Debenedetto v. Dept of Human Services Interstate Compact Coordinator
OPINION ; signed by Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker (Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker, ymc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:17-cv-1110
Honorable Robert J. Jonker
DEPT OF HUMAN SERVICES
This is a civil rights action brought by a federal civil detainee under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1361. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996)
(PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the
complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff’s pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff’s allegations as true, unless they are clearly
irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these
standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint against Defendant as frivolous.
Plaintiff Gary Debenedetto is incarcerated at the Rochester Medical Center in
Rochester, Minnesota. Plaintiff was arrested in the Eastern District of Michigan on a federal arrest
warrant issued in the Northern District of Illinois, which was based on an indictment on five counts
of violating Interstate Communications - Threats, 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). See United States v. Gary
Debenedetto, No. 2:12-cv-mj-30240 (E.D. Mich.) (ECF No. 1, PageID.1-8.) The government
moved to transfer Plaintiff to the Northern District of Illinois, which the court granted on April 26,
2012. (No. 2:12-mj-30240, PageID.14-15.)
Thereafter, in the Northern District of Illinois, criminal proceedings were initiated.
See United States v. Debenedetto, No. 1:12-cr-199-1 (N.D. Ill.). However, after numerous
ineffective efforts to establish Plaintiff’s competency to stand trial, court determined that Plaintiff
was both incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to be found competent in the future, under 18
U.S.C. § 4241, and it therefore committed Plaintiff to the custody of the Attorney General for an
expedited evaluation under 18 U.S.C. § 4246. (1:12-cr-199-1, ECF No. 115, PageID.440.)
Following that evaluation at a federal facility in North Carolina, on November 6, 2014, the Eastern
District of North Carolina found Plaintiff to be “suffering from a mental disease or defect as the
result of which his release would create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or
serious damage to the property of another.” (Id., ECF No. 121, PageID.454.) Plaintiff therefore
was involuntarily committed to the custody of the Attorney General for placement in a mental
institution under 18 U.S.C. § 4246. (Id.) He is presently detained at the Rochester Federal Medical
Plaintiff contends that he is a Michigan resident and entitled to equal protection and
due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. He asserts that, under 18 U.S.C. § 4246(d), a
federal court can involuntarily commit someone, but it must commit them at a facility in their own
state. (Pet. for Mandamus, ECF No. 1, PageID.1.) He alleges that the Attorney General notified
Defendant Michigan Department of Human Services Interstate Compact Coordinator to take
custody of Plaintiff. However, Defendant refused to accept custody of Plaintiff. (Id.)
Plaintiff seeks a writ of mandamus directing Defendant to take custody of Plaintiff
and place him in a state mental hospital.
Title 28 U.S.C. § 1361 confers authority over mandamus actions to compel action
by federal, not state, officials or employees. Federal courts have no authority to issue writs of
mandamus to direct state officials to conform their conduct to either state or federal law. Pennhurst
State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984); Haggard v. Tennessee, 421 F.2d 1384
(6th Cir. 1970). Defendant is a state official. Therefore, the Court may not grant Petitioner relief
under 28 U.S.C. § 1361.
An action may be dismissed as frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law
or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196,
1198 (6th Cir.1990). Because Plaintiff’s request for a writ of mandamus lacks an arguable basis
in law, it will be dismissed with prejudice as frivolous. See Seyka v. Corrigan, 46 F. App’x 260,
261 (6th Cir. 2002) (dismissing as meritless prisoner’s request for mandamus relief in civil rights
case); Topsidis v. State, No. 97-3283, 1997 WL 778106, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 11, 1997) (affirming
dismissal of mandamus action challenging state conviction); Sparks v. Doe, No. 85-3463, 1985
WL 14132, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 13, 1985) (affirming district court’s dismissal of state prisoner’s
mandamus action as frivolous); Haggard v. Tenn., 421 F.2d 1384, 1386 (6th Cir. 1970) (affirming
dismissal of mandamus action because “federal courts have no authority to issue writs of
mandamus to direct state courts or their judicial officers in the performance of their duties”);
Santee v. Quinlan, 115 F.3d 355, 357 (5th Cir. 1997) (same).
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the
Court determines that the case will be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b),
because it is frivolous.
The Court must next decide whether an appeal of this action would be in good faith
within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 611
(6th Cir. 1997). For the same reasons that the Court dismisses the action, the Court discerns no
good-faith basis for an appeal. Should Plaintiff appeal this decision, the Court will assess the
$505.00 appellate filing fee pursuant to § 1915(b)(1), see McGore, 114 F.3d at 610-11, unless
Plaintiff is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis, e.g., by the “three-strikes” rule of § 1915(g).
If he is barred, he will be required to pay the $505.00 appellate filing fee in one lump sum.
This is a dismissal as described by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
A Judgment consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
February 13, 2018
/s/ Robert J. Jonker
ROBERT J. JONKER
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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