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Aaron Edwards v. Jeff Royer

October 29, 2012

AARON EDWARDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFF ROYER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:

E-FILED

Monday, 29 October, 2012 01:18:38 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and incarcerated in the Sangamon County Jail, pursues claims arising from his arrest and pending state court criminal proceedings. The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

The Court is required by § 1915A to review a Complaint filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer and, through such process, to identify cognizable claims, dismissing any claim that is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." The review standard under § 1915A is the same as the notice pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Royer, a Springfield police officer, used excessive force against Plaintiff on June 28, 2012, falsely arrested Plaintiff, and filed a false police report which resulted in charges against Plaintiff for aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, and armed violence. The criminal charges are pending in Sangamon County Circuit Court, with a trial date set for October 28, 2012. State of Illinois v. Aaron Edwards, 2012-CF-000559, 10/1/12 docket entry (Sangamon County Circuit Court). For his relief, Plaintiff asks that his state court criminal case be transferred to federal court because Plaintiff does not believe he will receive a fair trial in state court.

In addition to Defendant Royer, Plaintiff names as defendants the Springfield Chief of Police, the shift commander at the Springfield Police Department, Judge Leo Zappa, Big Muddy Correctional Center, the assistant public defenders assigned to Plaintiff's state case, and the Chief Public Defender.

A federal court does not have the authority to transfer Plaintiff's state court criminal case to federal court. Nor can this Court interfere in Plaintiff's pending state criminal proceedings on the grounds that Plaintiff believes he will not receive a fair trial. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43 (1971)("Since the beginning of this country's history Congress has, subject to few exceptions, manifested a desire to permit state courts to try state cases free from interference by federal courts.").

To the extent that Plaintiff pursues damages, Plaintiff does state a claim against Defendant Royer for false arrest and excessive force incident to arrest, both Fourth Amendment claims. However, these claims may need to be stayed pending resolution of Plaintiff's criminal proceedings. Simpson v. Rowan, 73 F.3d 134 (7th Cir. 1995)(staying claims for false arrest and unlawful search pending appeal of plaintiff's murder conviction). Further, if Plaintiff is convicted of armed violence and aggravated assault, Plaintiff's claim for excessive force may be barred or limited if the facts underlying the excessive force claim imply the invalidity of Plaintiff's conviction. Moore v. Mahone, 652 F.3d 722 (7th Cir. 2011)(a prisoner cannot pursue a civil rights action which challenges findings in his criminal case, because doing so is effectively a challenge to his conviction); Brown v. City of Chicago, 599 F.3d 772 (7th Cir. 2010)(collateral estoppel barred excessive force claim by shooting victim where victim had been convicted of aggravated assault and unlawful use of a weapon arising from incident). These determinations must await a more developed record.

Plaintiff states no claim against Defendant Royer for filing a false report which caused prosecutors to bring false charges. These allegations essentially pursue a state law malicious prosecution claim, which requires termination of the criminal proceedings in Plaintiff's favor. Kunz v. DeFelice, 538 F.3d 667, 682 (7th Cir. 2008)(citing Swick v. Liautaud, 169 Ill.2d 504 (1996)). Plaintiff's criminal proceedings have not yet terminated in his favor.

Plaintiff states no claims against the other Defendants. Defendant Royer's supervisors cannot be liable for Royer's constitutional violations solely because they are supervisors. Chavez v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001)(no respondeat superior liability under § 1983). Judge Zappa is absolutely immune from civil actions based on his rulings in Plaintiff's state case. Polzin v. Gage, 636 F.3d 834, 838 (7th Cir. 2011)("A judge has absolute immunity for any judicial actions unless the judge acted in the absence of all jurisdiction."). The public defenders are not considered government actors, and therefore cannot be sued for alleged constitutional violations. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981)("a public defender does not act under color of state law when performing a lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding"). Lastly, Defendant Big Muddy Correctional Center is not a suable entity, and, in any event, Plaintiff states no allegations against Illinois Department of Corrections officials.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:

1) The merit review scheduled for November 5, 2012 is cancelled. The clerk is directed to notify Plaintiff's prison of the cancellation.

2) Pursuant to its merit review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915A, the Court finds that Plaintiff states a federal constitutional claim against Defendant Royer for false arrest and excessive force in arrest. This case proceeds solely on the claims identified in this paragraph. Any additional claims shall not be included in the case, except at the Court's ...


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