United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER SUMMARILY DISMISSING CIVIL RIGHTS
COMPLAINT, AND DENYING MOTIONS TO DISMISS, TO QUASH AND FOR
ENTRY OF JUDGMENT
J. TARNOW SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Michigan pre-trial detainee Duane Letroy
Berry (“Plaintiff”), currently confined at the
Midland County Jail, asserts that he was illegally removed
from federal custody and placed into state custody to face
state criminal charges in 2017. Plaintiff names Wayne County
Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana
Hathaway, and Wayne County District Court Judges Sean
Kavanagh and Lydia Adams as the defendants in this action.
Plaintiff does not indicate the capacity in which he is suing
the defendants, but he seeks monetary damages, as well as
declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff paid the filing
and administrative fees for this case.
is being held as a pretrial detainee in People v.
Berry, Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. No. 17-005237-01-FH, in which
he is charged with malicious destruction of a building in
violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.3803. Prior to his
current incarceration, Plaintiff was in federal custody
pending competency proceedings in United States v.
Berry, E.D. Mich. No. 2:15-CR-20743, in which he is
charged with perpetrating false information and hoaxes in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1038(a). On August 25, 2016,
the federal district court conducted a competency hearing and
found Petitioner incompetent to stand trial in his federal
criminal case. On August 30, 2016, the court ordered his
civil commitment and hospitalization. United States v.
Berry, E.D. Mich. No. 2:15-CR-20743. On June 1, 2017,
the court conducted a second competency hearing to determine
whether Petitioner's competency could be restored with
medication and took the matter under advisement. On August
31, 2017, the court ordered the administration of medication
with certain conditions. Id. The federal case
midst of his ongoing federal proceedings, on or about April
28, 2017, Petitioner was transferred to state custody
pursuant to a detainer. After a preliminary examination,
Petitioner was bound over for trial. On July 19, 2017, the
state trial court ordered that Petitioner be evaluated to
determine his competency for trial and for criminal
responsibility. The state court conducted a competency
hearing on January 25, 2018 and set review dates for April
26, 2018, then May 31, 2018, and now August 31, 2018.
People v. Berry, Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. No.
the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996
(“PLRA”), the Court is required to sua
sponte 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
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).
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 complaint is subject to summary dismissal.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
pleadings, Plaintiff challenges the validity of the state
court decisions requiring him to appear in state court and
face state criminal charges. 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
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 Fed.Appx. 816, 818 n.1 (6th
Cir. 2004). When a claim is barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a court must dismiss the
claim for lack of jurisdiction. Steel Co. v. Citizens for
a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998).
the foregoing principles to the present complaint, the Court
finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear
Plaintiff's challenges to the state court rulings
requiring him to appear in state court and face criminal
charges pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Plaintiff challenges the application of state court rules to
his case, asserting that the state court orders are
procedurally and/or constitutionally unsound and essentially
asking the Court to overrule or vacate them. That is exactly
the sort of appellate review of state court judgments that
federal courts are barred from engaging in under
Rooker-Feldman. The complained of-injuries are
directly and solely traceable to the state court rulings. In
other words, Plaintiff is turning to federal court to undo
the state court orders, Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at
293, and his claims are based upon the premise that the state
court decisions are invalid. The Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over any such claims based upon the