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Coker v. Summit County Common Pleas

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

June 28, 2019

MARCUS ALFRED COKER, Plaintiff,
v.
SUMMIT COUNTY COMMON PLEAS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN R. ADAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiff Marcus Alfred Coker filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Summit County Common Pleas Court. In his Complaint, Coker alleges he was never advised of his right to a preliminary hearing in three criminal cases and was denied his right to counsel. He indicates he “would like Summit County to stop giving the impression that these men are only signing for their attorney only. That the paper that has on it, direct indictment information sheet is a waiver of the preliminary examination and not for the receiving of an attorney. I would like my cases to be discharged. Thank you.” (Doc. No. 1 at 5).

         II. Standard of Review

         Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the Court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law or fact when it is premised on an indisputably meritless legal theory or when the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. A cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks “plausibility in the Complaint.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007).

         A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). The factual allegations in the pleading must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but must provide more than “an unadorned, the defendant unlawfully harmed me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading that offers legal conclusions or a simple recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not meet this pleading standard. Id. In reviewing a Complaint, the Court must construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Bibbo v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 151 F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998).

         III. Analysis

         Although Plaintiff's Complaint is very brief and contains few facts, it appears he is challenging criminal proceedings pending against him. Specifically, it appears he is suggesting he signed a form which he believed to be one requesting counsel but instead waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Based on this, he asks this Court to intervene in a state court criminal proceeding and order the dismissal of the pending charges.

         This Court must abstain from hearing challenges to the state court proceedings. A federal court must decline to interfere with pending state proceedings involving important state interests unless extraordinary circumstances are present. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44-45 (1971). When a person is the target of an ongoing state action involving important state matters, he or she cannot interfere with the pending state action by maintaining a parallel federal action involving claims that could have been raised in the state case. Watts v. Burkhart, 854 F.2d 839, 844-48 (6th Cir. 1988). If the state Defendant files such a case, Younger abstention requires the federal court to defer to the state proceeding. Id; see also Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 15 (1987). Based on these principles, abstention is appropriate if: (1) state proceedings are on-going; (2) the state proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise federal questions. Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). Abstention is mandated whether the state court proceeding is criminal, quasi-criminal, or civil in nature as long as federal court intervention “unduly interferes with the legitimate activities of the state.” Younger, 401 U.S. at 44.

         If Plaintiff's criminal case is still pending, all three factors supporting abstention are present. State court criminal matters are of paramount state interest. See Younger, 401 U.S. at 44-45. The third requirement of Younger is that Plaintiff must have an opportunity to assert his federal challenges in the state court proceeding. The pertinent inquiry is whether the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal claims. Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 430 (1979). The burden at this point rests on the Plaintiff to demonstrate that state procedural law bars presentation of his claims. Pennzoil Co., 481 U.S. at 14. When a Plaintiff has not attempted to present his federal claims in the state court proceedings, the federal court should assume that state procedures will afford an adequate remedy, in the absence of “unambiguous authority to the contrary.” Pennzoil, 481 U.S. at 15. Here, there has been no showing that the claims asserted by Plaintiff in this federal lawsuit are barred in the state action. The requirements of Younger are satisfied and this Court must abstain from interfering in any pending state court criminal action against the Plaintiff.

         IV. Conclusion

         Accordingly, this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith.[1]

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

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