United States District Court, D. New Jersey
C. Cecchi, U.S.D.J.
matter has come before the Court on a civil rights Complaint
filed by pro se Plaintiff Benny Ward pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Because Plaintiff is proceeding in
forma pauperis, see ECF No. 3, the Court must screen the
Complaint to determine whether the case shall be dismissed
because it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2). Having completed this screening, for the
reasons stated below, the Complaint is dismissed without
Complaint names a single defendant, Kelly Walsh, who is the
prosecutor of an ongoing criminal matter against Plaintiff.
(ECF No. 1 at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that he is being
prosecuted falsely. (Id.) The Court construes the
Complaint as raising a malicious prosecution claim. To bring
a malicious prosecution claim, Plaintiff must establish that
"(1) the defendants initiated a criminal proceeding; (2)
the criminal proceeding ended in plaintiffs favor; (3) the
proceeding was initiated without probable cause; (4) the
defendants acted maliciously or for a purpose other than
bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff
suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept
of seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding."
Kossler v. Crisanti, 564 F.3d 181, 186 (3d Cir.
2009) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Complaint fails to establish the second and third elements of
a malicious prosecution claim. First, the proceeding has not
ended in Plaintiffs favor because it is still ongoing.
Second, the Complaint alleges that Walsh sought, and
obtained, a grand jury indictment against Plaintiff. (ECF No.
1 at 5.) "An indictment fair upon its face, and returned
by a properly constituted grand jury . . . conclusively
determines the existence of probable cause to believe the
defendant perpetrated the offense alleged." Kaley v.
United States, 134 S.Ct. 1090, 1097 (2014) (internal
quotation and citation omitted); see Goodwin v.
Conway, 836 F.3d 321, 329 (3d Cir. 2016) (holding that a
grand jury indictment "constitutes prima facie evidence
of probable cause to prosecute" (citation omitted)).
Because Plaintiff cannot satisfy the elements of a malicious
prosecution claim, this claim is dismissed for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Complaint also asserts that Walsh prevented Plaintiff from
obtaining release on bail by causing his bail to be
excessive. (ECF No. 1 at 5.) However, Plaintiff does not
explain why his bail was excessive; indeed, he does not even
provide the Court the exact bail amount that was set in his
criminal matter. There are no factual allegations to support
a plausible excessive bail claim. See Johnson v. Passaic
Cty., No. 13-4363, 2015 WL 2400763, at *4 (D.N.J. May
19, 2015) ("Johnson does not allege facts from which it
could be inferred that any bail imposed on him was excessive.
It does not allege any facts from which it could be inferred
that Da Silva bore any responsibility. Johnson's Eighth
Amendment claim must therefore fail.")
some courts have held that prosecutors cannot be held liable
for excessive bail because it is the sole province of the
judicial authority; that is, judges set the bail, and
prosecutors cannot cause excessive bail. See, e.g., Lutz
v. Lavelle, 809 F.Supp. 323, 327 (M.D. Pa. 1991). Even
when courts hold that a prosecutor may be liable for an
excessive bail claim, they require the plaintiff to establish
that the prosecutor "help[ed] to shape" or
"exercise[d] significant influence" over the bail
decision. Wagenmann v. Adams, 829 F.2d 196, 212 (1st
Cir. 1987). As the Court found above, Plaintiffs factual
allegations do not support such a claim. Therefore,
Plaintiffs excessive bail claim is dismissed for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Plaintiff alleges that Walsh violated his speedy trial
rights. (ECF No. 1 at 8.) To the extent Plaintiff seeks
release for this alleged violation, he cannot do so in a
civil rights matter. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411
U.S. 475, 500 (1973) ("[W]hen a state prisoner is
challenging the very fact or duration of his physical
imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that
he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release
from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of
habeas corpus."). To the extent Plaintiff seeks damages
for the alleged speedy trial violation, Walsh is immune from
such claim. See United States v. Washington, 869
F.3d 193, 219 (3d Cir. 2017) ("Prosecutors are
ordinarily shielded by absolute immunity for their
prosecutorial acts[.]"); Brennan v.
Pennsylvania, No. 11-0146, 2012 WL 399812, at *1 (W.D.
Pa. Jan. 5, 2012) (finding that prosecutors are protected by
the doctrine of absolute ...