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CLANCY v. CONTRA COSTA COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE

United States District Court, Northern District of California


April 8, 2003

MICHAEL W. CLANCY, PLAINTIFFS(S),
v.
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, ET AL., DEFENDANT(S)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles R. Breyer, United States District Judge.

ORDER OF DISMISSAL

Plaintiff, a pre-trial detainee at the Contra Costa County Jail, has filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his court-appointed public defenders have provided him with ineffective assistance during his ongoing state criminal proceedings. He seeks dismissal of the state charges and damages.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

B. Legal Claims

The court must abstain and dismiss plaintiffs request for injunctive relief because it is well-settled that a federal court may not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings by granting injunctive or declaratory relief. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-54 (1971). There may be an exception to Younger abstention upon a showing of the state's bad faith or harassment, or a showing that the statute challenged is b"flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions," id. at 46 53-54; however, there is no such showing or indication here. Plaintiffs request for injunctive relief must be dismissed. See Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 348 (1977) (district court must dismiss action for declaratory or injunctive relief if it finds that Younger abstention is appropriate); Beltran v. California, 871 F.2d 777, 782 (9th Cir. 1988) (same).

Plaintiff's request for damages must be dismissed as well. Public defenders acting as attorneys for criminal defendants do not act under color of state law, an essential element of an action under § 1983. See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 317-25 (1981).

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, this action is DISMISSED under the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The clerk shall close the file.

SO ORDERED.

20030408

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