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Firkins v. Nester

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 1, 2017

JACK L. FIRKINS, # B-86948, Plaintiff,
v.
GREGORY NESTER, and ROBERT HAIDA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while he was incarcerated at the St. Clair County Jail. He has since been transferred to Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). (Doc. 11). In this action, Plaintiff sues his public defender and trial judge, claiming that his speedy trial rights were violated while his criminal charges were pending. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         After fully considering the allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         At the time Plaintiff filed the action on April 7, 2017, he had been in custody at the St. Clair County Jail since June 1, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 3). He was awaiting trial on St. Clair County Cases No. 16-CF-74901, 02, and 03, and No. 16-CF-72301 and 02. Id. He had filed a pro se motion for speedy trial on June 1, 2016. However, Nester (Plaintiff's public defender) and Haida (St. Clair County Chief Judge) tolled his speedy trial time without Plaintiff's consent or approval. His trial date was postponed 3 times, cancelling trial dates set for November 28, 2017 (the Court presumes Plaintiff meant to say November 2016), January 23, 2017, and March 27, 2017. Plaintiff also filed a motion to dismiss his case, but Haida refused to entertain it.

         Plaintiff claims that the delay in bringing him to trial violated his “6th Amendment right to a 120-day fast and speedy trial, ” and violated his 14th Amendment due process rights. Id. He seeks compensatory damages for the violation of his rights.

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following 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. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Public Defender Nester violated Plaintiff's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and/or his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights;
Count 2: Judge Haida violated Plaintiff's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and/or his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.
Each of the above claims is subject to dismissal pursuant to § 1915A.

         The Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial is not automatically violated if the trial is postponed beyond 120 days. The 120-day time limit is imposed by Illinois law, at 725 ILCS 5/103-5(a), and is independent of the federal constitutional speedy trial right. A federal court does not enforce state laws such as this. Archie v. City of Racine, 847 F.2d 1211, 1217 (7th Cir. 1988) (en banc), cert. denied,489 U.S. 1065 (1989); Pasiewicz v. Lake Cnty. Forest Preserve Dist., 270 F.3d 520, 526 (7th Cir. 2001). Instead, a Sixth Amendment speedy trial claim is analyzed by balancing four factors: “whether delay before trial was uncommonly long, whether the government or the criminal defendant is more to blame for that delay, whether, in due course, the defendant asserted his right to ...


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