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Holloway v. Radner

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

January 11, 2017

RANDY HOLLOWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
SOLOMON RADNER, Defendant.

          OPINION

          HONORABLE GORDON J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). 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 Randy Holloway, a Michigan state prisoner currently confined at the Muskegon Correctional Facility, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Attorney Solomon Radner. Plaintiff claims that he retained Defendant Radnor to represent him in a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff against prison officials. See Holloway v. Kinross Correctional Facility, et al., Case No. 2:14-cv-83 (W.D. Mich., Sept. 26, 2016). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Radnor failed to file objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation or to otherwise adequately litigate Plaintiff's rights, which resulted in the dismissal of Plaintiff's action. Plaintiff seeks damages.

         Discussion

         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 state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). In order for a private party's conduct to be under color of state law, it must be “fairly attributable to the State.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). There must be “a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the challenged action of [the defendant] so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.” Skelton v. Pri-Cor, Inc., 963 F.2d 100, 102 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Jackson v. Metro. Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 351 (1974)).

         Plaintiff cannot show that his retained attorney acted under color of state law. In Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981), the Supreme Court held that counsel perform a private, not an official, function:

In our system[, ] a defense lawyer characteristically opposes the designated representatives of the State. The system assumes that adversarial testing will ultimately advance the public interest in truth and fairness. But it posits that a defense lawyer best serves the public, not by acting on behalf of the State or in concert with it, but rather by advancing “the undivided interest of his client.” This is essentially a private function, traditionally filled by retained counsel, for which state office and authority are not needed.

454 U.S. at 318-19 (footnotes omitted). The Polk County Court further held that this is true even of the state-appointed and state-paid public defender. Id. at 321. The Court said that, once a lawyer undertakes the representation of an accused, the duties and obligations are the same whether the lawyer is privately retained, appointed, or serves in a legal aid or defender program. Id. at 323. The Court held that, even though a public defender is paid by the state, he or she does not act under color of state law in representing the accused. Id. at 325. Rather, defense counsel-whether privately retained or paid by the state-acts purely on behalf of the client and free from state control. Id. The Sixth Circuit has adhered to the holding in Polk County in numerous decisions. See, e.g., Floyd v. Cnty. of Kent, 454 F. App'x 493, 497 (6th Cir. 2012) (holding that, when performing traditional functions as counsel, a public defender is not a state actor); Powers v. Hamilton Cnty. Pub. Defender, 501 F.3d 592, 611 (6th Cir. 2007) (same); Harmon v. Hamilton Cnty. Court of Common Pleas, 83 F. App'x 766, 767 (6th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, Plaintiff's retained attorney did not act under color of state law, and no claim under § 1983 can be maintained against him.

         To the extent that Plaintiff asserts claims of fraud and legal malpractice, these claims arise solely under state law. Section 1983 does not provide redress for a violation of a state law. Pyles v. Raisor, 60 F.3d 1211, 1215 (6th Cir. 1995); Sweeton v. Brown, 27 F.3d 1162, 1166 (6th Cir. 1994). The Sixth Circuit has stated that district courts should generally decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims under these circumstances. See Landefeld v. Marion Gen. Hosp., 994 F.2d 1178, 1182 (6th Cir. 1993); Hawley v. Burke, No. 97-1853, 1998 WL 384557, at *1-2 (6th Cir. June 18, 1998). Accordingly, these claims will be dismissed without prejudice.

         Conclusion

         Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court determines that Plaintiff's action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ...


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