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Everling v. Ragains

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 23, 2015




This matter is before the Court on Motions to Dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by Defendants Patrick Ragains ("Mr. Ragains"), Thomas Broderick ("Mr. Broderick"), and Greg Alley ("Mr. Alley")[1] (Filing No. 19) and by Defendant County of Madison (Filing No. 34). Plaintiff Steven W. Everling ("Mr. Everling") filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging wrongful prosecution and numerous state tort claims. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Motions to Dismiss.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that has failed to "state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008). The complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court explained that a complaint must allege facts that are "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not required, mere "labels, " "conclusions, " or "formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action" are insufficient. Id. The allegations must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Id. Stated differently, the complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).


Mr. Everling filed this action on January 9, 2014. His suit stems from a criminal prosecution for child molestation in which he was the defendant. The investigation began in February 2008. The Complaint alleges that the authorities who responded to the claim of child molestation engaged in suspect investigation practices, including failure to interview the mother of the minor child claiming molestation. In July 2008, after charges had been filed against Mr. Everling, the prosecuting attorneys, who included Mr. Ragains, directed the minor child to undergo a medical examination. The examination found no injuries consistent with molestation. In violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), Mr. Ragains asked the medical expert to not write a report because Mr. Ragains wished to avoid the need to disclose the exculpatory information to Mr. Everling. During Mr. Everling's trial, Mr. Ragains represented to the jury that there had been an injury to the minor child. The jury found Mr. Everling guilty, and the trial judge sentenced Mr. Everling to 110 years in prison on December 2, 2008.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence. However, on July 8, 2010, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned Mr. Everling's conviction on the grounds that the judge showed partiality, and Mr. Everling was released from custody.[2] Between Mr. Everling's conviction and subsequent release, a new prosecutor was elected for Madison County, Indiana. Rather than attempt another trial, the new prosecutor opted to dismiss the charges.

With the criminal prosecution ended, Mr. Everling decided to bring a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, alleging that the misconduct surrounding his investigation and prosecution deprived him of his civil rights. Mr. Everling brought this action against a variety of defendants, some of which already have been dismissed by stipulation of the parties. This Order concerns only three of the remaining defendants: Mr. Ragains, the deputy prosecutor who handled Mr. Everling's criminal case; Mr. Broderick, the elected Madison County prosecutor at the time of Mr. Everling's trial; and the County of Madison, where the prosecution occurred.


The crux of Mr. Everling's claim is that the investigation and prosecution for child molestation were improperly conducted. Of the seven claims asserted against Mr. Ragains, Mr. Broderick, or the County of Madison, the first four claims are federal claims arising out of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The remaining three claims-abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and a long list of tort and fraud claims-do not clearly identify whether state or federal law is meant to apply. Consequently, the Complaint is analyzed for allegations that state a cognizable claim under either federal or state law.[3]

A. Defendants Ragains and Broderick

Mr. Everling's Complaint names deputy prosecuting attorney Patrick Ragains and elected prosecuting attorney Thomas Broderick as defendants in both their individual and official capacities. However, the Eleventh Amendment bars private parties' suits in federal court against states, state agencies, and state officials acting in their official capacity unless the state consents to the filing of such a suit. Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 781-82 (1978); Meadows v. Indiana, 854 F.2d 1068, 1069 (7th Cir. 1988). Indiana has not waived Eleventh Amendment immunity. Meadows, 854 F.2d at 1069. Mr. Ragains and Mr. Broderick argue that prosecuting attorneys in Indiana are state, not county, officials and that all claims against them in their official capacities are thus improper. Mr. Ragains and Mr. Broderick cite Bibbs v. Newman as support for their proposition. 997 F.Supp. 1174, 1179-81 (S.D. Ind. 1998) (holding that an Indiana prosecuting attorney acts as a state official when making employment decisions). Mr. Everling asserts that Bibbs should be interpreted as holding that prosecutors are state officials only when making employment decisions. However, Bibbs explains that "[a] prosecuting attorney in Indiana clearly acts as a state official when prosecuting criminal cases." 997 F.Supp. at 1178. Thus, all claims brought against Mr. Ragains and Mr. Broderick in their official capacities are improper and must be dismissed.[4]

Mr. Ragains and Mr. Broderick also are sued in their individual capacities. However, because federal and state prosecutorial immunity applies, the individual capacity claims must be dismissed as well. See Parker v. Lyons, 757 F.3d 701, 706 (7th Cir. 2014) ("[T]o the extent that he is suing [the defendant] in his individual capacity, damages are barred by absolute prosecutorial immunity."); Hupp v. Hill, 576 N.E.2d 1320, 1325-26 (Ind.Ct.App. 1991) (applying prosecutorial immunity to claim against prosecutor in individual and official capacities). As deputy and elected prosecutor for the Madison County Prosecutor's Office, Mr. Ragains and Mr. Broderick were responsible for conducting Mr. Everling's prosecution. The parties agree that prosecutorial misconduct occurred. However, that alone is not enough. Federal and state courts have determined that exposing prosecutors to civil ...

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