United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Robert Winburn, a.k.a. Scott Libby, Petitioner,
Kevin Lindsey, Defendant.
Judge David R. Grand
OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING PETITON FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS 
E. LEVY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
29, 2019, petitioner Robert Winburn filed this action in
federal court. Without addressing the merits of Winburn's
complaint, the Court declines to exercise jurisdiction under
the Younger abstention doctrine and dismisses the
complaint without prejudice.
is currently in custody of the Michigan Department of
Corrections at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in
Jackson, Michigan. (ECF No. 1, PageID.1-2.). Winburn is also
a pretrial detainee in Washtenaw County charged with
first-degree home invasion, armed robbery, and conspiracy to
commit first-degree home invasion. (ECF No. 1, PageID.4-5.)
Winburn has previously filed a habeas petition in this Court
challenging the pending charges on double jeopardy grounds.
See Libby v. Lindsey, No. 18-cv-13842 (E.D. Mich.
Dec. 12, 2018), ECF No. 1. No. decision has been rendered in
21, 2019, the state trial court, noting that
“Defendant's actions are interfering with the
ability of the court to conclude a trial of his case, ”
entered an order enjoining Winburn “during the pendency
of this case from filing any complaint or grievance in this
court, with the Attorney Grievance Commission, or any court
against his appointed counsel until trial of this case is
concluded.” Order Enjoining Defendant, People v.
Robert Winburn, No. 17-654-FC, (Washtenaw Cty. Trial Ct.
June 21, 2019) (hereinafter “Order Enjoining
Defendant”). Winburn subsequently filed this petition
seeking relief from the Order Enjoining Defendant. (ECF No.
1.) Although Winburn styled this action as a habeas petition
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, his complaint neither challenges
the conditions or legality of his custody nor seeks relief
from Kevin Lindsey, the nominal defendant. (Id.)
Instead, Winburn raises a constitutional challenge to the
Order Enjoining Defendant, alleging that because of it
“he is deprived of his First Amendment Free Speech, and
right of Petition Clause rights.” (Id. at
PageID.4-5.) Properly read, the complaint is not a habeas
action but a civil rights action seeking to enjoin the state
trial court for deprivation of Winburn's First Amendment
rights. Accordingly, the Court reconstrues Winburn's
habeas petition as a claim for declaratory and injunctive
relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Brown v.
Mills, 639 F.3d 733, 734 (6th Cir. 2011) (noting that a
district court reconstrued a pro se prisoner's
habeas petition as a civil rights action).
federal courts generally “are obliged to decide cases
within the scope of federal jurisdiction, ” when a suit
“threatens undue interference with state proceedings. .
. the proper course is for the federal court to abstain from
entertaining the action.” Aaron v.
O'Conner, 914 F.3d 1010, 1016 (6th Cir. 2019)
(citing Sprint Commc'ns v. Jacob, 571 U.S. 69,
72 (2013)). In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971), the Supreme Court held that “absent
extraordinary circumstances, federal courts should not enjoin
pending state criminal prosecutions.” New Orleans
Pub. Serv., Inc. v. Council, 491 U.S. 350, 364 (1989).
This doctrine, known as Younger abstention, is
grounded in the bedrock principle that our nation is
comprised of many smaller sovereigns and guided by a deep
respect for state functions. Younger, 401 U.S. at
44. As the Sixth Circuit has recognized, the exercise of
Younger abstention is appropriate “when the
state proceeding 1) is currently pending, 2) involves an
important state interest, and 3) affords the plaintiff an
adequate opportunity to raise constitutional claims.”
Coles v. Granville, 448 F.3d 853, 865 (6th Cir.
2006) (citing Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State
Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)). Each of the
three criteria counseling Younger abstention is
criminal prosecution is currently pending in state court,
satisfying the first criterion. See Fed. Exp. Corp. v.
Tenn. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 925 F.2d 962 (6th Cir.
1992) (“Under this rule, if a state proceeding is
pending at the time the action is filed in federal court, the
first criteria for Younger abstention is
satisfied.”) A criminal prosecution is exactly the kind
of state proceeding envisioned by Younger; indeed,
Younger itself dealt with a state criminal prosecution.
Younger, 401 U.S. at 43.
a criminal prosecution unquestionably involves important
state interests. Again, this type of proceeding was exactly
the kind of proceeding at issue in Younger.
Id. As the Sixth Circuit recognizes, “state
criminal prosecutions have traditionally been considered an
arena in which federal courts decline to interfere.”
Leveye v. Metro. Pub. Def.'s Office, 73
Fed.Appx. 792, 794 (6th Cir. 2003).
Winburn has not shown a lack of adequate opportunity to bring
his claims in state court. Winburn has not indicated that he
has either sought to vacate the order in his criminal
prosecution or attempted an interlocutory appeal pursuant to
the Michigan Court Rules. See Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco,
Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 16 (1987) (“[W]hen a litigant
has not attempted to present his federal claims in related
state-court proceedings, a federal court should assume that
state procedures will afford an adequate remedy, in the
absence of unambiguous authority to the contrary.”);
Kelm v. Hyatt, 44 F.3d 415, 421 (6th Cir. 1995)
(claimant must prove inadequacy of state court procedures to
warrant federal court intervention). Winburn has demonstrated
his knowledge of state court sources of relief. He has
previously sought interlocutory appeal of issues in the
underlying state court proceeding. See Libby v.
Lindsey, Case 18- cv-13842 (E.D. Mich., Mar. 18, 2019),
ECF No. 14, PageID.201 (describing previous attempt by
Winburn to bring interlocutory appeal). Thus, the third
criterion is present.
Winburn is not facing a risk of irreparable injury that could
nonetheless justify federal court intervention. See
Fuller v. Jolly, 41 Fed. App'x 821, 822 (6th Cir.
2002) (finding that Younger prevents federal
interference absent “great, immediate and irreparable
injury”). The Order Enjoining Defendant does
not completely foreclose Winburn from remedying his concerns
regarding the effectiveness of counsel. Winburn is enjoined
from filing an attorney grievance only “until trial of
this case is concluded.” Order Enjoining Defendant.
Winburn may file attorney grievances if he so wishes the
moment his trial has concluded. Additionally, the order
allows Winburn to “file an in pro per motion
to discharge his attorney.” Thus, Winburn is not at
risk of experiencing irreparable injury.
exercising jurisdiction in this case would involve
interfering in a pending criminal prosecution involving
important state interests and Winburn has an adequate
opportunity to raise his constitutional ...