United States District Court, N.D. Ohio
OPINION & ORDER
S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
se Plaintiff Hakeem Sultaana, a prisoner in an Ohio
correctional institution, has filed this civil action against
Erika Cunliffe and Cullen Sweeney, both attorneys in the
Cleveland Public Defenders Office who were appointed to
represent the plaintiff on appeal in his state criminal case,
and Kelley A. Sweeney, an “interim” Clerk of
Court in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. (Doc. No.
plaintiff's alleged basis for federal jurisdiction in the
case is that the defendants violated his constitutional
rights to “due process and counsel” in violation
of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in connection with the handling of
the jury verdict forms in his state criminal trial.
(Id. at p. 2.) He claims the original jury verdict
forms from his trial were lost by the state court judge, and
that he objected to the scanned versions that were provided
for purposes of his appeal. He asserts violations of his
constitutional rights against the defendants under §
1983, as well as state-law claims for fraud, civil
conspiracy, negligent misrepresentation, legal malpractice,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and gross
negligence. (Id.) The only relief the plaintiff
seeks is monetary damages. (Id. at p. 17, ¶
addition to his complaint, the plaintiff has filed a number
of motions: a motion for the issuance of a subpoena to Eighth
District Court of Appeals Administrative Judge Mary Boyle
(Doc. No. 9); a motion to issue a subpoena to Cuyahoga County
Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Corrigan (Doc. No. 11); two
motions for default judgment (Doc. Nos. 12, and 19); and a
motion to strike the defendants' answer and opposition to
his motion for default judgment (Doc. No. 21). The defendants
have filed an answer and a motion to consolidate the case
with a 2015 civil case the plaintiff previously filed against
different defendants. (Doc. No. 7.)
reasons stated below, the plaintiff's federal claims in
this case are all summarily dismissed, the state-law claims
are dismissed without prejudice, and the parties' pending
motions are denied as moot.
the standard of review for pro se pleadings is
liberal, Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 393
(6th Cir. 2011), federal district courts are
required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to screen all
complaints in which a prisoner seeks redress from
governmental entities and employees, and to sua
sponte dismiss any such action that the court determines
is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A; Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468,
470-71 (6th Cir. 2010).
review, the Court finds that the plaintiff's federal
claims must all be summarily dismissed in accordance with
well-established that judges and other court officers enjoy
absolute immunity from suits seeking monetary damages on
claims arising out of the performance of their judicial or
quasi-judicial functions. See Wappler v. Carniak, 24
Fed.Appx. 294, 295-96 (6th Cir. 2001); Foster v.
Walsh, 864 F.2d 416, 417-18 (6th Cir. 1988) (finding
court clerk immune). The plaintiff cannot sue Defendant
Sweeney for damages under § 1983 because his allegations
against her clearly pertain to her performance of
quasi-judicial duties in connection with his state criminal
case for which she is absolutely immune from a damages suit.
also firmly established that a defense attorney, regardless
of whether she is a public defender or private attorney, is
not a state actor who may be sued for constitutional
violations under § 1983. See Polk County v.
Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981); Jordan v.
Kentucky, No. 3: 09 CV 424, 2009 WL 2163113, at *4 (W.D.
Ky. July 16, 2009). Therefore, the plaintiff has no
cognizable damages claim under § 1983 against his
court-appointed defense lawyers, Defendants Cunliffe and
being no viable federal claim in the case, the Court declines
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
plaintiff's remaining state-law claims and will dismiss
those claims without prejudice. See Anderson v.
Dickson, 715 Fed.Appx. 48 (6th Cir. 2017)
(affirming dismissal of state-law claims without prejudice
after dismissal of federal claims). The plaintiff's
state-law claims, if they exist, implicate state criminal
practice and state-court procedure and are better resolved by
the Ohio courts. See Musson Theatrical, Inc. v. Fed. Exp.
Corp., 89 F.3d 1244, 1254-1255 (6th Cir. 1996)
(“When all federal claims are dismissed before trial,
the balance of considerations usually will point to
dismissing the state law claims, or remanding them to state
court if the action was removed.”).
reasons stated above, the plaintiff's federal claims in
this case are summarily dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, his state-law claims are dismissed without
prejudice, and the parties' remaining pending motions are
all denied as moot. The Court further certifies, pursuant to