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MacLeod v. Pavlich

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

November 16, 2016



          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         This is a mandamus action brought by a state prisoner, ostensibly pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff's action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Dustin MacLeod is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections and housed at the Ojibway Correctional Facility (OCF). He sues Cheboygan County Circuit Judge Scott Pavlich.

         In his complaint for mandamus, [1] Plaintiff contends that he was denied due process and fundamental fairness in his criminal trial before Defendant Pavlich. Plaintiff also asserts that the state court lacked jurisdiction to convict him, because he is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and a resident of trial lands and therefore is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the tribal courts.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaration that his convictions are void due to a lack of personal and subject matter jurisdiction, together with release from imprisonment.


         I. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement, ' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).

         To the extent that Plaintiff claims to have filed a mandamus action, he fails to state a claim. Title 28 U.S.C. § 1361 confers jurisdiction only over mandamus actions to compel action by federal, not state, officials or employees. Federal courts have no authority to issue writs of mandamus to direct state officials to conform their conduct to state law. Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984); Haggard v. Tennessee, 421 F.2d 1384 (6th Cir. 1970). Therefore, the Court may not maintain jurisdiction over Petitioner's action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1361.

         Plaintiff's reliance on Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(3) and (4) as a source of remedy is also misplaced. Rule 60(b)(3) permits relief from a federal court judgment where an adverse party in the federal case has committed fraud or misconduct before the court. See Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 626 (1949); Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. v. Hartford Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238 (1944). Under Rule 60(b)(4), a party to a federal civil action may seek relief from a final judgment of the federal district court on the ground that it is void. Both provisions provide relief only from a federal court judgment. Plaintiff, however, does not challenge a civil judgment of the federal court. He challenges the validity of a criminal judgment of the state court.

         “When a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). A Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment is not an appropriate vehicle for a state prisoner to attempt to have his criminal conviction set aside. See United States v. Pope, 124 F. App'x 680, 682 (2nd Cir. 2005). Although a Rule 60(b) motion may be used “to set aside a habeas denial” in certain limited circumstances, such a motion “does not itself seek habeas relief.” Id. (quoting Harris v. United States, 367 F.3d 74, 80 (2d Cir. 2004)). Plaintiff is not seeking to set aside a denial of habeas relief in this case and, therefore, a Rule 60(b) motion is not appropriate.

         A review of Plaintiff's complaint shows that he is challenging the validity of his state court criminal conviction and that he seeks to have that conviction vacated or set aside. Plaintiff's sole federal remedy to challenge his state court conviction would be by ...

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