United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
WALTER T. GAUSE, Jr., Plaintiff,
R. ANDREW MURRAY, et al., Defendants.
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiff's Complaint [Doc. 1], Plaintiff's Pro Se
Motion to Amend Complaint [Doc. 12]. On September 9, 2019,
the Court entered an order waiving the initial filing fee and
directly monthly payments be made from Plaintiff's prison
account. [Doc. 18]. Thus, Plaintiff is proceeding in forma
Plaintiff Walter Timothy Gause is a prisoner of the State of
North Carolina, currently incarcerated at Marion Correctional
Facility located in Marion, North Carolina. The North
Carolina Department of Public Safety website indicates that
Plaintiff was convicted on February 21, 2014, in Mecklenburg
County Superior Court of robbery with a dangerous weapon, and
he was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
filed the current action on July 18, 2019, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, naming the following four persons as
Defendants: (1) R. Andrew Murray, identified as
District Attorney; (2) Michael Chen, identified as an
assistant district attorney for Mecklenburg County; (3) Glen
Cole, identified as district attorney for Mecklenburg County;
and (4) Curtis Dreggens, identified as a detective with the
Mecklenburg County Police Department. [Doc. 1 at 1-2].
Plaintiff purports to bring claims against Defendants for (1)
“falsifying evidence to jury” by admitting
evidence at trial “willfully and intentionally to
cause, actual, personal, legal injury;” and (2) due
process violation under Brady for “destruction [and]
suppression exculpatory material to [Plaintiff's]
defense, bad faith.” [Doc. 1 at 3]. For relief,
Plaintiff seeks, among other things, “monetary
settlement” and punitive damages of $1 million against
Defendants “in personal capacity.” [Doc. 1 at 5].
August 14, 2019, the Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint
to add several more Defendants involved in his prosecution
and trial, including: (1) Robert W. Bell, identified as the
resident judge of the Superior Court of Mecklenburg County;
(2) Denzil H. Forrester, identified as an attorney; (3)
Kimberly P. Hoppin, identified as an attorney; (4) Josh
Stein, identified as the Attorney General of North Carolina;
(5) the North Carolina Court of Appeals; (6)
“Municipality. City of Charlotte, NC, County
Mecklenburg. County Commission, [Unintelligible] of
Charlotte, Gov. enity” [sic]; and (7) the District
Attorney Office located in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Doc.
12 at 2-3]. Although creatively labeled, the nature of the
claims the Plaintiff seeks to assert against these additional
Defendants is similar to the claims brought by the Plaintiff
against the original four Defendants. [See Id. at
9-12; Doc. 14 at 3]. For relief in his proposed amended
complaint, the Plaintiff seeks, among other things, punitive
damages in the amount of $1 million, “monetary,
ancillary injunctive relief declaratory relief, ”
“re-litigation to trial proceeding, ” or
“release from custody.” [Doc. 14 at 4].
Plaintiff makes no allegation in his original or in his
proposed amended complaint that his conviction has been
overturned or otherwise invalidated. [See Doc. 1, 14].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must
review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to
dismissal on the grounds that it is “frivolous or
malicious [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Furthermore,
§ 1915A requires an initial review of a “complaint
in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental
entity, ” and the court must identify cognizable claims
or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if
the complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
frivolity review, this Court must determine whether the
Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Furthermore, a
pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the liberal
construction requirement will not permit a district court to
ignore a clear failure to allege facts which set forth a
claim that is cognizable under federal law. Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).
the Court has previously dismissed under Heck essentially the
same action filed by Plaintiff against the same set of
Defendants. Because the Plaintiff has still failed to allege
that his underlying conviction has been vacated or otherwise
invalidated, Heck again applies to bar Plaintiff's
claims. The Court reminds the Plaintiff that in Heck, the
United States Supreme Court held as follows:
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly 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. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a §
1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a
judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply
the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would,
the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can
demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been
invalidated. 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.
Id. at 486-87 (footnotes omitted; emphasis added).
Here, given the allegations in the Complaint, a judgment in
Plaintiff's favor would necessarily imply the invalidity
of his conviction or sentence. Plaintiff, however, has not
alleged that his conviction has been reversed or otherwise