Chavez v. Wong et al
DISMISSAL ORDER re 1 - Signed by JUDGE DERRICK K. WATSON on 11/15/2017. "This action is DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to the doctrine set forth in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). The Clerk of Court is DIREC TED to close the file and terminate this action." (emt, )CERTIFICATE OF SERVICEParticipants registered to receive electronic notifications received this document electronically at the e-mail address listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). Leonardo R. Chavez shall be served by first class mail to the address of record on November 16, 2017.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
LEONARDO R. CHAVEZ,
PAUL B.K. WONG, THALIA
MURPHY, JOHN SCHUM, and
MEGAN K. KAU,
CIV. NO. 17-00550 DKW-KJM
Before the court is Plaintiff Leonardo R. Chavez’s prisoner civil rights
complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1. Chavez alleges that
the Honorable Paul B.K. Wong, Judge of the First Circuit Court, State of Hawaii
(“circuit court”), Deputy Prosecuting Attorney (“DPA”) Thalia Murphy, and
Chavez’s criminal defense attorneys John Schum, Esq., and Megan K. Kau, Esq.,
(collectively, “Defendants”), violated his constitutional rights during pending
criminal proceedings in the state circuit court.1 Chavez seeks dismissal of his
criminal proceedings with prejudice, or in the alternative, “remand” of these
Chavez is awaiting trial for Murder in the Second Degree and Carrying or Use of a
Firearm in the Commission of a Separate Felony. See State v. Chavez, 1PC141000360 (Haw. 1st
Cir. Ct. 2014), https://jimspss1.courts.state.hi.us/JEFS. He is proceeding in forma pauperis.
criminal proceedings to the District of Hawaii for jury trial and consolidation with
his pending civil action, Chavez v. United States, No. 1:16-cv-00685 HG-KJM (D.
Chavez’s Complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to the
doctrine set forth in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Because amendment
is futile, this dismissal is without leave to amend.
I. CHAVEZ’S CLAIMS
Chavez sets forth four causes of action. In Count I, Chavez alleges that
Judge Wong violated the First and Sixth Amendments and the Hawaii constitution
by denying his motion to subpoena his “military Chain of Command” at a pretrial
hearing held in the circuit court on July 21, 2017. Chavez alleges Schum and Kau
violated his rights by refusing to pursue this motion. See Compl., ECF No. 1,
PageID # (Count I).
In Count II, Chavez alleges Judge Wong violated his rights under the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Hawaii constitution by making a
“misleading and false statement during pretrial hearings . . . and denying [him]
equal protection of the LAW.” Id., PageID #9. Chavez alleges that Judge Wong,
Chavez directs his request for relief to the State of Hawaii, rather than to this Court. The
Court liberally construes this as seeking relief from the federal court, however, even if such
relief is unavailable.
DPA Murphy, Schum, and Kau violated his rights by their intent to allow Chavez’s
expert witness, Dr. Marvin Acklin, to testify at trial on Chavez’s behalf, despite
their knowledge that DPA Murphy is or was involved in the prosecution of Dr.
In Count III, Chavez alleges “the State of Hawaii” violated Art. III, § 2, of
the United States Constitution and the Hawaii constitution when Judge Wong
allegedly told him that granting Chavez’s request to terminate counsel might result
in Chavez being forced to proceed without counsel and a delay in the trial.4 Id.,
PageID #11. Chavez alleges Judge Wong has a personal bias or prejudice against
In Count IV, Chavez alleges Judge Wong violated Art. VI of the United
States Constitution by “deliberately mishandling [his] case, allowing false
statements to be presented before the court on the record, and violating [his] civil
rights” under the United States and Hawaii Constitutions. Id., PageID #13.
Trial in State v. Chavez, 1PC141000360, is scheduled for the week of March 5, 2018.
See id., https://jimspss1.courts.state.hi.us/JEFS.
