VanBladel v. Sonoma County District Attorney et al

Filing 8

ORDER OF DISMISSAL. Signed by Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James on 1/5/2016. (rmm2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/5/2016)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 8 RODEO RONALD VAN BLADEL, Plaintiff, 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California ORDER OF DISMISSAL v. 10 11 No. C 15-4407 MEJ (PR) SONOMA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, et al., Defendants. 12 / 13 INTRODUCTION 14 Plaintiff, a state prisoner incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison (“SQSP”), has filed 15 16 a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages and injunctive 17 relief for alleged constitutional violations that resulted in his criminal conviction in Sonoma 18 County Superior Court. Plaintiff has filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which is 19 granted in a separate order. DISCUSSION 20 21 22 I. Standard of Review A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner 23 seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 24 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss 25 any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be 26 granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. 27 § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica 28 Police Dep’t., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential 1 2 elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was 3 violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color 4 of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 5 II. 6 Plaintiff’s Claims Plaintiff alleges that defendant Office of the Sonoma County District Attorney 7 violated his constitutional rights by engaging in various forms of prosecutorial misconduct 8 relating to his state court criminal proceedings, including failing to disclose exculpatory 9 evidence and failing to disclose promises made to prosecution witnesses in return for their United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 testimony. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department engaged in 11 various forms of improper investigation including failure to preserve evidence. Plaintiff 12 alleges that defendant Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gayle Guynup engaged in 13 judicial misconduct by failing to recuse herself from plaintiff’s case. Finally, plaintiff alleges 14 that his court-appointed defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance throughout his 15 criminal proceedings. 16 Plaintiff’s claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). The 17 United States Supreme Court has held that to recover damages in a suit under § 1983 for an 18 allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions 19 whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a plaintiff must prove that 20 the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, 21 declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into 22 question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Id. A claim for damages 23 arising from a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under 24 § 1983. Id. 25 If plaintiff’s claims that defendants violated his constitutional rights during state 26 criminal proceedings are proven true, this would imply the invalidity of his conviction. 27 Because plaintiff is presently an inmate at SQSP, it is clear the conviction has yet to be 28 invalidated. Until then, the claims are barred by Heck. 2 1 A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is the exclusive method by which a person may 2 challenge in this court the fact or duration of his confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 3 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). Before he may file a federal petition, however, plaintiff must exhaust 4 state judicial remedies, either on direct appeal or through collateral proceedings, by 5 presenting the highest state court available with a fair opportunity to rule on the merits of 6 each and every issue he seeks to raise in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A),(c); 7 Duckworth v. Serrano, 454 U.S. 1, 3 (1981). 8 CONCLUSION 9 For the foregoing reasons, this action is DISMISSED. This dismissal is without United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 prejudice to plaintiff filing a new action if his criminal conviction is set aside. The Clerk 11 shall enter judgment and close the file. 12 IT IS SO ORDERED. 13 14 DATED: January 5, 2016 15 Maria-Elena James United States Magistrate Judge 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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