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause, and the court
granted his motion with respect to the theft charge but
denied it with respect to the arson charge. (Doc. 50 at
¶ 28.) The case proceeded to trial on the remaining
arson charge, and a jury ultimately found Dan not guilty.
(Doc. 50 at ¶¶ 35-36.)
Julie Doran subsequently advanced several claims against Ball
for negligence, malicious prosecution, intentional and
negligent infliction of emotional distress, false
imprisonment, and violations of Dan's rights under the
United States and Montana constitutions. (Doc. 17 at
¶¶ 100-67.) They invoked this Court's federal
question jurisdiction for their federal claims under 28
U.S.C. § 1343, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988, and
they invoked supplemental jurisdiction for their state claims
under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Ball filed a motion for summary
judgment on all counts.
is entitled to summary judgment if it can demonstrate
"there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making that determination, the Court
views the evidence "in the light most favorable to the
opposing party." Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650,
657 (2014) (quoting Adickes v. S. H. Kress &
Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). A party asserting a fact
is genuinely disputed generally must support the assertion by
citing to the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
contends the Dorans' allegations against him all stem
from actions he took within the scope of his prosecutorial
duties, and therefore, the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial
immunity shields him from the Dorans' claims. The Dorans
counter Ball's actions fall outside the scope of
Supreme Court has long held prosecutors are entitled to
absolute immunity from liability for actions "intimately
associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.
Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 343 (2009)
(quoting Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430
(1976)). "[A] state prosecuting attorney who acted
within the scope of his duties in initiating and pursuing a
criminal prosecution" is not amenable to suit under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Imbler, 424 U.S. at 410.
Nevertheless, "the actions of a prosecutor are not
absolutely immune merely because they are performed by a
prosecutor." Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S.
259, 273 (1993). Absolute prosecutorial immunity stems from
"the interest in protecting the proper functioning of
the office, rather than the interest in protecting its
occupant...." Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118,
125 (1997). Accordingly, "the touchstone is 'the
nature of the function performed, not the identity of the
actor who performed it.'" Torres v.
Goddard, 793 F.3d 1046, 1051 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Kalina, 522 U.S. at 127).
immunity applies when a prosecutor performs traditional
functions of an advocate such as preparing to initiate
judicial proceedings or appearing in court to present
evidence in support of an application for a search warrant.
Kalina, 522 U.S. at 125-26 (citing Buckley,
509 U.S. at 273; Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478
(1991)). The traditional functions of an advocate also
include "the professional evaluation of the evidence
assembled by the police and appropriate preparation for its
presentation at trial or before a grand jury after a decision
to seek an indictment has been made." Buckley,
509 U.S. at 273. However, the rule is not without its
exceptions-absolute prosecutorial immunity does not apply
when a prosecutor gives advice to police during a criminal
investigation, see Burns, 500 U.S. at 496, when a
prosecutor makes statements to the press, see
Buckley, 509 U.S. at 277, or when a prosecutor acts as a
complaining witness in support of a warrant application,
see Kalina, 522 U.S. at 131.
Kalina, a Washington state prosecutor commenced a
criminal proceeding against a defendant by filing three
documents: an information charging the defendant, a motion
for an arrest warrant, and a third document-a
"Certification for Determination of Probable
Cause"-summarizing the evidence supporting the charge.
In the certification, the prosecutor personally vouched for
the truth of the facts set forth under penalty of perjury.
Id. at 120-21. The certification, however, contained
two inaccurate factual statements. Washington ...