United States District Court, D. Utah
EARLE E. aka EARL E. BRAMHALL, Plaintiff,
WEST VALLEY CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, COLLEEN JACOBS, TRAVIS PEARCE, ROBERT BOBROWSKI, NICOLAS COOK, LAMONTE COX, BROCK HUDSON, JOSEPH MCCUEN, JERRY RANDALL, et al., Defendants.
District Judge Dee Benson.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO DISMISS THE COUNTY DEFENDANTS (ECF NO. 93)
J. FURSE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Defendants Simarjit S. Gill, Melanie M. Serassio, Steven C.
Gibbons, Nathanial J. Sanders, Robert N. Parrish, Nathan J.
Evershed, Chou Chou Collins, Thomas V. Lopresto II, Craig
Stanger, and Jared W. Rasband (collectively the
“Movants”), move the Court to dismiss
Plaintiff Earl E. Bramhall's Complaint against them for
failure to state a claim upon which this Court can grant
relief. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss & Mem. in Support
(“Mot. to Dismiss”), ECF No. 93.) The Movants
argue Mr. Bramhall's Complaint does not comply with Rule
8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
(“Rules”) because his Complaint fails “to
sufficiently link individual defendants to the acts alleged
in the Complaint.” (Id. at 1.) The Movants
further assert Mr. Bramhall's Complaint fails to state a
claim against them in their official capacities, or against
the County, because he “failed to identify any custom
or policy that guided the defendants' conduct and
therefore violated [his] constitutional rights.”
(Id.) Lastly, the Movants contend this Court should
dismiss Mr. Bramhall's Complaint because absolute
prosecutorial immunity shields them from suit. (Id.
at 1-2.) Mr. Bramhall also names Ms. Christina P. Ortega,
Gregory N. Febrache, and Jared N. Parrish as Defendants who
worked as Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorneys and on
his case. (Compl., ECF No. 4 at 2, 24, 27.) The Movants'
arguments apply with equal force to these three Defendants.
Thus, the undersigned refers to Ms. Ortega, Mr. Febrache, Mr.
Jared N. Parrish, and the Movants collectively as the County
Defendants. Having considered the parties' briefing and
oral argument, the undersigned RECOMMENDS the District Judge
DISMISS the County Defendants because Mr. Bramhall's
Complaint fails to state a claim upon which this Court can
grant relief as prosecutorial immunity protects them in their
individual capacities, and the Complaint fails to allege a
custom, policy, or practice that would make Salt Lake County
liable for their actions in their official capacities.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
8, 2018, Mr. Bramhall, proceeding pro se in forma
pauperis, filed a Complaint against thirty-five
defendants, including the County Defendants. (See
Compl., ECF No. 4.) Mr. Bramhall specifically pleads six
causes of action against the County Defendants under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly (1) committing willful
neglect of duty, infliction of judicial improprieties,
misconduct in office, obstruction of justice, and violations
of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, (2) violating the Speedy
Trial Act of 1974, (3) excessive prosecutorial misconduct,
cruel and unusual punishment, (4) threats of life
imprisonment if he refused to accept over thirty (30) plea
offers (5) psychological water boarding, and (6) committing
arbitrariness actions by withholding exculpatory evidence.
(Compl., ECF No. 4 at 2, 31-39.)
deciding a motion to dismiss the Court takes “as true
all well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint and
view[s] the allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d
1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009). A court may consider exhibits
attached to a Complaint when evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss. Smith, 561 F.3d at 1098 (stating
“[i]n evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss,
courts may consider not only the complaint itself, but also
attached exhibits … and documents incorporated into
the complaint by reference.”) (citations omitted).
Bramhall's claims stem from a 2008 arrest and criminal
prosecution for aggravated robbery and for making threats
against life or property. (Compl., ECF No. 4 at 3, 6-8, 19,
22-28; see also Salt Lake County Sheriff's
Office Jail Booking Record, Ex. C at 1, ECF No. 4-3.)
Officers from the West Valley City Police Department
suspected Mr. Bramhall of calling Cyprus Credit Union
demanding $100, 000, telling the assistant bank manager he
was a sharp shooter, and telling the manager he had a bomb
within a seven-mile radius of the bank. (West Valley City
Police Dep't CAD Master Call Table, Ex. O at 1-2, ECF No.
4-15; see also Compl., ECF No. 4 at 3, 6-8.) Mr.
Bramhall spent fifty-three months and seventeen days in jail
pretrial (Compl., ECF No. 4 at 21) only for a jury
to find him not guilty (id. at 27).
Bramhall alleges the County Defendants committed
prosecutorial misconduct and subjected him to cruel and
unusual punishment when they prosecuted him for approximately
nine years for a crime they knew he did not commit.
