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Cole v. Madonia

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

July 19, 2018

BRETT COLE, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDGE JOHN M. MADONIA, JAMES ELMORE, JOHN C. MILHISER, and OFFICER L. NORTON, Defendants.

          MERIT REVIEW OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff filed this case pro se from the Sangamon County Jail. The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This statute requires the Court to review a complaint filed by a prisoner to identify the cognizable claims and to dismiss part or all of the complaint if no claim is stated.

         In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S., 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoted cite omitted).

         On June 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint (d/e 1) against Judge John M. Madonia, James Elmore, John C. Milhiser, and Officer L. Norton. Plaintiff brings the action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] To state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must allege (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 822 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Plaintiff is awaiting trial on charges of aggravated battery, resisting a peace officer, and retail theft in Sangamon County No. 2017-CF-001366. The court docket shows that the Office of the Public Defender was appointed to represent Plaintiff and that he is represented by attorney James Elmore. See http://records.sangamoncountycircuitclerk.org/sccc (last visited July 19, 2018); In re Salem, 465 F.3d 767, 771 (7th Cir. 2006) (taking judicial notice of state court dockets). Judge Madonia is the judge assigned to the case. Milhiser is the Sangamon County State's Attorney.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was savagely beaten by Officer Norton of the Sangamon County police department and then arrested for resisting arrest and aggravated battery. Plaintiff alleges that he is “pretty sure” that Judge Madonia and Attorney Elmore are “in a plot to deprive” Plaintiff of his life, liberty, and happiness. Plaintiff alleges that Judge Madonia has denied Plaintiff a speedy trial. Plaintiff alleges that Attorney Elmore failed to object to a continuance and requested Plaintiff be placed in cuffs and shackles at trial.

         Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Judge Madonia, Attorney Elmore, and State's Attorney Milhiser.

         The only factual allegations made against Judge Madonia pertain to his judicial acts. A judge is entitled to absolute immunity for his judicial acts unless he acted in the clear absence of jurisdiction, even if the action is erroneous, malicious, or in excess of his authority. Brokaw v. Mercer Cnty., 235 F.3d 1000, 1015 (7th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff has not alleged that Judge Madonia acted in the clear absence of jurisdiction. Therefore, the claims against Judge Madonia are dismissed.

         Plaintiff also complains of actions taken by attorney Elmore acting as a public defender. A court-appointed public defender does not act under color of state law. Polk Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (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.”). Although Plaintiff alleges that he is “pretty sure” that Elmore and Judge Madonia acted together to deprive Plaintiff of his rights, conclusory statements are insufficient to state a claim. See Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 923 (1984) (holding that state public defenders are not immune under § 1983 if they conspire with state actors to deprive their clients of federal rights); Tobey v. Chibucos, 890 F.3d 634, 639 (7th Cir. 2018) (the court does not “credit legal conclusions, ” and “‘[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements'” are not sufficient) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         Plaintiff's complaint contains no allegations against State's Attorney Milhiser and, therefore, fails to state a claim against him. In addition, prosecutors are entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity for conduct that relates to their role as an advocate for the state. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993) (“[A]cts undertaken by a prosecutor in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the courts of his role as an advocate for the State, are entitled to the protections of absolute immunity”).

         Plaintiff has stated a § 1983 claim that Officer Norton used excessive force in violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. The allegations against Norton appear to be intertwined with the facts pertaining to the underlying criminal prosecution against Plaintiff in Sangamon County. A plaintiff cannot bring a § 1983 damages claim that necessarily implies the invalidity of his conviction or sentence. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (holding that a state prisoner's § 1983 damages claim must be dismissed if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would “necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence”); but see Evans v. Poskon, 603 F.3d 362, 364 (7th Cir. 2010) (noting that in some instances, a Fourth Amendment claim can coexist with a valid conviction). Although Plaintiff has not been convicted and Heck would not yet apply, it would be within this Court's discretion to stay this civil action until the criminal case has ended. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 393-94 (2007) (court may stay a civil action until the criminal case has ended); Lynch v. Nolan, 598 F.Supp.2d 900, 903-04 (C.D. Ill. 2009) (finding Younger abstention appropriate to stay the plaintiff's § 1983 suit until the state criminal proceedings were fully resolved). The Court will order service on Officer Norton, who can raise this issue if appropriate.

         Plaintiff has also filed additional motions. Plaintiff filed a motion (d/e 6) titled “Add on to Case” [6]. Plaintiff seeks to add to the Complaint the following: “mental pain [and] suffering, ” “illegal detained (imprisonment), ” and “dam[a]ges 500, 000 Thousand.” The Motion is denied. The Court does not accept piecemeal amendments to a complaint.

         Plaintiff also filed a Motion for a Freeze (d/e 5) asking that this Court freeze all court proceedings in Sangamon County. This Motion is denied. Federal courts cannot enjoin ongoing state criminal proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971). Plaintiff does not identify any extraordinary circumstances.

         IT IS ...


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