Tapp v. Painesville Municipal Court et al
Opinion & Order signed by Judge James S. Gwin on 8/28/17. The Court, for the reasons set forth in this order, dismisses plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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. (D,MA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
KATAWN OMDU TAPP,
COURT et al.,
CASE NO. 1:17-CV-904
OPINION & ORDER
JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:
Pro se Plaintiff Katawn Omdu Tapp has filed an informa pauperis civil rights prisoner
complaint in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Painesville Municipal Court,
the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, and a Public
Defender in the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office. (Doc. No. 1.)
He alleges civil rights violations in connection with a state criminal case against him.
He alleges his rights were violated during his probable cause hearing in the Painesville
Municipal Court, and that his counsel, a public defender, failed to properly represented him in
the criminal case, including by failing to properly raise speedy trial concerns. He seeks
compensatory and punitive damages, including “monetary compensation” and “to be
immediately released.” (Id. at 5.) For the reasons stated below, his complaint is dismissed.
Standard of Review and Analysis
When a plaintiff is proceeding without the assistance of counsel, a court is required to
construe his complaint indulgently and hold it to a less stringent standard than a formal pleading
drafted by a lawyer. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Hahn v. Star Bank, 190
F.3d 708, 715 (6th Cir. 1999). Nonetheless, even a pro se plaintiff must satisfy basic pleading
requirements. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989). Further, federal district courts
are expressly required, under 28 U.S.C. §1915A, to screen all actions in which “a prisoner seeks
redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity,” and to
dismiss before service any such action that the court determines is frivolous or malicious, fails
to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §1915A; Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 471 (6th Cir.
The plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed pursuant to § 1915A because, even liberally
construed, it fails to allege any plausible civil rights claim under § 1983.
First, his complaint fails to state a cognizable claim under § 1983 to the extent he seeks
immediate release from prison. The Supreme Court has clearly held that “[w]hen a state
prisoner challenges the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, . . . his sole federal
remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973).
Second, because he asserts rights violations that would call into question the validity of
the state criminal proceeding against him, he may not assert a claim for damages under § 1983
absent allegations that the state criminal proceeding terminated in his favor, or that a conviction
stemming from the rights violations he asserts, was reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or called into question by a federal court’s
issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). See also
Adams v. Morris, 90 F. App'x 856, 858 (6th Cir. 2004); Gorenc v. City of Westland, 72 F. App’x
336, 339 (6th Cir. 2003) (holding that Heck applies to pretrial detainees and in pre-conviction
Because the plaintiff’s complaint does not set forth the allegations required under Heck,
the plaintiff has failed to allege any cognizable damages claim.
Finally, the public defender appointed to represent the plaintiff in his criminal case
cannot be sued under § 1983. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981) (“[A] public
defender does not act under color of state law when performing a lawyer’s traditional functions
as counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding.”).
For all the foregoing reasons, the plaintiff’s complaint is dismissed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A. 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.
Dated: August 28, 2017
James S. Gwin
JAMES S. GWIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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