Williams v. Stipek et al
Memorandum of Opinion and Order: This action is dismissed pursuant to §1915(e). The Court further certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge Patricia A. Gaughan on 1/9/17. (LC,S)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Patricia Stipek, et al.,
CASE NO. 1: 16 CV 2420
JUDGE PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN
Memorandum of Opinion and Order
Pro se plaintiff Vincent Williams, a detainee in the Cuyahoga County Jail (CCJ), has
filed this in forma pauperis action against Patricia Stipek, Stephen McGowan, Kevin Cafferkey,
Rufus Sims, and John P. Luskin, complaining about an on-going state criminal prosecution
against him in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. CR-15-596260. He
seeks “immediate removal” of his criminal case from state court, “production of evidentiary
items of jurisdictional value,” “federal charges against everyone involved,” and “just
compensation for malicious & unlawful prosecution of the accused.” (Complt., Prayer for
Plaintiff is being prosecuted in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas on three
counts of rape, one count of gross sexual imposition, one count of aggravated robbery and two
counts of kidnaping. The crime occurred June 2, 1995. A fingerprint in the victim’s car was
matched to Plaintiff. The victim’s medical records from the time of the rape were also
examined. Plaintiff was indicted on June 1, 2015. He was arrested in Georgia and brought to
the State of Ohio to stand trial. That criminal case is still pending.
Plaintiff has filed five cases in this United States District Court from September 30,
2016 to December 28, 2016 attempting to remove the criminal case to federal court, seeking
dismissal of the charges, and requesting monetary damages and injunctive relief.1 In this case,
he alleges Patricia Stipek, a Special Investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal
Investigations, asked him to discuss a cold case and to provide a DNA sample, both of which he
refused. Defendants McGowan, Cafferkey, Sims, and Luskin are all criminal defense attorneys
who represented him at some point during the course of the pending state criminal case and he
objects to aspects of their representation. Plaintiff does not readily identify any legal cause of
action he intends to assert against these Defendants. He asks this Court to remove his criminal
prosecution to federal court, and seeks compensation for malicious and unlawful prosecution,
and wrongful imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit recognizes a claim of malicious prosecution
arising under the Fourth Amendment, which encompasses wrongful investigation, prosecution,
conviction, and incarceration. Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308-310 (6th Cir. 2010). The
Court, therefore, will liberally construe Plaintiff’s Complaint to include a claim of malicious
prosecution under the Fourth Amendment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In addition to this case, Plaintiff filed two other civil actions, Williams v. Martin, No. 1:16
CV 2549 (N.D. Ohio filed Oct. 18, 2016); Williams v. Martin, No. 1:16 CV 2785 (N.D. Ohio filed
Nov. 16, 2016), and two Notices of Removal of his criminal case, State of Ohio v. Williams, No.
1:16 CV 2650 (N.D. Ohio filed Oct. 31, 2016); State of Ohio v. Williams, No. 1:16 CV 3082 (N.D.
Ohio filed Dec. 28, 2016).
Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364,
365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the Court is required to
dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of
Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law or fact
when it is premised on an indisputably meritless legal theory or when the factual contentions are
clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted when it lacks “plausibility in the Complaint.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009).
The factual allegations in the pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the
speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the Complaint are true. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. The Plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must
provide more than “an unadorned, the-Defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. A pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements
of a cause of action will not meet this pleading standard. Id. In reviewing a Complaint, the
Court must construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Bibbo v. Dean
Witter Reynolds, Inc., 151 F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998).
Plaintiff’s Complaint must be summarily dismissed. First, as this Court explained in a
prior case Plaintiff previously initiated in this Court, his state criminal case is not removable to
federal court. See State of Ohio v. Williams, Case No. 1: 16 CV 2650. Accordingly, to the
extent Plaintiff seeks removal of his case, his action is frivolous.
In addition, to the extent Plaintiff seeks other relief, the Court must abstain from
exercising jurisdiction. A federal court must decline to interfere with pending state proceedings
involving important state interests unless extraordinary circumstances are present. See Younger
v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44-45 (1971). When a person is the target of an ongoing state action
involving important state matters, he or she cannot interfere with the pending state action by
maintaining a parallel federal action involving claims that could have been raised in the state
case. Watts v. Burkhart, 854 F.2d 839, 844-48 (6th Cir. 1988). If the state Defendant files such
a case, Younger abstention requires the federal court to defer to the state proceeding. Id; see
also Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 15 (1987). Based on these principles, abstention
is appropriate if: (1) state proceedings are on-going; (2) the state proceedings implicate
important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise
federal questions. Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423,
432 (1982). Abstention is mandated whether the state court proceeding is criminal,
quasi-criminal, or civil in nature as long as federal court intervention “unduly interferes with the
legitimate activities of the state.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 44.
