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Brown v. Cooper

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 12, 2015

CRAIG G. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
JESSICA R. COOPER and JEFFREY M. KAELIN, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [17]

ARTHUR J. TARNOW, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff brings this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 suit against Defendants for refusing him postconviction access to information concerning urine analysis evidence introduced at Plaintiff's criminal trial. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss [17] on March 6, 2014. Plaintiff filed a Response [19] on March 23, 2014.

For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [17] is GRANTED.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In April 2006, a jury convicted Plaintiff of crimes in Michigan state court. Plaintiff, who is presently pursuing habeas relief in this Court, recently filed a motion in his habeas case seeking essentially the same relief he is seeking in this suit. The Court described the factual background for that motion, in relevant part, as follows:

[P]etitioner seeks discovery to support his claim that Michael Evans testified falsely at petitioner's trial that the employees of his company, AIT Labs, performed a urinalysis on a urine sample of petitioner's and that it tested positive for steroids. Petitioner also suggests that there may have been tampering with the evidence because an earlier urine sample from the same day had tested negatively for steroids.... Petitioner seeks an order directing the discovery of the identity [and contact information] of the lab technician or technicians that conducted both of the urinalysis tests of the February 2003 sample of his urine... and the chain-of-custody records for his urine sample.
... Petitioner filed a motion for discovery in the [state] trial court, but the judge denied the motion. Petitioner, however, has yet to file a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment in the state courts.

Brown v. Aud, No. 09-10735, 2015 WL 574875, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 11, 2015).

Defendant Kaelin, in his capacity as Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, successfully opposed Plaintiff's motion for discovery in the state trial court. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Kaelin and Defendant Cooper, in her capacity as Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney, have rejected his informal requests to produce the information he seeks. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Kaelin has acted with the intent to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights, and that Defendant Cooper has acted with knowledge of the alleged violations.

ANALYSIS

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" in order to provide fair notice to the defendant of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. The Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Standard & Poor's Fin. Servs. LLC, 700 F.3d 829, 835 (6th Cir. 2012). The complaint must plead factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

I. Procedural Due Process

"To establish a procedural due process violation, a plaintiff must show that the state deprived him or her of a constitutionally protected interest in life, liberty, or property without due process of law." Castanon v. Johnson, No. 12-5497, 2012 WL 10236221, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 19, 2012) (unpublished) (quoting Michael v. Ghee, 498 F.3d 372, 377 (6th Cir. 2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). State law providing for postconviction relief creates a liberty interest, requiring adequate application of the procedures governing that relief. See Dist. Attorney's Office for Third Judicial Dist. v. Osborne, 557 U.S. 52, 68 (2009) (holding that Alaska law providing for postconviction relief upon new evidence of innocence gave plaintiff "a liberty interest in demonstrating his innocence with new evidence, " along with an attendant right to procedures necessary to effectuate that interest). However, "[f]ederal courts may upset a State's postconviction relief procedures only if they are fundamentally inadequate to vindicate the substantive rights provided." Id. at 69. This is a demanding standard. See Skinner, 131 S.Ct. 1289, 1293 (2011) (" Osborne ... left slim room for [a plaintiff] to show that the governing state law denies him procedural due process.").

Plaintiff claims that Defendants unconstitutionally deprived Plaintiff of his liberty interest, created by Michigan law, in postconviction relief. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants did so by successfully urging the Michigan trial court to deny Plaintiff's postconviction discovery motion on the grounds that Plaintiff has no legal right to postconviction discovery. Plaintiff alleges that this construction of Michigan law deprived him of the ability to identify ...


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