Nixon v. Lohan
Memorandum of Opinion and Order For the reasons set forth herein, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge Benita Y. Pearson on 4/20/2017. (JLG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
DAVID A. NIXON,
ANGELA F. LOHAN,
CASE NO. 5:16CV3031
JUDGE BENITA Y. PEARSON
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND
Pro se Plaintiff David A. Nixon filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Portage
County Prosecutor Angela F. Lohan. Plaintiff alleges Defendant improperly refused to remove
herself as the prosecutor in his criminal case after he filed a civil action against her. ECF No. 1
at PageID #: 3. He asks the Court to issue an order barring Lohan from acting as the prosecutor
in any action in which the Plaintiff is a criminal defendant, and seeks monetary relief for the time
he spent in jail. Id. at PageID #: 5.
In 2015, Plaintiff was charged with and indicted on three separate domestic violence
criminal cases in the Portage County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas. Id. at PageID #: 3. While
the criminal cases were pending, Plaintiff filed a civil action against Defendant alleging
negligence and misconduct. Id. He also filed motions in his criminal actions, asking that
Defendant be removed as the prosecutor in his cases due to a conflict of interest. Id. The judges
denied the motions and Defendant declined to step down as the prosecutor. Id. Plaintiff then
filed this federal suit, claiming Defendant failed to insist on a hearing on the temporary
protection orders granted in the criminal cases; failed to follow laws governing insanity pleas;
and obtained discontinuation of his telephone privileges in jail. Id. at PageID #: 4. Plaintiff
indicates he is filing this action “for multiple constitutional, civil and statutory right [sic]
violations” committed by Defendant. Id.
II. Standard for Dismissal
Although federal courts are obligated to construe pro se complaints liberally, see
Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011), principles requiring generous construction
of pro se pleadings are not without limits. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278
(4th Cir. 1985); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F. App’x 506, 509–10 (6th Cir. 2011). Under
28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, federal district courts are expressly required to screen all
in forma pauperis actions and prisoner actions seeking redress from governmental defendants,
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 Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470–71 (6th Cir. 2010).
To avoid a dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must set forth “sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (holding
that the dismissal standard articulated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under §§
1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint may also be dismissed 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). The action has no arguable basis in law if a defendant is immune
from suit or if a plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
III. Law and Analysis
Plaintiff sues the prosecutor in his criminal cases and asks the Court to remove her from
all current and future criminal prosecutions. He also requests that Defendant be ordered to pay
monetary damages for his incarceration. The Court cannot grant either request.
Under the doctrine of issue preclusion, a court cannot reconsider a matter that “was
determined by a court of competent jurisdiction in a previous action between the same parties or
their privies,” even if the causes of action differ. Grava v. Parkman Twp., 73 Ohio St. 3d 379,
382 (1995). Otherwise put, when an issue has already been decided by a state court, a litigant
cannot ask the federal court to relitigate that issue in hopes of obtaining a different result. 28
U.S.C. § 1738; Abbott v. Michigan, 474 F.3d 324, 330 (6th Cir. 2007); Young v. Twp. of Green
Oak, 471 F.3d 674, 680 (6th Cir. 2006). Moreover, federal courts must give full faith and credit
to state court decisions.
In this case, the judges in Plaintiff’s criminal cases already considered the issue of
Defendant’s purported conflict of interest and denied Plaintiff’s motions to have her removed as
the prosecutor. Accordingly, Plaintiff is barred from relitigating his conflict of interest claims in
Furthermore, Plaintiff cannot bring suit against Defendant. Prosecutors acting within the
scope of their duties in initiating a criminal prosecution and presenting the States’s case are
entitled to absolute immunity from civil suits for damages. Pusey v. Youngstown, 11 F.3d 652,
658 (6th Cir. 1993); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976). Prosecutors are afforded
this immunity because they must exercise professional judgment in deciding which suits to bring
and how to conduct them in court. Skinner v. Govorchin, 463 F.3d 518, 525 (6th Cir. 2006).
This duty could not be impartially performed if prosecutors were subject to personal liability in a
suit for damages. Id. (citing Imbler, 424 U.S. at 424–25). Moreover, these suits could be
expected with some frequency, for a defendant “often will transform his resentment at being
prosecuted into the ascription of improper and malicious actions to the State’s advocate.” Id.;
see also Spurlock v. Thompson, 330 F.3d 791, 798 (6th Cir. 2003). This immunity extends
beyond the criminal process to civil proceedings in which a government attorney is operating in
an enforcement role by “undertak[ing] the defense of a civil suit.” Al-Bari v. Winn, No. 89-5150,
1990 WL 94229, at *1 (6th Cir. July 9, 1990).
All of allegations against Defendant describe actions she took in the course of
representing the State in the criminal actions against Plaintiff. Plaintiff named Defendant in a
civil suit, creating a situation that he believed would present a conflict of interest. The judges in
his cases did not see merit in this maneuver, and Defendant refused to withdraw as prosecutor.
Plaintiff also contends that Defendant did not insist on a hearing for the temporary protection
order, did not follow the laws governing insanity defenses, and sought termination of his
telephone privileges in the jail. All of these actions are taken as the State’s advocate. Defendant
is absolutely immune from damages.
For the foregoing reasons, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The
Court 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.
April 20, 2017
/s/ Benita Y. Pearson
Benita Y. Pearson
United States District Judge
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