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Freeman v. Markle

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 15, 2018

LARRY MARKLE, Defendant.



         Order This matter is a civil rights action filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by a pretrial detainee. Mr. Freeman proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff is ordered to show cause why his complaint should not be dismissed.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

         Plaintiff complains of actions of the prosecutor, Larry Markle, in pretrial proceedings. He claims Defendant has exhibited bias, has withheld crucial evidence, has made false statements to the court, and has violated Plaintiff's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Plaintiff requests the appointment of a special prosecutor and that criminal charges be brought against Defendant.

         II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of such entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Additionally, with any litigant, such as Plaintiff, who is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court has a duty to screen the complaint to determine its sufficiency. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Upon completion of this screening, the Court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B).

         To survive this review, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In applying the Twombly standard, the Court must assume the truth of all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Leverington v. City of Colo. Springs, 643 F.3d 719, 723 (10th Cir. 2011).

         While a pro se plaintiff's complaint must be liberally construed, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), pro se status does not relieve the plaintiff of “the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). The Court need not accept “mere conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1523 (10th Cir. 1992). In addressing a claim brought under § 1983, the analysis begins by identifying the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989). The validity of the claim then must be judged by reference to the specific constitutional standard which governs that right. Id.

         III. Discussion

         In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that he has been in the Montgomery County Jail for “two years nearly” awaiting trial. As a result, he claims his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial has been violated. Plaintiff does not specify what type of relief he believes he is entitled to as a result of this alleged violation, whether monetary damages, enforcement of his right to a speedy trial, or dismissal of the charges pending against him and release from detention.

         However, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to § 1983. In Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973), the United States Supreme Court emphasized that “a § 1983 action is a proper remedy for a state prisoner who is making a constitutional challenge to the conditions of his prison life, but not to the fact or length of his custody.” When the legality of a confinement is challenged so that the remedy would be release or a speedier release, the case must be filed as a habeas corpus proceeding rather than under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the plaintiff must comply with the exhaustion of state court remedies requirement. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); see also Montez v. McKinna, 208 F.3d 862, 866 (10th Cir.2000) (exhaustion of state court remedies is required by prisoner seeking habeas corpus relief). An alleged violation of Plaintiff's speedy trial rights necessarily involves a challenge to the fact, length, or legality of his custody, not the conditions of his confinement. Therefore, his claim is not cognizable in a § 1983 action and should be dismissed. See, e.g., Jenkins v. Scott, No. 94-3426, 1995 WL 547790 (10th Cir. Sept.15, 1995) (unpublished) (claim alleging violation of speedy trial rights not cognizable in a § 1983 action but must be brought in a habeas action).

         Construing Plaintiff's claim as a habeas corpus action would not save it because Plaintiff has not shown or even alleged that he has exhausted his state court remedies. Mr. Freeman must properly present his claim to the highest state court before proceeding in federal habeas corpus. See Brown v. Shanks, 185 F.3d 1122, 1124 (10th Cir. 1999). Plaintiff has not exhausted his claim in the Kansas courts.

         The U.S. Supreme Court has observed that: “Since the beginning of this country's history Congress has, subject to few exceptions, manifested a desire to permit state courts to try state cases free from interference by federal courts.” Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43 (1971). Abstention by the federal court from interfering with state court litigation is required when three conditions are met: (1) there are ongoing state proceedings; (2) the state proceedings offer an adequate forum to hear the plaintiff's federal claims; and (3) the state proceedings implicate important state interests. Taylor v. Jaquez, 126 F.3d 1294, 1297 (10th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1005 (1998). These conditions are satisfied here. The state trial on the charges against Plaintiff is set for March 20, 2018. Mr. Freeman has failed to show that the state courts do not provide an adequate avenue for relief. See Weitzel v. Div. of Occupational and Prof'l Licensing.,240 F.3d 871, 875 (10th Cir. 2001). As to the third factor, “the States' interest in administering their criminal justice systems free from federal ...

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