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ANDREWS v. SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

January 16, 2004.

KEVIN ANDREWS, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, CITY OF HAYWARD; JUDGE KURTZ; JUDGE NAKAHARA; MR. PICKNEY, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAXINE CHESNEY, District Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT; DENYING APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Before the Court is plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), where a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the district court must dismiss the case if the court determines that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), (iii).

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff brings the instant action against a state court, two state court judges, and a deputy public defender. Plaintiff alleges that in 1999, after he was convicted for violation of § 487(c) of the California Penal Code, "the sentence was suspended for a period of 3 years during which time plaintiff was placed under the care, custody and control of the Probation Officer of Alameda County," (see Compl. ¶¶ 19, 20), and he was ordered, as a Page 2 condition of probation, to pay restitution in the amount of $5,057, (see Compl. ¶ 21). Plaintiff alleges that defendants caused him to be deprived of his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as under state law, during the course of the criminal proceedings, which, according to plaintiff, are still on-going.*fn1 Specifically, plaintiff challenges the lawfulness, under both federal and state law, of the sentence. As relief, plaintiff seeks an award of damages from defendants, a declaration that defendants have violated his rights under federal and state law, and injunctive relief in the form of an order requiring the state court to refund to plaintiff any restitution and to terminate plaintiff's probation.

  DISCUSSION

  The Court will address plaintiff's claims, in turn.

 A. Federal Claims against Superior Court

  Plaintiff brings his federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A plaintiff cannot bring a claim under § 1983 against a state or an "arm of the state." See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989). The Superior Courts of the State of California are "arms of the state." See Simmons v. Sacramento County Superior Court, 318 F.3d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 2003) (affirming dismissal of § 1983 claim against superior court).

  Accordingly, plaintiff's federal claims against the Superior Court are subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim, without leave to amend.

 B. Federal Claims for Damages against Judges

  Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, claims for damages against two state court judges, Judges Kurtz and Nakahara. Plaintiff alleges that the judges made certain rulings that caused plaintiff to be deprived of his federal rights. A judge is entitled to absolute immunity on a claim for damages "`for acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction.'" See Harvey v. Waldron, 210 F.3d 1008, 1012 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-54 (1967)). Because the rulings on which plaintiff bases his claim against the Page 3 judges are acts committed within their jurisdiction, the judges are entitled to absolute immunity on plaintiffs claims for damages.

  Accordingly, plaintiff's federal claims for damages against Judges Kurtz and Nakahara are subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim, without leave to amend.

 
C. Federal Claims for Damages against Public Defender and for Declaratory Relief against Public Defender and Judges
  "[l]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254." Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). "A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983." Id. at 487. "Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated." Id. Additionally, the rule announced in Heck applies to claims for declaratory relief, where granting such relief would necessarily imply the invalidity of a conviction or sentence. See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 643, 648 (1997) (holding § 1983 claim for declaratory relief barred by Heck, where plaintiff sought declaration that defendants deprived plaintiff of due process during course of prison infraction hearing, which resulted in deprivation of good time credits).

  Here, plaintiff's claims for declaratory relief against the judges are based on the theory those defendants caused plaintiff to be subject to an unconstitutional sentence and otherwise caused plaintiff to be deprived of his federal rights during the course of the criminal proceedings. A finding that plaintiff is entitled to declaratory relief based on such a Page 4 theory would necessarily imply the invalidity of plaintiff's sentence. Consequently, plaintiff's federal claims for declaratory relief against the state court judges are barred under the rule announced in Heck. Additionally, plaintiff's claims for damages and for declaratory relief against Deputy Public Defender Pickney ("Pickney"), which claims are based on a theory of ineffective assistance of counsel, are barred. See Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa, 49 F.3d 583, 584-85 (9th Cir. 1995) (affirming dismissal of § 1983 claim against public defender for ineffective assistance of counsel; holding such claim necessarily implicated invalidity of conviction and thus was barred by Heck).

  Accordingly, plaintiff's federal claims for declaratory relief against Judges Kurtz and Nakahara, and plaintiff's federal claims for damages and for declaratory relief against Pickney will be dismissed, without prejudice to plaintiff refiling such claims in the event that plaintiff's sentence is reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by ...


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