United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). Also pending is
Plaintiff's “Addendum, ” (Doc. No. 8), that
is construed as a Motion to Amend. Plaintiff is proceeding
in forma pauperis. See (Doc. No. 6).
se Plaintiff, who is presently incarcerated at the
Alexander Correctional Institution, has filed a civil rights
suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with regards to
proceedings in a North Carolina criminal case in 2018.
Plaintiff names as Defendants: Superior Court Judge Daniel A.
Keuhnert and Attorney Joseph C. Delk, IV.
the Compliant liberally and accepting the allegations as
true, Judge Kuehnert ordered Mr. Delk to investigate legal
and factual issues in Plaintiff's criminal case and file
a motion for appropriate post-trial relief on Plaintiff's
behalf under North Carolina General Statutes §
15A-1415(b)(3), (7), or (8). Plaintiff claims that Delk
failed to conduct a thorough investigation by, for instance,
obtaining a copy of discovery in Plaintiff's criminal
case. Judge Kuehnert did not admonish Delk but commended him
for a job well done. Plaintiff filed a pro se motion
to compel post-conviction discovery to which he has a
statutory as well as a constitutional right to access to
courts. Judge Kuehnert dismissed the motion to compel despite
knowing that Plaintiff did not have access to this discovery.
Plaintiff alleges that the discovery is vital to his right to
meaningful access to courts as Plaintiff can prove that Suzie
Barker gave falsified testimony as to touch DNA evidence at
the resentencing hearing in 2008. Plaintiff requests
injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages.
“Addendum, ” (Doc. No. 8), that is construed as a
Motion to Amend, Plaintiff asks to add Suzie Barker and David
Spittle as defendants.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma
pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to
determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds
that it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its
frivolity review, a 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).
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 in
his complaint 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). A
pro se complaint must still contain sufficient facts
“to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level” and “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (the Twombly
plausibility standard applies to all federal civil complaints
including those filed under § 1983). This
“plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to
demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli,
588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when
accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling
him to relief. Id.
are absolutely immune from suit for a deprivation of civil
rights” for actions taken within their jurisdiction.
King v. Myers, 973 F.2d 354, 356 (4th
Cir. 1992). For immunity to apply, the act in question must
be a “judicial act, ” that is, a “function
[that is] normally performed by a judge, and [for which] the
parties dealt with the judge in his or her judicial
capacity.” Id. A judge will not be deprived of
immunity “because the action he took was in error, was
done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather,
he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the
clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978).
alleges that Judge Kuehnert erroneously denied him discovery
in a post-conviction proceeding in a North Carolina criminal
case. Presiding over a criminal post-conviction proceeding is
a function normally performed by judges and Plaintiff has
failed to allege that Judge Kuehnert acted in the absence of
any jurisdiction. Therefore, judicial immunity applies and
the claims against him are dismissed.