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Muhammad v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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

February 27, 2017



          Paul L. Maloney, United States District Judge

         This action purports to be a removal of a civil action filed by Plaintiff in Muskegon County.[1] In the attached state-court complaint, Plaintiff appears to seeks state habeas corpus relief from his 2016 convictions for armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529, and second-offense felony firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b, on which he is serving prison terms of 25 to 38 years and 5 years, respectively. 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) and 1915A(b). 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 because it is frivolous.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff's allegations are difficult to decipher, in large measure because he casts his claims as a sovereign-citizen case, in which he purports to proceed as “Agent El-Amin Muhammad, In Jure Proprio Petitioner For: Plaintiff/Property EL-AMIN MUHMMAD #242898[.]” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.1 (emphasis in original).) Based on his allegations, Plaintiff appears to adhere to the “sovereign citizen” theory, claiming to be controlled only by admiralty law and the Uniform Commercial Code. He contends that the arrest warrant was exercised against a “legal fiction commercial name in all caps ELAMIN MUHAMMAD” (Pl.'s Aff., ECF No. 1-2, Page ID.28) without a security-for-performance bond, as required for maritime and bankruptcy liens. Absent such proper security documents, he argues, the court lacked jurisdiction over his criminal case.

         Plaintiff appears to seek relief from his imprisonment.


         I. Removal

         On the face of the pleading, Plaintiff declares his intent to remove a state habeas complaint from the Muskegon County Circuit Court to this Court. As the plaintiff who filed the action, Plaintiff has no authority to remove his civil case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). See Id. (providing that only a defendant or defendants may file a notice of removal). The Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over the case. As a consequence, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to remove his state-court civil complaint, the case must be remanded to the Muskegon County Circuit Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

         Alternatively, Plaintiff may intend to remove his criminal case to this Court. A state defendant may remove his criminal prosecution only as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1443. This section permits removal of a criminal action by a defendant:

(1) Against any person who is denied or cannot enforce in the courts of [a] State a right under any law providing for the equal civil rights of citizens of the United States, or of all persons within the jurisdiction thereof;
(2) For any act under color of authority derived from any law providing for equal rights, or for refusing to do any act on the ground that it would be inconsistent with such law.

28 U.S.C. § 1443. With respect to subsection (1), a removal petition must satisfy a two-pronged test. See Johnson v. Mississippi, 421 U.S. 213 (1975). “First, it must appear that the right allegedly denied the removal petitioner arises under a federal law ‘providing for specific civil rights stated in terms of racial equality.' ” Johnson, 421 U.S. at 219 (quoting State of Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 792 (1966)). Claims that prosecution and conviction will violate rights under constitutional or statutory provisions of general applicability or under statutes not protecting against racial discrimination, will not suffice. That a removal petitioner will be denied due process of law because the criminal law under which he is being prosecuted is allegedly vague or that the prosecution is assertedly a sham, corrupt, or without evidentiary basis does not, standing alone, satisfy the requirements of § 1443(1). Id. (citing City of Greenwood v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 825 (1966)). Second, a petitioner must show that he cannot enforce the specified federal right in state court. Johnson, 421 U.S. at 219. “This provision normally requires that the denial be manifest in a formal expression of state law, such as a state legislative or constitutional provision, rather than a denial first made manifest in the trial of the case.” Id. (quoting Rachel, 384 U.S. at 799, 803) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff does not allege that his arrest or conviction would violate a federal law designed to protect him from racial inequalities. In addition, his petition wholly fails to satisfy the second prong because he fails to allege a “formal expression of state law, ” § 1443(1), that prohibits his enforcing his federal rights in state court. As the United States Supreme Court has explained:

It is not enough to support removal under § 1443(1) to allege or show that the defendant's federal equal civil rights have been illegally and corruptly denied by state administrative officials in advance of trial, that the charges against the defendant are false, or that the defendant is unable to obtain a fair trial in a particular state court. The motives of the officers bringing the charges may be corrupt, but that does not show that the state trial court will find the defendant guilty if he is innocent, or that in any other manner the defendant will be “denied or cannot enforce in the courts” of the State any right under a federal law providing for equal civil rights. The civil rights removal statute does not require and does not permit the judges of the federal courts to put their brethren of the state judiciary on trial. Under § 1443(1), the vindication of the defendant's federal rights is left to the state courts except in the ...

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