Wong granted Chavez’s motion to dismiss Kau, his third appointed attorney, and
appointed Salina K. Althof, Esq., to represent Chavez. Chavez then agreed to a six-month
extension of the trial date. See 1PC141000360, https://jimspss1.courts.state.hi.us/JEFS, dkt.
notes 08/02/2017 and 9/11/2017.
II. STATUTORY SCREENING
The court must conduct a pre-answer, sua sponte screening of prisoners’
pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Claims that are
frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek damages from defendants who are
immune from suit must be dismissed. See Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002,
1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d
1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)).
“The standard for determining whether a plaintiff has failed to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as the
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standard for failure to state a claim.”
Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012) (discussing dismissal
under § 1915(e)(2)); see also Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir.
2012) (discussing dismissal under § 1915A(a)). Rule 12(b)(6) requires that a
complaint “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal quotation marks omitted); Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1121.
Pro se litigants’ pleadings must be liberally construed and all doubts should
be resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010)
(citations omitted). Leave to amend must be granted if it appears the plaintiff can
correct the defects in the complaint. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir.
2000) (en banc). If the complaint cannot be saved by amendment, dismissal
without leave to amend is appropriate. Sylvia Landfield Trust v. City of L.A., 729
F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).
Federal courts may not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings
absent extraordinary circumstances. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45-46 (1971);
see also, Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423,
431 (1982) (stating Younger “espouse[d] a strong federal policy against
federal-court interference with pending state judicial proceedings.”). Abstention
under Younger is required when “(1) a state-initiated proceeding is ongoing; (2) the
proceeding implicates important state interests; (3) the federal plaintiff is not
barred from litigating federal constitutional issues in the state proceeding; and (4)
the federal court action would enjoin the proceeding or have the practical effect of
doing so, i.e., would interfere with the state proceeding in a way that Younger
disapproves.” San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Political Action
Comm. v. City of San Jose, 546 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Sprint
Commc’ns v. Jacobs, 134 S. Ct. 584, 591 (2013); ReadyLink Healthcare, Inc. v.
State Comp. Ins. Fund., 754 F.3d 754, 759 (9th Cir. 2014).
If these threshold elements are met, the court must determine whether the
federal action would have the practical effect of enjoining the state proceedings, in
which case abstention is appropriate (unless a recognized exception to the
abstention doctrine applies). See id. If a claim for declaratory or injunctive relief
is raised, the federal court should abstain and dismiss without prejudice.
ReadyLink Healthcare, Inc., 754 F.3d at 759. “The doctrine of abstention involves
a decision by a federal court to decline to exercise jurisdiction over the underlying
claims for reasons of comity.” Washington v. Los Angeles Cty. Sheriff’s Dep’t,
833 F.3d 1048, 1058 (9th Cir. 2016). A dismissal on jurisdictional grounds
curtails an examination of the merits. Id. (citing Moore v. Maricopa Cty. Sheriff’s
Office, 657 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2011)).
Chavez is subject to ongoing state criminal proceedings in which he is
represented by counsel. These proceedings clearly implicate important state
interests: the protection of the public and enforcing Hawaii’s criminal statutes.
Chavez’s attorney may raise any constitutional issues relating to Defendants’
alleged improper or illegal conduct in the state court. Most importantly, Chavez
asks this Court to terminate the ongoing state criminal proceedings with prejudice
as a result of the claimed injustices that he has suffered. Because each of the
Younger factors is present, abstention is the appropriate result.
This action is DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to the doctrine set
forth in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED
to close the file and terminate this action.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: November 15, 2017 at Honolulu, Hawaii.
/s/ Derrick K. Watson
Derrick K. Watson
United States District Judge
Leonardo R. Chavez v. Paul B. K. Wong; Civil No. 17-00550 DKW-KJM;
Chavez v. Wong, No. 1:17-cv-00550 DKW-KJM; DISMISSAL ORDER; psa scrng ‘17 Chavez 17-550 dkw (Younger
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