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STINSON v. ALAMEDA COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER

United States District Court, N.D. California


April 29, 2004.

EDWARD STINSON, Plaintiff, V. ALAMEDA COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER, et al., Defendant

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

ORDER OF DISMISSAL

Plaintiff, a California prisoner, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Cliff Blakely ("Blakely"), a member of the Alameda County Public Defender's Office. He alleges that Blakely provided him with deficient representation at his criminal trial.

In a separate order, plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

  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. 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 attorney, a member of the Public Defender's Office, 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, e.g., entering pleas, making motions, objecting at trial, cross-examining witnesses, and making closing arguments. See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 318-19 (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 attorney did not gather and present certain favorable evidence at his trial. As the gathering and presentation of evidence at trial are two of the traditional functions of a lawyer, plaintiff's attorney, in allegedly failing to gather and present evidence, was not acting under color of state law. Consequently, plaintiff's claims against his defense attorney are not cognizable under § 1983.

  CONCLUSION

  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. [EDITORS' NOTE: "THIS PAGE CONTAINED CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE"] JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE

 

&UKC; 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.
&UKC; 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 plaintiff's complaint is hereby DISMISSED for failure to state a cognizable claim for relief.

20040429

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



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