Leeke v. Timmerman
Annotate this Case
454 U.S. 83 (1981)
U.S. Supreme Court
Leeke v. Timmerman, 454 U.S. 83 (1981)
Leeke v. Timmerman
Decided November 16, 1981
454 U.S. 83
Respondents, who were inmates in a South Carolina prison, contended that they were unnecessarily beaten by prison guards during a prison uprising. One respondent sought criminal arrest warrants against four guards, and a state court Magistrate, acting on the basis of affidavits and information presented by the respondent, informed the legal adviser to the South Carolina Department of Corrections of his intent to issue the warrants. After a meeting with correctional officials, the State Solicitor, by a letter to the Magistrate, requested that the warrants not be issued, and stated that he intended to seek an investigation of the charges against the prison guards. The Magistrate did not issue the warrants, and no state investigation was initiated. Respondents subsequently filed suit against petitioners (the legal adviser and the Director of the Department of Corrections) and other state officials in Federal District Court, contending that they had violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by conspiring in bad faith to block the issuance of arrest warrants for the prosecution of the guards. The District Court found petitioners liable for damages and attorney's fees, although the State Solicitor and the Magistrate were found to be immune from liability. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: Petitioners' actions, by which they influenced the State Solicitor's decision to oppose issuance of the arrest warrants, did not violate any judicially cognizable rights of respondents. There is a questionable nexus between respondents' injury -- the alleged beatings -- and the state officials' actions in which they gave information to a Magistrate prior to issuance of an arrest warrant. Even if a prosecution could remedy respondents' injury, the issuance of an arrest warrant is simply a prelude to, and would not necessarily result in, actual prosecution. The decision to prosecute is solely within the prosecutor's discretion. Thus, a private citizen has no judicially cognizable right to prevent state officials from presenting information, through intervention of the state solicitor, that will assist a magistrate in determining whether to issue an arrest warrant. Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U. S. 614, controls here.
Certiorari granted; 639 F.2d 783, reversed.
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