United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff, who is currently detained pending trial in the Madison County Jail ("the Jail"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He filed his complaint on January 16, 2014. The majority of his pleading references potential defenses to the murder charge he is now facing in Madison County. He also states that he has been held in the Jail for almost two years "under harsh condition [sic]" (Doc. 1, p. 5).
In his statement of claim, Plaintiff asserts that he did not have anything to do with the murder for which he is awaiting trial, which he claims was committed by another individual. That person has already been sentenced. Plaintiff is accused of giving somebody a gun to commit a robbery, and that crime led to a murder. Plaintiff claims that at the time of the killing, he had been pulled over by the state police in a town approximately two hours away from Alton. Defendant Jarrett Ford (Alton Police Detective) lied about some of the facts in order to get Plaintiff charged with the crime. He has not talked to his public defender nor received anything in response to a discovery request.
As relief, Plaintiff seeks money damages and an order requiring Defendants to drop the charges against him and let him go to serve a federal sentence (Doc. 1, p. 6).
Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.
The Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into two counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court:
Count 1: Challenge to Pending Prosecution in State Court; and
Count 2: Unconstitutional Conditions of Confinement.
After fully considering the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to state any constitutional claim upon which relief may be granted. Count 1 shall be dismissed, as will the complaint (Doc. 1). However, Plaintiff shall be granted one opportunity to submit an amended complaint if he has any factual basis to pursue the claim designated as Count 2, for unconstitutional conditions at the Jail.
Dismissal of Count 1 - Challenge to Pending Prosecution in State Court
Under the abstention doctrine outlined in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), a federal court should not interfere with pending state judicial proceedings. See Brunken v. Lance, 807 F.2d 1325, 1330 (7th Cir. 1986) (citing Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982)). In fact, federal courts are required to abstain from enjoining such proceedings when they are "(1) judicial in nature, (2) implicate important state interests, and (3) offer an adequate opportunity for review of constitutional claims, (4) so long as no extraordinary circumstances exist which would make abstention inappropriate." Green v. Benden, 281 F.3d 661, 666 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432, 436-37 (1982) and Majors v. Engelbrecht, 149 F.3d 709, 711 (7th Cir. 1998)).
There is no doubt that the Younger doctrine requires this Court to deny Plaintiff's request for an order directing the State court to dismiss the pending criminal charge against him. The State of Illinois has an important interest in prosecuting Plaintiff for the felony charge he faces, and he will have ample opportunity to raise the potential defenses he describes in his complaint, as well as any constitutional issues that may arise, as that criminal case proceeds. There is no reason to believe he would not have a full opportunity to raise any constitutional claims in the trial court, as well as on appeal in the event he should be convicted.
Further, the complaint does not suggest the existence of any extraordinary or special circumstances which might override the abstention doctrine. See Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484 (1973); Sweeney v. Bartow, 612 F.3d 571 (7th Cir. 2010); Brunken v. Lance, 807 F.2d 1325, 1330 (7th Cir. 1986) (citing Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982)); Neville v. Cavanaugh, 611 F.2d 673, 675 (7th Cir. 1979). The special circumstances which could justify federal court intervention are generally limited to issues of double jeopardy or speedy trial, see Braden, 410 U.S. at 489-92; Sweeney, 612 F.3d at 573, or bad faith prosecution. Kugler v. Helfant, ...