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PETERSON v. CONTRA COSTA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT

United States District Court, N.D. California


March 2, 2004.

RICHARD HARRY PETERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, et al., Defendants

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

ORDER OF DISMISSAL; DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee in Contra Costa County ("County") Jail, filed this pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is currently facing criminal charges. He brings claims against various State and County officials, including Superior Court judges, the prosecutor, and the Sheriff, as well as his appointed defense attorney, for their alleged violation of his constitutional rights in the course of his current prosecution.

DISCUSSION

 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. Id. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be Page 2 liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

  To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential 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 Claim

  Plaintiff claims that defendants are violating his constitutional rights to reasonable bail, to notice of his charges, to a speedy trial, to conflict-free representation by counsel, and to be free from prosecutorial misconduct, and that the state courts have no jurisdiction over him. If this Court addresses plaintiff's claims that defendants are violating his constitutional rights, it would interfere with plaintiff's ongoing criminal case.

  Under principles of comity and federalism, a federal court should not interfere with ongoing State criminal proceedings by granting injunctive or declaratory relief absent extraordinary circumstances. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-54 (1971); Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 68-74 (1971); Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 83-85 (1971). Younger abstention is required when: (1) state proceedings, judicial in nature, are pending; (2) the state proceedings involve important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford adequate opportunity to raise the constitutional issue. See Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982); Dubinka v. Judges of the Superior Court, 23 F.3d 218, 223 (9th Cir. 1994). All three elements of Younger must be present in order for abstention to be appropriate. See Agriesti v. MGM Grand Hotels, Inc., 53 F.3d 1000, 1001 (9th Cir. 1995).

  In the instant case, State proceedings, judicial in nature, are pending. The State proceedings involve the enforcement of State criminal laws, an important state interest. Plaintiff will be afforded an adequate opportunity to raise his constitutional claims in his criminal trial and on appeal in the California courts.

  Accordingly, this Court finds abstention proper, pending completion of the State Page 3 criminal proceedings. Where a district court finds Younger abstention appropriate as to a request for declaratory or injunctive relief, the court may not retain jurisdiction and should dismiss the action. See Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 348 (1977); Beltran v. California, 871 F.2d 777, 782 (9th Cir. 1988).

  CONCLUSION

  Accordingly, the above-titled action is hereby DISMISSED, without prejudice to refiling after the pending State criminal proceedings are completed. In light of the dismissal, defendants' motions to dismiss and plaintiff's request for default judgment are hereby DENIED as moot.

  This order terminates docket numbers 5, 7, 9, 13 and any other pending motions.

  The Clerk shall close the file.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.

  JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE

  [ ] Jury Verdict. This action came before the Court for a trial by jury. The issues have been tried and the jury has rendered its verdict.

  [X] Decision by Court. This action came to trial or hearing before the Court. The issues have been tried or heard and a decision has been rendered.

  IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED the above-titled action is hereby DISMISSED, without prejudice to refiling after the pending State criminal proceedings are completed. In light of the dismissal, defendants' mtoions to dismiss and plaintiff's request for default judgment are hereby DENIED as moot.

20040302

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