United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
A. KIMBALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. A hearing on the motion was held on February
7, 2018. At the hearing, Plaintiff was represented by Angela
H. Elmore, and Defendants were represented by Catherine L.
Brabson. The court took the matter under advisement. The
court considered carefully the memoranda and other materials
submitted by the parties, as well as the law and facts
relating to the motion. Now being fully advised, the court
issues the following Memorandum Decision and Order.
29, 2013, Salt Lake City Police Officer Himle
(“Himle”) pulled over Plaintiff Trenton Mellen
(“Mellen”) for suspected driving under the
influence (“DUI”). Himle performed a field
sobriety test on Mellen, which he failed. Himle arrested
Mellen for DUI, having an expired driver's license, and
failure to stop or yield. At the time of the arrest, Mellen
submitted to a blood draw, which returned positive results
for trace amounts of Trazodone. On October 2, 2013, Salt Lake
City (“the City”) charged Mellen with the
November 7, 2013, the City dismissed the charges for expired
license as Mellen provided proof of a valid license, and he
entered pleas of not guilty for DUI and failing to stop or
yield. In December 2013, Mellen's attorney forwarded
proof of Mellen's Trazodone prescription accompanied with
a letter from Mellen's doctor regarding his disability.
One of Mellen's other doctors sent another letter to the
City on March 5, 2014 and relayed his dosage and length of
time on the prescription. On January 14, 2014, Ryan Richards
received a toxicology report from Utah State Laboratories,
which he forwarded to Mellen's counsel. The report showed
Mellen had 162.62 ng/ml of Trazodone in his system. This
calculation was given to the City on April 2, 2014.
Thereafter, Associate City Prosecutor Brandon Simmons
confirmed that Mellen was within therapeutic levels, but also
noted that, according to the state toxicologist's
opinion, Trazodone could still be impairing at therapeutic
9, 2014, the Justice Court held a hearing on Mellen's
motion to suppress evidence based on a lack of probable
cause. The motion was granted, but City Prosecutor Steve
Newton filed a notice of appeal of the ruling to the Third
District Court. Around the time of the hearing, Mellen's
mother, uncle, and attorney sent letters to the City
Prosecutors and Mayor Ralph Becker discussing Mellen's
disability, his use of Trazodone, and overall concerns with
the case. Mayor Becker responded with confidence in the City
Prosecutor's office and their handling of the case. On or
around August 6, 2014, an article was published in City
Weekly that was critical of the Chief City Prosecutor,
Padma Veeru-Collings (“Veeru-Collings”) and the
handling of Mellen's case. Mellen participated in the
Third District Court held an evidentiary hearing on November
24, 2014, in which the court ruled there was sufficient
evidence to establish probable cause. The District Court
denied Mellen's motion to suppress, and remanded the case
to the Justice Court for trial. On March 26, 2015, Douglas
Rollins, an expert for Mellen, opined that the Trazodone did
not impact Mellen's driving, and Mellen forwarded the
report to the City the next day. On April 1, 2015,
Veeru-Collings directed Paige Williamson to file a motion to
dismiss the remaining two charges without prejudice. The
court entered an order of dismissal on April 8, 2015.
has filed the instant action in this Court, alleging causes
of action for malicious prosecution, First Amendment
retaliation, and Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual
punishment arising under 42 USC § 1983. Mellen also
alleges causes of action for malicious prosecution and
intentional infliction of emotional distress under Utah state
Standard of Review
move to have all causes of action dismissed for
Plaintiff's failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted according to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. “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) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“[A]ll well-pleaded factual allegations in the . . .
complaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party.” Moore v.
Guthrie, 438 F.3d 1036, 1039 (10th Cir.
42 USC § 1983 Claims
seek to have all causes of action dismissed based on the
doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity. The United
States Supreme Court first addressed the question of absolute
immunity for prosecutors regarding § 1983 claims in
Imbler v. Pachtman. 424 U.S. 409, 420 (1976). In
Imbler, the Court held that absolute immunity
attaches to a prosecutor's activities when those
activities are “intimately associated with the judicial
phase of the criminal process.” Id. at 430.
The Court continued, “[I]n initiating a prosecution and
in presenting the State's case, [a] prosecutor is immune
from a civil suit for damages under § 1983.”
Id. at 431. The Court's analysis was founded
soundly in public policy considerations. It reasoned that the
“public trust of the prosecutor's office would
suffer if [prosecutors] were constrained in making every
decision by the consequences in terms of [their] own
potential liability in a suit for damages.”
Id. at 424-25. “Further, if [a] prosecutor
could be made to answer in court each time . . . a person
charged him with wrongdoing, his energy and attention would
be diverted from the pressing duty of enforcing the criminal
law.” Id. at 425. While such a rule could
leave some plaintiffs without judicial redress, the Court
reasoned it would be better than leaving prosecutors
consistently exposed to retaliatory suits. See Id.
at 428. However, when prosecutors act in an administrative or
investigative role rather than that of an advocate, they are
not entitled to absolute immunity. Id. at 431-31.
the decision in Imbler, the Supreme Court has both
affirmed and denied absolute immunity for various actions
taken by prosecutors. The Court has held that absolute
immunity attaches when a prosecutor “prepares to
initiate a judicial proceeding.” Van de Kamp v.
Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 343 (2009) (referring to
Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478 (1991)). Likewise,
immunity attaches when a prosecutor presents evidence in
court when applying for a search warrant. Kalina v.
Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118 (1997). Conversely, the Court has
held absolute immunity does not apply when prosecutors give
advice to police officers during criminal investigations,
Burns, 500 U.S. at 496, “when prosecutors make
statements to the press, ” Van de Kamp, 555
U.S. at 343 ...