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Goss v. Duncan

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

May 31, 2019




         Plaintiff, an inmate of the Escambia County Jail proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, commenced this action by filing a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1). The Complaint was referred to the undersigned for preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), and for the issuance of all preliminary orders and any recommendations to the district court regarding dispositive matters. See N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(C); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that this case be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's Complaint, filed on March 28, 2019, names two Defendants: (1) the Honorable Scott Duncan, a Circuit Judge for the Circuit Court in Escambia County, Florida, and (2) Amy C. Shea, an Assistant State Attorney (ECF No. 1 at 1- 3, 8).[1] Plaintiff alleges he was charged with robbery with a firearm, carjacking with a firearm, home invasion robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary of a conveyance while armed, sexual battery with a firearm, and kidnapping (id. at 10-11). Plaintiff alleges some of the charges involving a firearm were dropped because “a firearm the people said I had the State didn't have” (id. at 5, 10). He contends that for this reason, all of the charges involving a firearm should have been dropped, because all of the elements of the offenses were not satisfied (id. at 5, 10-11). Plaintiff also alleges that some of the evidence presented by the State at trial was not provided during discovery and that the State should not have been permitted to present evidence of a photo line-up (id. at 11-12). Plaintiff alleges the arresting officer questioned him without giving him a Miranda warning (id. at 10- 12), and he complains that Judge Duncan “said I exercise [sic] my rights to remaining [sic] silent . . which I didn't-I was asking questions and telling the arresting officer to do his job and read me my Miranda rights” (id. at 5). Plaintiff also complains that Judge Duncan and ASA Shea permitted two of the victims to lie during their trial testimony (id. at 5, 12). Plaintiff also complains that the evidence presented by ASA Shea was hearsay, but Judge Duncan allowed it to be admitted (id. at 4, 11). Plaintiff contends there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty (id. at 4-5). He also alleges “the verdict was rendered against me do [sic] to a motion of a mistrial [sic] then the State went against the judge call [sic] and wanted the verdict of guilty” (id. at 4, 12). Plaintiff also complains that Judge Duncan “denyed [sic] my mistrial using a different state case laws [sic]” (id. at 5). Finally, Plaintiff contends his attorney “wasn't doing her job right” (id. at 10).

         Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff claims that Judge Duncan and ASA Shea violated his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments (ECF No. 1 at 6). As relief, Plaintiff asks that this Court dismiss the criminal charges and release him from jail (id.). Plaintiff also requests $5, 000 “for my time I spend [sic] in jail for nothing on charges I was falsey [sic] charged for and falsey [sic] found guilty of” (id. at 6-7).


         The court is statutorily required to review the Complaint to determine whether this action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). To survive dismissal at the screening phase, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plausibility means “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted).

         Here, Plaintiff cannot state a plausible claim for relief against either of the named Defendants.

         A. Plaintiff's Claims for Injunctive Relief

         In Younger v. Harris, the Supreme Court held that federal courts should abstain from suits aimed at restraining pending state criminal prosecutions. 401 U.S. 37, 41, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d (1971); see also For Your Eyes Alone, Inc. v. City of Columbus, Ga., 281 F.3d 1209, 1216 (11th Cir. 2002) (citing Younger). The Younger abstention doctrine is based on the premise that a pending state prosecution will provide the accused with a sufficient chance to vindicate his federal constitutional rights. Hughes v. Att'y Gen. of Fla., 377 F.3d 1258, 1263 n.7 (11th Cir. 2004). Accordingly, Younger abstention is required when (1) the proceedings constitute an ongoing state judicial proceeding, (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests, and (3) there is an adequate opportunity in the state proceedings to raise constitutional challenges. See 31 Foster Children v. Bush, 329 F.3d 1255, 1275-82 (11th Cir. 2003). Under the Younger doctrine, federal courts are required to abstain if the state criminal prosecution commenced before any proceedings of substance on the merits have taken place in federal court, or if the federal case is in an “embryonic stage and no contested matter [has] been decided.” For Your Eyes Alone, Inc., 281 F.3d at 1217 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Here, Plaintiff explicitly acknowledges that prior to his commencing this § 1983 action on March 28, 2019, he had been convicted of several crimes. Indeed, the state court docket confirms that on November 20, 2018, Plaintiff was convicted of seven felonies (five of which involved a firearm) and one misdemeanor.[2] Plaintiff is currently awaiting sentencing. The federal court's intervention in the ongoing state criminal proceedings, which is what Plaintiff requests of this court by dismissing the convictions and releasing him from confinement, is prohibited by Younger.

         Moreover, civil rights actions brought pursuant to § 1983 cannot be used to challenge the validity of criminal convictions. In Preiser, the Supreme Court held that habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 488-90, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973). If Plaintiff wishes to challenges his convictions on constitutional grounds, he must do so in a federal habeas action.[3]

         Plaintiff is not entitled to the injunctive relief he seeks in this civil rights action (i.e., dismissal of his convictions and release from detention). Therefore, his claims for such relief must be dismissed.

         B. Plaintiff's Claims ...

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