(Id. at 22, 36, 38.) He specifically alleges
Simarjit S. Gill, and all of the County Defendants, violated
his Fifth Amendment rights by failing to indict him before a
grand jury. (Id. at 34.) He further alleges Mr. Gill
colluded with all of the district attorneys on the case to
continue to prosecute him despite the lack of any evidence
linking him to the crime and despite his attempts to inform
Mr. Gill that he did not commit the alleged crime.
(Id. at 22-23.)
District Attorney Robert Parrish undertook “every
possible measure to strong-arm, manipulate [him], into taking
many plea offers, regardless of [his] innocence of the
crimes.” (Id. at 19, 24.) Mr. Parrish denied
Mr. Bramhall his rights to a quick and speedy trial and
committed “psychological waterboarding” by
subjecting him to multiple psychological evaluations.
(Id. at 24-25.) Mr. Parrish attempted to convince
the psychologist that Mr. Bramhall lacked competency to stand
trial and filed a motion to have Mr. Bramhall civilly
committed. (Id. at 25.) Mr. Bramhall alleges Mr.
Parrish also committed prosecutorial misconduct when Mr.
Parrish allowed a witness, despite Mr. Bramhall's
counsel's protestation, to remain in court during his
preliminary hearing. (Id.) As the primary district
attorney on the case, Mr. Parrish allegedly subjected Mr.
Bramhall to more than thirty-six (36) court appearances, and
he made multiple attempts to deny him a quick and speedy
trial by subjecting him to multiple competency evaluations.
(Id.) In 2011, then Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
allegedly informed Mr. Parrish that Mr. Parrish had failed to
follow proper procedure with respect to one of Mr.
Bramhall's mental health evaluations. (Id. at
25-26; Ex. L, ECF No. 4-12.) Mr. Parrish ignored the Attorney
General's information and continued to prosecute Mr.
Bramhall until Mr. Sanders replaced him on the case. (Compl.,
ECF No. 4 at 26.) Mr. Bramhall alleges Mr. Parrish
“kept [him] incarcerated in the Salt Lake Jail for a
period of 53 months 17 day's without a trial.”
(Id. at 25.)
Bramhall alleges all of the County Defendants violated his
right to a speedy trial and “made every attempt to not
have trial, ” by subjecting him to numerous
psychological evaluations and threatening him with prison
time if he failed to accept one of their numerous plea
offers. (Id. at 36.) Moreover, the County Defendants
had “irrefutable proof [he] was innocent of all
charges, ” but they nonetheless continued to attempt to
pressure him into accepting plea offers. (Id. at
36-37.) Mr. Bramhall further alleges the County Defendants
not only knew of his innocence but “were also aware of
the fact of another person committing the same crime while
the plaintiff [was] totally restrained.” (Id.
at 38.) The County Defendants withheld exculpatory evidence
that “would have exonerated [him] of any involvement
pertaining to the crimes [he] was charged with.”
Bramhall alleges the remaining County Defendants each
appeared in at least one of his criminal hearings; they all
refused to allow him to have a trial, and they
“continued to offer [him] many plea bargain offers,
regardless of [his] very obvious innocence.”
(Id. at 24, 27.) All of the County Defendants
committed “arbitrariness actions” when they
“willfully” withheld “very exculpatory
evidence[, ] … which would have exonerated [him] of
any involvement pertaining to the crimes [he] was charged
with.” (Id. at 38.)
Court construes pro se pleadings liberally and holds them
“to a less stringent standard.” Smith,
561 F.3d at 1096 (quoting Garrett v. Selby, Connor,
Maddux & Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation omitted in original)). However, the Court
cannot act as an advocate for pro se litigants who must
comply with the fundamental requirements of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106,
1110 (10th Cir. 1991); Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214,
1218 (10th Cir. 2007) (“[T]his court has repeatedly
insisted that pro se parties follow the same rules of
procedure that govern other litigants.”) (quoting
Garrett, 425 F.3d at 840). Thus, a pro se plaintiff
still has “‘the burden of alleging sufficient
facts on which a recognized legal claim could be
based.'” Jenkins v. Currier, 514 F.3d
1030, 1032 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Hall, 935 F.2d
at 1110). Pro se plaintiffs' claims should survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, “despite the plaintiff's failure
to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various
legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or
his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.”
Smith, 561 F.3d at 1096 (quoting Hall, 935
F.2d at 1110). However, “the court cannot take on the
responsibility of serving as the litigant's attorney in
constructing arguments and searching the record.”
Garrett, 425 F.3d at 840; see also Whitney v.
New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1175 (10th Cir. 1997) (noting
court “will not supply additional factual allegations
to round out a [pro se] plaintiff's complaint or
construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must allege “‘enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'” Hogan
v. Winder, 762 F.3d 1096, 1104 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547
(2007)). “‘A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.'” Id. (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
“[A] plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations
to support each claim.” Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v.
Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint survives only
if it “‘states a plausible claim for relief,