United States District Court, D. Connecticut
N. CHATIGNY, U.S.D.J.
brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985
against a prosecutor and witness in a forfeiture proceeding
alleging due process violations and a conspiracy to violate
his right to due process. Defendants have moved to dismiss
arguing that plaintiff does not allege a claim on which
relief may be granted. (ECF Nos. 26, 31.). I agree and
therefore grant both motions.
operative complaint alleges the following. Plaintiff was
convicted of fifth degree larceny in 2015. See Raffone v.
Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. FBTCV 145030086, 2015 WL
3974421 (Conn. Super. Ct. June 4, 2015). As part of this
prosecution, the prosecutor, defendant Messina, sought a
hearing to forfeit plaintiff's truck to the police
department pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §
54-33g. Plaintiff alleges that at the hearing, Messina
“knowingly and willfully elicited  false
testimony” from a police officer, defendant Hine.
Revised Compl. (ECF No. 1-2) at 3.
hearing, Hine testified that a potential lien holder with
regard to plaintiff's truck, Industrial Acceptance
Corporation (“IAC”) had been contacted. Tr. (ECF
No. 30-3) at 77:1-9. He testified that, although IAC held the
paper title to the vehicle as collateral, there was no lien
on the truck. Id. at 77:22-25. Hine's testimony
was false because he said IAC did not have an interest in the
truck when in fact it did. Revised Compl. (ECF No. 1-2) at
alleges that three letters between Hine and IAC were
unlawfully withheld preventing him from impeaching Hine's
testimony. He also alleges there was a conspiracy between
Messina and Hine. First Compl. (Dkt. No. FBT-CV-16-5031758-S)
¶ 2. He alleges that Hine's false testimony, as well
as the conspiracy between Hine and Messina, violated due
process. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Revised
Compl. (ECF No. 16-1) at 2.
survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure Rule 12(b)(6), “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)). In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court
must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them
liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they]
suggest.” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639
(2d Cir. 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678 (citation omitted). This standard requires the
plaintiff to show “more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A
complaint need not allege “detailed factual
allegations, ” but must contain more than an
accusation.” Id. (internal quotation omitted).
Failure to Produce Letters
are entitled to absolute immunity for conduct
“intimately associated with the judicial phase of the
criminal process.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424
U.S. 409, 430 (1976). Accordingly, a prosecutor is immune
from civil liability for initiating a prosecution and
presenting the case at trial, and for his or her conduct in
preparing for trial. Id. at 430. See also
Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 268 (1993). The
immunity applies to a prosecutor's conduct at a
forfeiture proceeding arising from a criminal prosecution.
Craig v. Vanallen, 1:15-cv-00664 (MAD/DJS), 2016 WL
3920240, at *7 (N.D.N.Y. July 15, 2016); Nowlin v. 2 Jane
Doe Female Rochester N.Y. Police Officers, No.
11-CV-712Sc, 2012 WL 1415704, at *7 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 23, 2012).
The immunity is broad, covering “virtually all acts,
regardless of motivation, associated with [the
prosecutor's] function as an advocate.” Dory v.
Ryan, 25 F.3d 81, 83 (2d Cir. 1994). The immunity
extends to claims alleging improper withholding of
exculpatory evidence. Storck v. Suffolk Cty. Dep't of
Soc. Servs., 62 F.Supp.2d 927, 943 (E.D.N.Y. 1999).
Accordingly, Messina is entitled to immunity for initiating
and conducting the forfeiture proceeding, including her
alleged failure to produce the three letters.
well-established that a witness who testifies at a hearing
has immunity with regard to claims for damages based on the
testimony. Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 345-46
(1983). This immunity bars the claim against Hine arising
from his testimony in the forfeiture proceeding.