The complaint will therefore be served on defendant Lehigh County.
III. STAY OF FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
Although the complaint is to be served, all further proceedings in this action are stayed until plaintiff has exhausted the remedies that are available to him in state courts. Exhaustion of state remedies is not normally required in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action. However, certain features of this case require the court to abstain from deciding plaintiff's claims at this time.
At the core of all of plaintiff's allegations is the claim that he was deprived of a fair trial. Plaintiff alleges that the prosecution failed to provide exculpatory evidence, solicited perjurious testimony, and deprived him of a speedy trial. He alleges that his own attorneys and the public defender's office denied him the effective assistance of counsel by virtue of, among other things, conflicts of interest and failure to present exculpatory evidence. He further alleges that these alleged examples of inadequate representation grew out of a conspiracy between his attorneys, the public defender's office, and the district attorney's office, and that this conspiracy was part of an official policy or practice of the county.
Plaintiff's allegations amount to a claim that his conviction was obtained unconstitutionally. This is precisely the type of issue which is appropriately brought before a federal district court in the form of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. However, a federal district court may consider a state prisoner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus only after all state remedies are exhausted. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) & (c); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 71 L. Ed. 2d 379, 102 S. Ct. 1198 (1982). When a federal district court determines that there exists a possibility of state court review, a habeas petition should be dismissed without prejudice. See Hill v. Zimmerman, 709 F.2d 232 (3rd Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 940, 78 L. Ed. 2d 318, 104 S. Ct. 354 (1983).
It is apparent that plaintiff has not exhausted the state remedies which are available to him to correct the alleged constitutional violations which led to his conviction. Plaintiff has evidently not even exhausted his rights to direct appeal of his conviction, let alone his state post-conviction remedies. Thus, if his complaint were properly pled as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, this court would have to dismiss his petition without prejudice to allow him to exhaust his state remedies.
Of course, this complaint is framed as a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, rather than as a habeas petition. In general, there is no exhaustion of state remedies requirement for § 1983 actions. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 494, 36 L. Ed. 2d 439, 93 S. Ct. 1827 (1973). However, the third circuit has "recognized that when factual and legal issues inherent in section 1983 and habeas corpus actions overlap, a federal court's premature determination adjudication of the section 1983 case would interfere with congressional policy requiring initial resort to state tribunals in habeas corpus petitions." Williams v. Hepting, 844 F.2d 138, 144 (3rd Cir. 1988) (citing Harper v. Jeffries, 808 F.2d 281, 285 (3rd Cir. 1986)), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 851 (1988).
The policy behind the exhaustion requirement is rooted in considerations of comity. The state must be given the "initial opportunity to pass upon and correct" alleged violations of petitioner's constitutional rights. Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275, 30 L. Ed. 2d 438, 92 S. Ct. 509 (1971). "Where the federal court, in dealing with the question of damages caused by violations of civil rights, would have to make rulings by virtue of which the validity of a conviction in a contemporary state proceeding would be called into question, the potential for federal-state friction is obvious. The federal ruling would embarrass, and could even intrude into, the state proceeding." Williams, 844 F.2d at 144 (quoting Guerro v. Mulhearn, 498 F.2d 1249, 1253 (1st Cir. 1974)).
In response to these concerns, the third circuit has developed a limited exhaustion requirement for § 1983 civil rights claims when the "civil rights damages action challenges the fact of confinement by attacking the underlying criminal conviction that caused the confinement." Williams, 844 F.2d at 144. The proper procedure in this situation is to stay plaintiff's civil rights claims while he pursues his state remedies. Id.
The court finds that the factual and legal issues raised by the amended complaint are inseparably linked to the question of whether plaintiff's conviction was constitutionally obtained. All of the allegations against the prosecutor and public defender defendants clearly have the fairness of plaintiff's trial at their core. This is also true of the claims against Lehigh County alleging that the prosecutors and public defenders were acting in accordance with county policy or practice.
The allegation that plaintiff was denied due process of law when he was transferred from one prison to another has a more complex relationship to the question of whether he received a fair trial. In general such a claim need not implicate any issues concerning the validity of plaintiff's criminal conviction, since the only issue is whether or not plaintiff was accorded the procedural safeguards which the constitution and state law require. However, plaintiff alleges that the transfer was part of an ongoing conspiracy to deny him access to his attorneys and witnesses for his defense, and to punish him for his attempts to overcome the conspiracy against him by proceeding pro se in his criminal case. Thus, even this due process claim is inextricably linked to the claims that plaintiff was denied a fair trial.
Because the factual and legal issues raised in this civil rights complaint cannot be addressed without making decisions which directly implicate the validity of plaintiff's criminal conviction, the court will abstain from further consideration of plaintiff's allegations until they are presented to and ruled upon by the state courts. If, after he has exhausted his state remedies, plaintiff has not received relief, his claim will be properly before this court, and the court will consider his claims. Williams, 844 F.2d at 143-45.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this day of November, 1992, upon consideration of plaintiff's supplemental complaint, it is hereby ORDERED:
1. The complaint, along with a copy of this memorandum and order, is to be served on all defendants.
2. Plaintiff's claims under 18 U.S.C. § 241-42 against all defendants are dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d).
3. Plaintiff's claims for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Glennis Clark and the Lehigh County District Attorneys Office are dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d).
4. All further action in this matter is stayed until plaintiff has exhausted his state remedies.
BY THE COURT:
James T. Giles