United States District Court, Northern District of California
May 5, 2003
EDWARD DUANE FLOURNOY, PLAINTIFF,
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maxine M. Chesney, United States District Judge
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
Plaintiff, a California prisoner, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that members of the Contra Costa County Public Defender's Office have provided him with deficient representation. In a separate order, plaintiff is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
A. Standard of Review
A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).
B. Legal Claims
Plaintiff alleges that his defense attorneys, members of the Public Defender's Office, have provided him with deficient representation in his criminal trial. A public defender does not act under color of state law, an essential element of an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, when performing a lawyer's traditional functions, such as entering pleas, making motions, objecting at trial, cross-examining witnesses, and making closing arguments. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 3 18-19 (1981). Under Polk County, it is immaterial that the public defender failed to exercise independent judgment or that he was employed by a public agency; it is the nature and context of the function performed by the public defender that is determinative. See Miranda v. Clark County. Nevada, 319 F.3d 465, 468 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Here, plaintiff alleges that his attorneys disagree with plaintiff's legal research and his analysis of the law. As legal research and analysis are two of the traditional functions of a lawyer, plaintiff's attorneys, in declining to accept plaintiff's assessment of the case, are not acting under color of state law. Consequently, plaintiff's claims against his defense attorneys are not cognizable under § 1983.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's complaint is hereby DISMISSED for failure to state a cognizable claim for relief.
The clerk shall close the file and terminate all pending motions.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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