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Hogan v. Pratico

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

September 23, 2019

RAIMUNDO ANTONIO HOGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEREK A. PRATICO, Defendant.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE

          BRIAN J. DAVIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a federal inmate, initiated this action by filing a pro se Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 1; Compl.) and a motion to proceed as a pauper (Doc. 2). He names one Defendant, Derek A. Pratico, in his role as a detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Plaintiff asserts Detective Pratico intentionally and knowingly gave a false statement to the grand jury, and the false statement was used to support a finding of probable cause for Plaintiff’s arrest. Compl. at 3-4.[1] Plaintiff does not explain the nature of Detective Pratico’s false statement. Rather, he references page and line numbers in an attached partial transcript of Detective Pratico’s grand jury testimony (Doc. 1-1; Tr.). Id. at 4. Detective Pratico testified the government had identified the “right” serial number of a gun officers recovered after Plaintiff ran from a car during a traffic stop. See Tr. at 6.[2] As relief, Plaintiff seeks nominal damages in the amount of $5, 000, 000. Compl. at 5.

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires a district court to dismiss a complaint if the court determines the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). With respect to whether a complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” the language of the PLRA mirrors the language of Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, so courts apply the same standard in both contexts. Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Alba v. Montford, 517 F.3d 1249, 1252 (11th Cir. 2008). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         “Labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” that amount to “naked assertions” will not suffice. Id. (quotations, alteration, and citation omitted). Moreover, a complaint must “contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683 (11th Cir. 2001) (quotations and citations omitted).

         In reviewing a pro se plaintiff’s pleadings, a court must liberally construe the plaintiff’s allegations. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Bingham v. Thomas, 654 F.3d 1171, 1175 (11th Cir. 2011). However, the duty of a court to construe pro se pleadings liberally does not require the court to serve as an attorney for the plaintiff. Freeman v. Sec’y, Dept. of Corr., 679 Fed.Appx. 982, 982 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cty. of Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998)).

         Plaintiff’s Complaint is subject to dismissal under this Court’s screening obligation because he fails to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Supreme Court has held, “a grand jury witness has absolute immunity from any § 1983 claim based on the witness’ testimony.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 369 (2012), aff’g 611 F.3d 828 (11th Cir. 2010). Accord Jones v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1281 (11th Cir. 1999) (“Police officers enjoy the same absolute immunity as lay witnesses for their testimony at trial or in front of the grand jury.”) (internal citation omitted); Mastroianni v. Bowers, 173 F.3d 1363, 1367 (11th Cir. 1999) (“[A] witness has absolute immunity from civil liability based on his grand jury testimony.”).

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff’s sole claim is that Detective Pratico falsely testified before the grand jury. See Compl. at 3-4. Detective Pratico enjoys absolute immunity from a claim under § 1983 based on his grand jury testimony, even assuming that testimony was false. See Rehberg, 566 U.S. at 369. As such, Plaintiff’s Complaint is subject to dismissal.

         Accordingly, it is

         ORDERED:

1. This case is DISMISSED without prejudice.
2. The Clerk shall enter judgment dismissing this case without prejudice, terminate any pending motions, and close the file.

         DONE AND ORDERED.

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