Angelo v. Clerk of District Court Madison County
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 5 in full. Any appeal of this decision would not be taken in good faith. Signed by Judge Brian Morris on 9/20/2017. Mailed to Burchill (TAG)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
GREAT FALLS DIVISION
DUANE ANGELO BURCHILL,
CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT,
ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE
JUDGE’S FINDINGS AND
Plaintiff Duane Angelo Burchill, an inmate proceeding in forma pauperis
and without counsel, filed a Complaint (Doc. 2) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that Defendant Karen J. Miller, Clerk of the Montana Fifth Judicial
District Court, Madison County, deprived him of his constitutional right to conduct
his own defense in criminal proceedings against him. (Doc. 2 at 3-4.) United States
Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch issued Findings and Recommendations in this
matter. (Doc. 5.) Judge Lynch recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiff’s
complaint in accordance with the Younger abstention doctrine. (Doc. 5 at 2, 4.)
No party has filed objections. The Court has reviewed Judge Lynch’s
Findings and Recommendations for clear error. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981). The Court
finds no error in Judge Lynch’s Findings and Recommendations, and adopts them
Plaintiff Burchill is a defendant in a pending criminal case in the Montana
Fifth Judicial District Court, Madison County. (Docs. 2 at 2; 5 at 3 fn. 2.) Counsel
was appointed to assist in his defense. (Doc. 2 at 3.) Burchill attempted to file
several motions pro se. (Doc. 2 at 3.) Defendant Miller informed Burchill that the
court could not accept any pro se filings unless Burchill filed a waiver of counsel.
(Doc. 2 at 3.) Burchill apparently did not file such waiver at the time, however the
trial court ultimately granted Burchill’s request to continue pro se. (Doc. 5 at 2, 4.)
Burchill contends that Defendant Miller’s actions constitute a violation of
his constitutional right to self representation. (Doc. 2 at 4.)
Burchill’s claims concern and challenge pending state court criminal
proceedings. The Supreme Court’s decision in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971) directs federal courts to abstain from granting injunctive or declaratory
relief that would interfere with pending state judicial proceedings. Id. at 40-41. A
federal court must abstain under Younger if the following four requirements are
met: (1) a state initiated proceeding is ongoing; (2) the state judicial 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 state proceeding or have the practical effect of doing
so. Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 978 (9th Cir. 2004).
All elements of Younger abstention are established in this case. First, there
exists an ongoing criminal action against Burchill in state court. Second, the
criminal proceeding implicates important state interests. The State of Montana has
a significant state interest in prosecuting conduct that constitutes a criminal offense
under Montana law. Third, Burchill will have an adequate opportunity to litigate
federal constitutional issues in the state court proceeding. Fourth, any decision by
this Court as to whether Burchill’s sixth amendment rights were violated by Clerk
Miller, especially given that Burchill is now proceeding pro se, would unduly
interfere with the state criminal proceeding. This Court must therefore abstain from
adjudicating Burchill’s claims for injunctive relief.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:
Judge Lynch’s Findings and Recommendations (Doc. 5) is
ADOPTED IN FULL.
Defendant’s complaint (Doc. 2) is DISMISSED.
The Clerk of Court is directed to close this matter and enter judgment
pursuant to Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Clerk of Court is further directed to have the docket reflect that
the Court certifies pursuant to Rule 24(a)(3)(A) of the Federal Rules
of Appellate Procedure that any appeal of this decision would not be
taken in good faith. The record makes plain the Court should abstain
from exercising jurisdiction over the subject matter of Burchill’s
DATED this 20th day of September, 2017.
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