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Brosch v. Andrews

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

May 26, 2015

TRACEY BROSCH, #599194, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN N. ANDREWS, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL

GEORGE CARAM STEEH, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Michigan prisoner Tracey Brosch ("plaintiff") challenges her state criminal proceedings.[1] The plaintiff names Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Steven N. Andrews, Pre-Sentence Investigator Fabian W. LaVigne, and Oakland County as the defendants in this action. She sues Judge Andrews in his official and individual capacities and sues Investigator LaVigne and Oakland County in their official capacities. She seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages. The Court has granted the plaintiff leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee for this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA"), the Court is required to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint before service on a defendant if it determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court is similarly required to dismiss a complaint seeking redress against government entities, officers, and employees which it finds to be frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).

A pro se civil rights complaint is to be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Nonetheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " as well as "a demand for the relief sought." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), (3). The purpose of this rule is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). While this notice pleading standard does not require "detailed" factual allegations, it does require more than the bare assertion of legal principles or conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id . (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Id . (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

To state a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he or she was deprived of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-57 (1978); Harris v. Circleville, 583 F.3d 356, 364 (6th Cir. 2009).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Criminal Proceedings Claims

The plaintiff's claims in this case concern her state criminal proceedings and are subject to summary dismissal because she fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A claim under § 1983 is an appropriate remedy for a state prisoner challenging a condition of his imprisonment, Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973), not the validity of continued confinement. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (holding that a state prisoner does not state a cognizable civil rights claim challenging his or her imprisonment if a ruling on the claim would necessarily render his or her continuing confinement invalid, until and unless the reason for that confinement has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or been called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254). This holds true regardless of the relief sought by the plaintiff. Id. at 487-89.

Heck and other Supreme Court cases, when "taken together, indicate that a state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation) - no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings) - if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration." Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005). The underlying basis for the holding in Heck is that "civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments." Heck, 512 U.S. at 486.

The plaintiff's claims concern the validity of her state criminal proceedings. If she were to prevail on those claims, her state criminal conviction and continued confinement would be called into question. Consequently, the plaintiff's civil rights claims against all of the defendants are barred by Heck and her civil rights complaint must be dismissed.[2]

B. Claims against Oakland County

The plaintiff's claims against Oakland County are further subject to dismissal because she fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted as to that entity. Municipalities and local governments may be subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See generally Monell v. Department of Social Svs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). However, a local government may only be sued under § 1983 when the execution of a government policy or custom, for which the government as an entity is responsible, inflicts the injury. Id. at 692. In other words, for a government entity to be held liable under § 1983, "the entity's policy or custom must be the moving force behind the constitutional deprivation." S.H.A.R.K. v. Metro Parks, 499 F.3d 553, 563 (6th Cir. 2007). "[A] ...


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