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Lockhart v. Sherrer

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 27, 2017

MICHAEL ANTHONY LOCKHART, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY L. SHERRER, Defendant.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          JOSEPH C. SPERO CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, who consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 7), alleges in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action that his defense attorney and the trial judge are conspiring to deprive him of his constitutional rights to a fair trial. He asks this Court to remove his “lawyer from the case” and transfer his proceedings to a district in which his rights will be respected.

         Plaintiff asks this Court to interfere in ongoing state proceedings. Because precedent commands otherwise, this Court must deny plaintiff's request and dismiss his suit.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         In its initial review of this pro se complaint, this Court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         A “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Furthermore, a court “is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged.” Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994).

         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. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Legal Claims

         Plaintiff alleges his attorney is conspiring with the trial court “to have a hearing for public safety, but they are really go[ing] to have a bench trial, violating my right to a jury trial.” (Compl. at 3.) From these allegations, the Court infers that plaintiff is facing ongoing criminal proceedings in state court.

         There are at least two reasons to dismiss this suit.

         First, his claims for injunctive relief, the only relief he seeks, cannot proceed. 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). More specifically, federal courts should not enjoin pending state criminal prosecutions absent a showing of the state's bad faith or harassment, or a showing that the statute challenged is “flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions.” Id. at 46, 53-54. 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).

         Injunctive relief is available only upon “showing irreparable injury.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 46. However, “[c]ertain types of injury, in particular, the cost, anxiety, and inconvenience of having to defend against a single criminal prosecution, could not by themselves be considered 'irreparable' in the special legal sense of that term. Instead, the threat to the plaintiff's federally ...


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