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Lynch-Bey v. Worthy

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

January 26, 2017

ANTHONY LYNCH-BEY, Plaintiff,
v.
KYM WORTHY, DAVID ALLEN, and MARK T. SLAVENS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL.

          VICTORIA A. ROBERTS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Michigan prisoner Anthony Lynch-Bey (“Plaintiff”), currently serving a life sentence for second-degree murder, alleges that his constitutional rights were violated during his state court post-conviction collateral review proceedings. He names Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Wayne County Circuit Court Judges David Allen and Mark T. Slavens as defendants. At the time of the events giving rise to the complaint, Worthy served as a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge and as Wayne County Prosecutor. Plaintiff sues the defendants in their personal and official capacities and seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages. The Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed without prepayment of filing fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         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. 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. 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).

         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) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). While such notice pleading does not require detailed factual allegations, it does require more than the bare assertion of legal 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 claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) he 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). A pro se civil rights complaint is to be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Despite the liberal pleading standard accorded pro se plaintiffs, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint is subject to summary dismissal.

         A. Heck Bar

         Initially, the Court notes that to the extent Plaintiff challenges his state criminal convictions and continued confinement, he 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, see Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973), not the validity of continued confinement. See 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 imprisonment if a ruling on his claim would necessarily render his continuing confinement invalid, until and unless the reason for his continued confinement has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or has 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, “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).

         Simply stated, “civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 486. If Plaintiff were to prevail on any claims concerning the validity of his criminal convictions, his continued confinement could be called into question. Such claims are barred by Heck and must be dismissed.

         B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of his state post-judgment collateral review proceedings. In part, he raises a due process “as applied” challenge to certain provisions of Michigan collateral review statute, Michigan Court Rule 6.500 et seq. The Court, however, lacks the authority to review any such claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); District of Columbia Ct. of App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983), which “holds that lower federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to engage in appellate review of state court proceedings or to adjudicate claims ‘inextricably intertwined' with issues decided in state court proceedings.” Peterson Novelties, Inc. v. City of Berkley, 305 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir. 2002); see also Hutcherson v. Lauderdale Co., Tenn., 326 F.3d 747, 755 (6th Cir. 2003). “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the lower federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by ‘state-court losers' challenging ‘state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.'” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460 (2006) (per curiam) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies “when a plaintiff complains of injury from the state court judgment itself.” Coles v. Granville, 448 F.3d 853, 858 (6th Cir. 2006). “In determining the applicability of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, federal courts . . . must pay close attention to the relief sought by the federal-court plaintiff.” Hood v. Keller, 341 F.3d 593, 597 (6th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation omitted). “If the source of the injury is that state court decision, then the Rooker-Feldman doctrine would prevent the district court from asserting jurisdiction. If there is some other source of injury, such as a third party's actions, then the plaintiff asserts an independent claim.” McCormick v. Braverman, 451 F.3d 382, 393 (6th Cir. 2006). The doctrine applies to attempts to relitigate state court judgments entered before the federal suit is filed; it does not abrogate concurrent jurisdiction in federal and state courts, nor is it analogous to a preclusion doctrine. Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 292.

         “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is a rule of federal jurisdiction.” Frederickson v. City of Lockport, 384 F.3d 437, 438 (7th Cir. 2004). Consequently, it may be raised sua sponte. Saker v. National City Corp., 90 F.App'x 816, 818 n.1 (6th Cir. 2004). When a claim is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a court must dismiss the ...


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