The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge
RECOMMENDATIONS THAT THIS
ACTION BE DISMISSED
OBJECTIONS DUE IN THIRTY
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Plaintiff is a state death row inmate proceeding against Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown and various state and federal officials and judges for conspiring to cause lengthy delays in the state capital appeals process in violation of his federal rights.
Plaintiff was sentenced to death in 1991 for multiple counts of first degree murder with special circumstances. In 1998, the California Supreme Court issued an opinion affirming his death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari. Plaintiff filed writs of habeas corpus both in the California Supreme Court and this Court. Proceedings remain pending in this Court.
II. Screening Requirement
The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).
III. Summary of Complaint
Plaintiff's complaint is lengthy, difficult to decipher, and replete with legal commentary and citations. Plaintiff's central claim appears to be that he is incarcerated under an illegal sentence. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have engaged in racketeering and in a criminal conspiracy to create "[an] illegal [state capital appeal] process." (Compl, 9:52.) He complains that habeas and collateral challenges have been suspended, creating years of delay in appointment of counsel and proceeding on the merits, ultimately prejudicing his ability to challenge his capital conviction. The process has required that he be represented by attorneys appointed by the state court through the state bar's nonprofit California Appellate Project, creating a conflict of interest and furthering the conspiracy against him. The foregoing, according to Plaintiff, amounts to effective suspension of habeas corpus in violation of the U.S. Constitution, obstructing justice and violating his Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff seeks unspecified declaratory and injunctive relief.
Under principles of comity and federalism, a federal court should not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-54 (1971). The rationale of Younger also applies throughout appellate proceedings, requiring that state appellate review of a state court judgment be exhausted before federal court intervention is permitted. See Dubinka v. Judges of the Superior Court, 23 F.3d 218, 223 (9th Cir. 1994)(acknowledging that even if criminal trials were completed at the time of abstention decision, state court proceedings still considered pending). Plaintiff has pending with the California Supreme Court a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, the Court will abstain from interfering with Plaintiff's ongoing state proceeding.
When a prisoner challenges the legality or duration of his custody, or raises a constitutional challenge which could entitle him to an earlier release, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 477 (1973); Young v. Kenny, 907 F.2d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1990). Moreover, when seeking relief for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, "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, 487-88 (1994). "A claim . . . bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983." Id. at 488.
Heck makes it clear that a § 1983 cause of action "attributable to an unconstitutional conviction or sentence does not accrue until the conviction or sentence has been invalidated." Id. at 489-90. Any such claim is not cognizable and therefore should be dismissed. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 81-82 (clarifying that Heck applies to cases requesting damages as well as equitable relief); see Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa, 49 F.3d 583, 585 (9th Cir. 1995)(noting that a claim barred by Heck may be dismissed sua sponte without prejudice). The Heck rule usually precludes a prisoner-plaintiff from obtaining damages or equitable relief in a § 1983 action for alleged constitutional violations in connection with his criminal trial. The Heck rule also prevents a person from bringing an action that -- even if it does not directly challenge the conviction or other decision -- would imply that the conviction or other decision was invalid. The practical importance of this rule is that a plaintiff cannot attack his conviction in a civil rights action. The decision must have been successfully attacked before the civil rights action is filed. See Guerrero v. Gates, 442 F.3d 697, 703 (9th Cir. 2006)(Heck barred plaintiff's claims of wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution ...