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Waad v. Willis

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 7, 2017

MAHER WAAD, an individual, MARKS ONE CAR RENTAL, a Michigan corporation, MARKS ONE COLLISION, a Michigan corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
SERGEANT DAN WILLIS, in his individual capacity, DETECTIVE DAVE KRISS, in his individual and official capacity, LIEUTENANT MARK OERMAN, in his individual capacity, DANA GOLDBERG, in her official and individual capacity, THE COUNTY OF MACOMB, a municipality, jointly and severally, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DANA GOLDBERG'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 14) [1]

          AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I.

         This is essentially a civil rights case. Plaintiffs Maher Waad, an individual, Marks One Car Rental, and Marks One Collision, two companies owned by Waad, sued multiple individuals and entities, as follows: (1) Farmers Insurance Exchange, (2) Allen Keller - an employee of Farmers, (3) Sergeant Dan Willis - a Warren police officer, (4) Detective Dave Kriss- a Macomb County Deputy Sheriff, (5) Lieutenant Mark Oerman - a Macomb County Deputy Sheriff, (6) Dana Goldberg - a Macomb County prosecutor, (7) Macomb County, (8) Macomb County Sheriff's Department, and (9) Michigan Auto Theft Authority. Following various stipulations, see Docs. 32, 33, 34 the remaining defendants are: (1) Willis, in his individual capacity, (2) Kriss, in his official and individual capacity, (3) Oerman, in his individual capacity, (4) Goldberg, and (5) Macomb County. Upon the dismissal of plaintiffs' state law claims, see Doc. 27, the following claims are at issue:

Count I - Federal Claim Violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment -False Arrest, False Imprisonment and Unreasonable Search and Seizure
Count II - Federal Claim Violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments Malicious Prosecution
Count III - Federal Claim, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Monell Claim (against Macomb county)

         Before the Court is Goldberg's motion to dismiss on the grounds of prosecutorial immunity. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

         II.

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) a complaint must be dismissed if it does not “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). The plausibility standard demands more than a “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Rather, for a claim to be facially plausible, a plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 1949. Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a plaintiff's pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court need not accept as true “legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” In Re Packaged Ice Antitrust Litig., 723 F.Supp.2d 987, 1002 (E.D. Mich. 2010) (quoting Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007)).

         III.

         The Supreme Court has held that prosecutors have absolute immunity from damages for both initiating and prosecuting a case, including presentation of the state's case at trial. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976). A prosecutor must exercise his or her best professional judgment both in deciding which suits to bring and in prosecuting them in court. Skinner v. Govorchin, 463 F.3d 518, 525 (6th Cir. 2006). Without the protection of absolute immunity, prosecutors could not properly perform this duty if every decision carried the potential consequences of personal liability in a suit for damages. Id. Prosecutors, therefore, are granted absolute immunity when the challenged actions are those of an advocate, or in connection with duties required to function a prosecutor. Spurlock v. Thompson, 330 F.3d 791, 798 (6th Cir. 2003).

         The Sixth Circuit has further recognized that immunity is granted to prosecutors “pursuing a civil action” when they are “functioning in an enforcement role and acting as advocates for the state, ” Cooper v. Parrish, 203 F.3d 937, 947 (6th Cir. 2000).

         Since Imbler, the courts have taken a functional approach and have concluded that a prosecutor is protected in connection with his duties in functioning as a prosecutor. Id. (quoting Higgason v Stephens, 288 F.3d 868, 877 (6th Cir. 2002)). The "critical inquiry is how closely related is the prosecutor's challenged activity to his role as an advocate intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process." Holloway v Brush, 220 F.3d 767, 775 (6th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Immunity is granted not only for actions directly related to initiating a prosecution and presenting the State's case, but also to activities undertaken "in connection with [the] duties in functioning as a prosecutor." Id. at 431; Higgason, supra at 877. Absolute immunity is therefore extended to prosecuting ...


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