United States District Court, N.D. California
MICHAEL A. LOCKHART, Plaintiff,
ALAMEDA COUNTY COURT, et al., Defendants.
ORDER OF DISMISSAL DKT. NOS. 15 AND 16
WILLIAM H. ORRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael Lockhart is a California state prisoner serving a
sentence of 25 years to life, imposed following his
convictions for drug offenses. In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983
federal civil rights action, he asks this federal court to
intervene in the state's handling of his current
resentencing proceedings. I am obligated to conduct a preliminary
screening of this case to insure that a plausible claim is
stated, and it is clear that none is. Federal courts must
abstain from interfering with ongoing criminal proceedings in
state court, such as Lockhart's state resentencing
hearing. Accordingly, this matter will be
Standard of Review
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.
See 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 be liberally
construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police
Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).
“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.
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).
original complaint, Lockhart asked that I remove the Alameda
District Attorney from his resentencing proceedings or change
the venue of his resentencing, or both. (Compl., Dkt. No. 12
at 3-4.) He alleges that the district attorney has engaged in
“misconduct” and “obstruction of
justice.” (Id. at 3.) In his amended
complaint, his allegations are much the same: the district
attorney is allegedly engaging in misconduct.
principles of comity and federalism, a federal court should
not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings absent
extraordinary circumstances (such as bad faith or
harassment). Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-54
(1971). Younger abstention is appropriate when (1)
there is “an ongoing state judicial proceeding, ”
(2) those “proceedings implicate important state
interests, ” and (3) there is “an adequate
opportunity in the state proceedings to raise constitutional
challenges.” Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden
State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 435 (1982).
is appropriate here because all the elements of
Younger are present. The record demonstrates that
Lockhart's state court proceedings are ongoing, which
satisfies the first Younger requirement. The second
Younger element is also present: the Supreme Court
has held that “a proper respect for state functions,
” such as ongoing criminal proceedings, is an important
issue of state interest. See Preiser v. Rodriguez,
411 U.S. 475, 491-92 (1973) (quoting Younger, 401
U.S. at 44). As to the third prong of Younger, there
is no reason that Lockhart cannot pursue his constitutional
claims in state court.
addition, any interference by this court in the state court
proceedings would enjoin or have the practical effect of
enjoining state proceedings, results disapproved of by
Younger. SJSVCCPAC v. City of San Jose, 546
F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir. 2008). Nothing in the complaint
suggests there are extraordinary circumstances requiring my
interference in state ...