United States District Court, N.D. California
March 2, 2004.
RICHARD HARRY PETERSON, Plaintiff,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
[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
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
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