Lockhart v. Sherrer

Filing 10

ORDER DISMISSING CASE. Signed by Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero on 7/27/17. (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/27/2017)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 MICHAEL ANTHONY LOCKHART, Plaintiff, Case No. 17-cv-03668-JCS (PR) 8 v. ORDER OF DISMISSAL 9 10 GARY L. SHERRER, Defendant. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 INTRODUCTION 13 Plaintiff, who consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 7), alleges in this 14 15 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action that his defense attorney and the trial judge are conspiring to 16 deprive him of his constitutional rights to a fair trial. He asks this Court to remove his 17 “lawyer from the case” and transfer his proceedings to a district in which his rights will be 18 respected. 19 Plaintiff asks this Court to interfere in ongoing state proceedings. Because 20 precedent commands otherwise, this Court must deny plaintiff‟s request and dismiss his 21 suit. DISCUSSION 22 23 A. Standard of Review 24 In its initial review of this pro se complaint, this Court must dismiss any claim that 25 is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks 26 monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. 27 § 1915(e). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police 28 Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). A “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to „state a 1 2 claim to relief that is plausible on its face.‟” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) 3 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial 4 plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the 5 reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting 6 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Furthermore, a court “is not required to accept legal 7 conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably 8 be drawn from the facts alleged.” Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754–55 9 (9th Cir. 1994). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was 12 violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the 13 color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 14 B. 15 Legal Claims Plaintiff alleges his attorney is conspiring with the trial court “to have a hearing for 16 public safety, but they are really go[ing] to have a bench trial, violating my right to a jury 17 trial.” (Compl. at 3.) From these allegations, the Court infers that plaintiff is facing 18 ongoing criminal proceedings in state court. 19 There are at least two reasons to dismiss this suit. 20 First, his claims for injunctive relief, the only relief he seeks, cannot proceed. 21 Under principles of comity and federalism, a federal court should not interfere with 22 ongoing state criminal proceedings by granting injunctive or declaratory relief absent 23 extraordinary circumstances. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-54 (1971). More 24 specifically, federal courts should not enjoin pending state criminal prosecutions absent a 25 showing of the state‟s bad faith or harassment, or a showing that the statute challenged is 26 “flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions.” Id. at 46, 53-54. 27 Younger abstention is required when (1) state proceedings, judicial in nature, are pending; 28 (2) the state proceedings involve important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings 2 1 afford adequate opportunity to raise the constitutional issue. See Middlesex County Ethics 2 Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). 3 Injunctive relief is available only upon “showing irreparable injury.” Younger, 401 4 U.S. at 46. However, “[c]ertain types of injury, in particular, the cost, anxiety, and 5 inconvenience of having to defend against a single criminal prosecution, could not by 6 themselves be considered „irreparable‟ in the special legal sense of that term. Instead, the 7 threat to the plaintiff‟s federally protected rights must be one that cannot be eliminated by 8 his defense against a single criminal prosecution.” Id. Abstention is appropriate here because all of the elements of Younger are present. 10 As to the first Younger element, the record shows that plaintiff‟s state court proceedings 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 are ongoing. As to the second Younger element, the Supreme Court has held that “a proper 12 respect for state functions,” such as the ongoing criminal proceedings we see here, is an 13 important issue of state interest. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 491-92 (1973) 14 (quoting Younger, 401 U.S. at 44). As to the third prong of Younger, the Court finds no 15 reason that plaintiff cannot pursue his claims in state court, such as by filing a motion to 16 change counsel, or a motion to proceed pro se. 17 Furthermore, any interference by this Court in the state court proceedings would 18 cause results disapproved of by Younger. SJSVCCPAC v. City of San Jose, 546 F.3d 19 1087, 1092 (9th Cir. 2008). 20 A second reason to dismiss the suit is that the sole defendant in this action, 21 plaintiff‟s attorney, is not subject to suit under section 1983. His attorney, whether he is a 22 private attorney or a public defender, are not liable under section 1983 because he is not a 23 state actors. Private actors are not liable under section 1983, which provides a means to 24 seek relief against state actors. See Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). A state- 25 appointed defense attorney “does not qualify as a state actor when engaged in his general 26 representation of a criminal defendant.” Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 321 27 (1981). Polk County “noted, without deciding, that a public defender may act under color 28 of state law while performing certain administrative [such as making hiring and firing 3 1 decisions], and possibly investigative, functions.” Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 54 2 (1992) (citing Polk County, 454 U.S. at 325.) Under these standards, plaintiff‟s allegations 3 categorically fail to state claims for relief under section 1983. 4 Accordingly, plaintiff‟s claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. 5 If plaintiff believes he can state claims for relief despite the barriers to suit 6 described above, or if he believes he can overcome these barriers, he may file an amended 7 complaint. The amended complaint must include the caption and civil case number used 8 in this order (17-03668 JCS (PR)) and the words FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT on the 9 first page. Because an amended complaint completely replaces the previous complaints, plaintiff must include in his amended complaint all the claims he wishes to present and all 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 of the defendants he wishes to sue. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 12 1992). Any claims not raised in the amended complaint will be deemed waived. Plaintiff 13 may not incorporate material from the prior complaint by reference. CONCLUSION 14 15 16 17 18 This federal civil rights action is DISMISSED without prejudice. The Clerk shall enter judgment in favor of defendant, and close the file. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 27, 2017 _________________________ JOSEPH C. SPERO Chief Magistrate Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 MICHAEL ANTHONY LOCKHART, Case No. 17-cv-03668-JCS Plaintiff, 8 v. CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE 9 10 GARY L. SHERRER, Defendant. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. That on July 27, 2017, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by depositing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery receptacle located in the Clerk's office. 16 17 18 Michael Anthony Lockhart ID: ALU-772 Glenn Dyer Detention Facility 550 6th Street Oakland, CA 94607 19 20 21 Dated: July 27, 2017 22 23 Susan Y. Soong Clerk, United States District Court 24 25 26 By:________________________ Karen Hom, Deputy Clerk to the Honorable JOSEPH C. SPERO 27 28 5

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