State of Alabama v. Pearson

Filing 4

OPINION AND ORDER directing that this case is remanded to the District Court of Dale County, Alabama; further ORDERED that all pending motions are left for resolution by the state court after remand; the Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to take the steps necessary to effect remand to state court. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on June 25, 2015. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist)(scn, )

Download PDF
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, SOUTHERN DIVISION STATE OF ALABAMA, ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Plaintiff, v. LORENZO PEARSON, Defendant. CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:15cv434-MHT (WO) OPINION AND ORDER This action is before the court on defendant Lorenzo Pearson’s removal of a criminal case currently pending against him in a state court. remove the action pursuant to 28 Pearson seeks to U.S.C. Pursuant to § 1443: “Any of the following civil actions or criminal prosecutions, commenced in a State court may be removed by the defendant to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place wherein it is pending: (1) Against any person who is denied or cannot enforce in the courts of such State a right under any law providing for the equal civil rights of citizens of the United States, or § 1443. of all persons within the jurisdiction thereof; (2) For any act under color of authority derived from any law providing for equal rights, or for refusing to do any act on the ground that it would be inconsistent with such law.” 28 U.S.C. § 1443. When a defendant seeks the removal of a state-court prosecution, the district court is required to “examine the notice promptly” to determine whether removal is appropriate, and, if it “clearly appears on the face of the notice and any exhibits annexed thereto that removal should not be permitted, the court shall make an order for summary remand.” § 1455(b)(4). The Supreme Court addressed the scope of removal under § 1443 in Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780 (1966), and articulated controls today. the two-pronged test that still First, a defendant must show “that the right upon which [he] rel[ies] is a ‘right under any law providing for ... equal civil rights.’” Id. at 788 (quoting § 1443(1)). Second, the defendant must show 2 that he is “‘denied or cannot enforce’ that right” in the state court in which the action currently sits. Id. Pearson argues that the state court’s actions of having him restrained public cleared from denial of rights his § 2000a–21, as well and the silenced courtroom under as 42 under the and having resulted U.S.C. First, the in the § 1981 and Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.2 As to Pearson’s reliance upon the Fourteenth First, rights do because Fifth, not they and fall provide within rights the of Amendments, scope of “general these § 1443(1), application available to all persons or citizens,” and § 1443(1) encompasses specific only civil equality.’” those rights that rights stated in “‘provid[e] terms of for racial Alabama v. Conley, 245 F.3d 1292, 1295–96 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Rachel, 384 U.S. at 792). Pearson’s allegation of the violation of his rights 1. Pearson’s notice of removal cites “§ 203 of the Act.” He appears to refer to § 203 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000a–2. 2. Pearson also repeatedly cites 28 U.S.C. § 1964. This citation appears to be in error, as that statute does not pertain to civil rights. 3 afforded under § 1981, however, would support a valid claim for removal under § 1443(1). Id. at 1296. This is because, as the Supreme Court explained in City of Greenwood, Mississippi v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 825 (1966), § 1981 is a statute “providing for ‘equal civil rights’ within the meaning of § 1443(1).” applies to his claim under § 2000a–2. The same See Wyche v. State of La., 394 F.2d 927, 929 (5th Cir. 1967) (in prosecution removed to federal court by defendant who alleged violation of § 2000a–2, reversing motion to remand based on Rachel). 3 Despite meeting prong one of the test provided in Rachel v. Georgia, Pearson’s removal petition fails because he is unable to meet Rachel’s second prong. “Generally, the denial of the petitioner’s equal civil rights must be ‘manifest in a formal expression of state law.’” Conley, 245 F.3d at 1296 (quoting Rachel, 384 U.S. at 803). As the Eleventh Circuit has 3. In Bonner v. City of Pritchard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1207 & 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), the Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding precedent the decisions of the Fifth Circuit rendered prior to October 1, 1981. 4 explained, “This requirement ensures that removal is available only in cases where the denial of the right can be clearly predicted and avoids involving federal judges in ‘the unseemly process of prejudging their brethren of the state courts.’” Id. (quoting Rachel, 384 U.S. at 803–04). Under Rule 9.2 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, a facially neutral rule, an Alabama state court may have a disruptive criminal defendant restrained and silenced under conditions.4 4. The rule provides in relevant part: “(a) Disruptive Conduct. If a defendant engages in disruptive or disorderly conduct so that the trial or other proceeding cannot be carried on in an orderly manner, the court, after having warned the defendant of the consequences of such conduct, may, if such conduct continues, order the defendant to be bound and gagged, or otherwise restrained or removed from the trial or proceeding. If the defendant continues such disruptive or disorderly conduct after warning, he shall be deemed to have forfeited the right to be present at that trial or proceeding.” Ala. R. Crim. P. 9.2. 5 certain The Supreme Court has created a narrow exception to allow the removal of an action grounded upon the violation of a facially neutral law “if the very act of bringing the state court proceedings will constitute a denial of the rights federal statute. Id. conferred” by the applicable To fall within this exception, however, it is not enough to allege that one’s civil rights have been “illegally and corruptly” denied prior to trial, “that the charges are false, or that the defendant is unable to particular state court.” at 827. obtain a fair trial in a City of Greenwood, 384 U.S. As the Supreme Court has highlighted, it is insufficient to rely solely upon allegations as to the underlying motives of the charging officers or other applicable parties, because such motives do not necessitate that a defendant will be found guilty in state court if he is innocent “or that in any other manner the defendant will be ‘denied or cannot enforce in the courts’ of the State any right under a federal law providing for equal civil rights.” § 1443(1)). Id. (quoting Unlike Rachel, in which the defendants 6 were prosecuted in state court despite being immunized from suit by vindication the of federal right Pearson’s relied federal upon, rights the are appropriately left to the state courts because those rights are not being denied by the mere act of bringing him to trial. See Rachel, 384 U.S. at 804; Conley, 245 F.3d at 1298 (“In Rachel, it was only because section 203(c) of immunized the the Civil Rights defendants Act from of 1964 prosecution expressly [for the applicable activity] ... that ‘the mere pendency of the prosecution enable[d] the federal court to make the clear prediction that the defendants w[ould] be ‘denied or c[ould] enforce in the courts of (the) State’ the right to be free of any ‘attempt to punish’ them for [the] protected activity.”). *** Based on the foregoing analysis, it is ORDERED that this case is remanded to the District Court of Dale County, Alabama. 7 It is further ORDERED that all pending motions are left for resolution by the state court after remand. The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to take the steps necessary to effect remand to state court. This case is closed in this court. DONE, this the 25th day of June, 2015. /s/ Myron H. Thompson UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?