United States District Court, C.D. Illinois
MERIT REVIEW OPINION
E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge
proceeding pro se, is incarcerated at Peoria County Jail. He
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming
ineffective assistance of counsel by attorneys Brown and Rose
of the Peoria County Public Defender’s Office.
Specifically, Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges that
Defendants Brown and Rose provided ineffective assistance of
counsel because they have not visited him in Peoria County
Jail since Defendant Rose was appointed on May 12, 2016, to
represent Plaintiff in the state court criminal proceedings.
Plaintiff requests that Defendant Rose be removed from his
case. Additionally, Plaintiff requests $400 in compensatory
damages for pain and suffering and $300 in punitive damages.
The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
§ 1915A, the Court must review prisoner complaints in
civil actions and identify cognizable claims. The Court must
dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint that is
frivolous, 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. In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts all
factual allegations as true as views them in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiff. Turley v. Rednour, 729
F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, the Complaint must
set forth sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for
relief; conclusory statements are insufficient. Munson v.
Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630 (7th Cir. 2012).
1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation,
under color of state law, of the rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United
States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, in order to state a
claim, a plaintiff must allege facts showing that defendants
were acting under color of state law. In the context of
§ 1983 actions, “a person acts under color of
state law only when exercising power ‘possessed by
virtue of state law and made possible only because the
wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state
law.’” Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S.
312, 317-18 (1981) (quoting United States v.
Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 326 (1941)).
Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a § 1983
claim because he cannot show that the Defendant Rose, the
public defender appointed to represent him, was acting under
color of state law. See Polk County, 454 U.S. at 325
(holding that “a public defender does not act under
color of state law when performing a lawyer’s
traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in criminal
proceedings”); Sceifers v. Trigg, 46 F.3d 701,
704 (7th Cir. 1995) (“[T]he actions of Sceifers'
deputy public defenders and appointed counsel, which caused
the delay, do not constitute state action.”). Thus,
because Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim
under § 1983, it must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. §
allowing Plaintiff to proceed in this action would interfere
with the ongoing state court criminal proceedings. He seeks
both equitable relief-removal (and presumably replacement) of
his current counsel-and monetary damages. Absent
extraordinary circumstances, federal courts must abstain from
taking jurisdiction over constitutional claims “when a
criminal defendant seeks a federal injunction to block his
state court prosecution . . . .” Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 53-54 (1971). Younger has
been extended to claims for monetary relief, since “a
federal damages suit, although not interfering with the state
proceeding to the same degree as an injunction, could beat
the state action to judgment and either undermine . . . or
preclude . . . the State’s consideration of some
issues.” Majors v. Engelbrecht, 149 F.3d 709,
714 (7th Cir. 1998). In sum, this Court will not inquire into
the effectiveness of Spiller’s public defender in an
ongoing state court criminal proceeding. To the extent that
Spiller wishes to have different counsel appointed, he should
raise that issue with the judge in the criminal case. And
although federal courts generally stay, rather than dismiss,
claims that would interfere with or disrupt ongoing state
proceedings, dismissal is appropriate here because his claims
are not cognizable under § 1983. Cf. Gakuba v.
O’Brien, 711 F.3d 751, 753 (7th Cir. 2013).
because Plaintiff’s claims are not cognizable under
§ 1983, allowing him leave to amend his Complaint would
be futile. Accordingly, this action is dismissed with
prejudice and all remaining motions are now moot.
reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s  Complaint is
Dismissed with Prejudice. Plaintiff’s  Petition to
Proceed in Forma Pauperis and  Motion to Request Counsel
are Moot. The Clerk’s Office is directed to forward a
copy of the Complaint ...