All three factors supporting abstention are present. The state court case is still pending
and state criminal matters are of paramount state interest. See Younger, 401 U.S. at 44-45. The
third requirement of Younger is that Plaintiff must have an opportunity to assert his federal
challenges in the state court proceeding. The pertinent inquiry is whether the state proceedings
afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal claims. Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 430
(1979). The burden at this point rests on the Plaintiff to demonstrate that state procedural law
bars presentation of his claims. Pennzoil Co., 481 U.S. at 14. When a Plaintiff has not
attempted to present his federal claims in the state court proceedings, the federal court should
assume that state procedures will afford an adequate remedy, in the absence of “unambiguous
authority to the contrary.” Pennzoil, 481 U.S. at 15. Here, there has been no showing that the
concerns raised by Plaintiff in this federal lawsuit are barred in the state action. The
requirements of Younger are satisfied and this Court must abstain from interfering in any
pending state court criminal action against the Plaintiff.
Generally, the Younger doctrine requires a federal court to stay an action for damages
during the pendency of a state action on the same matter. See Carroll v. City of Mount Clemens,
139 F.3d 1072, 1075 (6th Cir. 1998); see also Schrock v. Fredrick, No. 5:13 CV 2086, 2013 WL
5670976, at *5 (N.D. Ohio Oct. 16, 2013); Myers v. Franklin Cnty. Court of Common Pleas, 23
F. App’x 201, 206–07 (6th Cir. Aug.7, 2001). Plaintiff, however, failed to state a viable claim
for damages against any of the Defendants, and there would be no point in staying this case. It
must be dismissed. See Wheat v. Jessamine Journal Newspaper, No. 95-6426, 1996 WL
476435, at *1 (6th Cir. Aug. 20, 1996) (stating that it was proper for the district court to dismiss
Plaintiff's damages claims, rather than hold them in abeyance, when the Plaintiff failed to state a
valid claim for relief).
The only plausible claim that the Court can liberally construe from Plaintiff’s pleading
arises, if at all, under the Fourth Amendment. Because the Constitution does not directly
provide for damages, Plaintiff must proceed under one of the civil rights statutes which
authorizes an award of damages for alleged constitutional violations. Sanders v. Prentice-Hall
Corp. Sys, 178 F.3d 1296 (6th Cir. 1999). As no other statutory provision appears to present an
even arguably viable vehicle for the assertion of Plaintiff’s claims, the Court construes these
claims as arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
To establish a prima facie case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must assert that a
person acting under color of state law deprived him of rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981).
Generally to be considered to have acted “under color of state law,” the person must be a state
or local government official or employee. A public defender or a court-appointed defense
attorney, while acting in that capacity, is not a state actor for purposes of § 1983. Polk County
v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 321 (1981). Similarly, a privately retained attorney is not considered
a state actor under § 1983. Washington v. Brewer, No. 91-1935, 1991 WL 243591 (6th Cir.
Nov. 21, 1991). Consequently, Plaintiff cannot assert a civil rights claim under §1983 against
any of his criminal defense lawyers.
While Stipek arguably may be considered a state actor for purposes of a § 1983 action,
Plaintiff did not state a plausible claim for malicious prosecution against her. To succeed on a
malicious prosecution claim under § 1983 when the claim is premised on a violation of the
Fourth Amendment, Plaintiff must prove: (1) that a criminal prosecution was initiated against
him and that the Defendant “ma[d]e, influence [d], or participate[d] in the decision to
prosecute;” (2) there was a lack of probable cause for the criminal prosecution; (3) that, “as a
consequence of a legal proceeding,” Plaintiff suffered a “deprivation of liberty,” apart from the
initial seizure; and (4) the criminal proceedings were resolved in the Plaintiff’s favor. Sykes,
625 F.3d at 308. Plaintiff indicates Stipek is an investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal
Investigations. There is no suggestion in the Complaint that she made or participated in the
decision to prosecute the Plaintiff. Furthermore, the criminal proceedings against Plaintiff have
not been resolved in his favor. They are still pending. He has not stated a claim for malicious
prosecution against Stipek.
Finally, up to this point, the Courts in this District have been tolerant of Plaintiff’s pro se
filings; however, there comes a point when the Court can no longer allow Plaintiff to misuse the
judicial system at tax payer expense. The filing of frivolous lawsuits and motions strains an
already burdened federal judiciary. As the Supreme Court recognized: “Every paper filed with
the Clerk of ... Court, no matter how repetitious or frivolous, requires some portion of the
[Court’s] limited resources. A part of the Court’s responsibility is to see that these resources are
allocated in a way that promotes the interests of justice.” In re McDonald, 489 U.S. 180, 184,
(1989). This Court’s ability to perform its duties is compromised when it is forced to devote
limited resources to the processing of repetitious and frivolous filings. In re Sindram, 498 U.S.
177, 179-80 (1991).
Plaintiff is cautioned that further attempts to remove his criminal case from state court or
to file civil rights actions to contest or disrupt his state criminal proceedings may result in his
being enjoined from filing additional cases without first obtaining leave to proceed from this
For the reasons stated above, this action is dismissed pursuant to §1915(e). The Court
further certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not
be taken in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Patricia A. Gaughan
PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN
United States District Judge
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