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Crotts v. O'Connor

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 10, 2017

STEVEN CROTTS, Plaintiff,
v.
MAUREEN O'CONNOR, et al., Defendants.

          Kemp Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE C. SMITH, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the motions of both The Honorable Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor (“Chief Justice O'Connor”) and the Supreme Court of Ohio and the State of Ohio (collectively, the “State Defendants”). Chief Justice O'Connor filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Doc. 15), and the State Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) (Doc. 23) (collectively, the “Motions”). Plaintiff Steven Crotts (“Plaintiff”) responded in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 16) and the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 24). Chief Justice O'Connor and the State Defendants replied in support of the Motions. The Motions are fully briefed and ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, the Motions are GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This action arises out of Plaintiff's criminal conviction for sexual assault. On November 14, 2001, Plaintiff was arrested when he turned himself in to authorities after learning of an outstanding warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1999 sexual assault charge. (Doc. 1, Compl. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff claims there were numerous procedural errors and civil rights violations that led to his initial conviction, including improper tolling, failure to serve a warrant, and ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id.). Plaintiff appealed his conviction in Ohio's Eighth District Court of Appeals. (Id. at ¶ 9). The Eighth District reversed Plaintiff's conviction based on findings that the victim made several inconsistent statements during the course of the investigation and trial, the conviction was based on insufficient evidence, inadmissible and/or prejudicial evidence was introduced at trial, and the prosecutors made prejudicial mischaracterizations during the trial. (Id.). The State of Ohio subsequently filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Ohio. On December 15, 2004, the Supreme Court of Ohio, in an opinion authored by Chief Justice O'Connor, reversed the Eighth District's judgment and remanded the case on the basis that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted certain evidence at trial. (Id. at ¶ 14). On remand, the Eighth District affirmed Plaintiff's conviction. (Id.). Since 2005, Plaintiff has sought relief from his conviction in Ohio state courts and in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16). Plaintiff's Complaint alleges multiple instances of ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with his conviction and subsequent appeals. (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 10, 11, 19).

         Plaintiff commenced the present action to challenge the Ohio Supreme Court's rules regarding criminal appeals premised on ineffective assistance of counsel, and the December 15, 2004 decision issued by Chief Justice O'Connor. Chief Justice O'Connor now moves to dismiss the Complaint and the State Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings.

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Chief Justice O'Connor brings her motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, alleging that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         Under the Federal Rules, any pleading that states a claim for relief must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim” showing that the pleader is entitled to such relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To meet this standard, a party must allege sufficient facts to state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A claim will be considered “plausible on its face” when a plaintiff sets forth “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows parties to challenge the sufficiency of a complaint under the foregoing standards. In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Standard & Poor's Fin. Servs. LLC, 700 F.3d 829, 835 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007)). However, “the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663. Thus, while a court is to afford plaintiff every inference, the pleading must still contain facts sufficient to “provide a plausible basis for the claims in the complaint”; a recitation of facts intimating the “mere possibility of misconduct” will not suffice. Flex Homes, Inc. v. Ritz-Craft Corp of Michigan, Inc., 491 F. App'x 628, 632 (6th Cir. 2012); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         B. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         The State Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). “After the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). In deciding a Rule 12(c) motion based on all pleadings, courts apply “the same de novo standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” Grindst ...


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