United States District Court, N.D. California
May 5, 2004.
RICHARD HARRY PETERSON, Plaintiff,
JAMES K. ANDRUS; MAURICE MOYAL, 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 in state court. He brings
claims against the district attorney and the private attorney appointed
to represent him for their alleged violation of his constitutional rights
in the course of his current criminal 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 be free from prosecutorial misconduct and to the effective
assistance of counsel. If this Court proceeds to address plaintiff's
claims that defendants are violating his constitutional rights, such
action 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 have 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 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
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' two motions to dismiss
and plaintiff's request for default judgment*fn1 are hereby DENIED as
This order terminates docket numbers 5 and 13, and any other pending
The Clerk shall close the file.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
? Jury Verdict. This action come before the Court for a trial by jury.
The issues have been tried and the jury has rendered its verdict.
? 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 dismissalm, defendants' two
motion to dismiss and plaintiff's request for default judgement are
hereby denied as moot.