United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.
This is the third pro se civil rights action recently filed by Damion Davis, an inmate presently confined at the Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Plaintiff has also submitted a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons set forth below, Davis' complaint will be dismissed without prejudice.
Named as Defendants are Judge Tood A. Hoover of the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas and Dauphin County Probation Officer Randy Mumer. Plaintiff states that he drafted a pro se motion regarding a matter pending in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas on October 5, 2014 while previously confined in the Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. See Doc. 1, ¶ IV. Davis notes that at the time he prepared the motion he was uncertain as to which attorney from the Public Defender's office was representing him.
According to a supplement (Doc. 2) accompanying the Complaint, the motion requested that a charge that Davis violated a condition of his Dauphin County probation he be modified or vacated. Judge Hoover subsequently issued an order which provided that the pro se motion would not be addressed since Davis was represented by counsel. See id.
Although the exact basis for Plaintiff's claims in this matter are not set forth, it will be presumed that Plaintiff is alleging that Judge Hoover acted improperly by refusing to entertain the pro se motion. Second, although Probation Officer Mumer is listed as being a Defendant there are no allegations set forth regarding him in the Complaint. Based upon a liberal construction of Plaintiff's submissions, it appears that Davis is alleging that Mumer improperly initiated or approved the probation violation charge. As relief, Plaintiff indicates that he is seeking dismissal of the probation violation charge/sentence. See Doc. 1, ¶ V.
When considering a complaint accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, a district court may rule that process should not issue if the complaint is malicious, presents an indisputably meritless legal theory, or is predicated on clearly baseless factual contentions. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989), Douris v. Middleton Township, 293 Fed.Appx. 130, 132 (3d Cir. 2008). Indisputably meritless legal theories are those "in which either it is readily apparent that the plaintiff's complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or that the defendants are clearly entitled to immunity from suit...." Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Sultenfuss v. Snow, 894 F.2d 1277, 1278 (11th Cir. 1990)).
The Complaint include factual assertions that Davis may be challenging the legality of a Dauphin County probation violation sentence. As relief, Plaintiff indicates that he is perhaps seeking dismissal of a probation violation sentence. See Doc. 1, ¶ V. It is well-settled that inmates may not use civil rights actions to challenge the fact or duration of their confinement or to seek earlier or speedier release. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1975). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has similarly recognized that civil rights claims seeking release from confinement sounded in habeas corpus. See Georgevich v. Strauss, 772 F.2d 1078, 1086 (3d Cir. 1985).
In Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646 (1997), the United States Supreme Court concluded that a civil rights claim for declaratory relief "based on allegations... that necessarily imply the invalidity of the punishment imposed, is not cognizable" in a civil rights action. Id. at 646. Pursuant to the standards announced in Georgevich and Edwards, any challenge by Davis to a Dauphin County probation violation sentence is not properly raised in a civil rights complaint. Accordingly, any such claims will be dismissed without prejudice to any right Davis may have to pursue said allegations via a federal habeas corpus petition.
To the extent that Davis is challenging an ongoing Dauphin County probation violation proceeding, in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1981), the United States Supreme Court "held that principles of federalism and comity require district courts to abstain from enjoining pending state criminal proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances." Port Auth. Police Benevolent Assoc., Inc. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J. Police Dep't., 973 F.2d 169, 173 (3d Cir. 1992). The test for federal court abstention under Younger is whether "(1) there are ongoing state proceedings that are judicial in nature; (2) the state proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims." Id.
Indeed, "[i]n no area of the law is the need for a federal court to stay its hand pending completion of state proceedings more evident than in the case of pending criminal proceedings." Evans v. Court of Common Pleas, 959 F.2d 1227, 1234 (3d Cir. 1992). It has also been noted that the habeas corpus remedy afforded to state inmates under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 was not intended "to argue state law issues pre-trial in a federal forum." Green v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1993 WL 239311 *3 (E.D. Pa. June 28, 1993).
There are no assertions by Plaintiff which suggests that he and his defense counsel cannot litigate the merits of his present claims in his ongoing state probation violation proceedings. This civil rights action does not raise the type of extraordinary circumstances contemplated under Younger, thus, intervention by this Court in any ongoing probation violation proceedings in dauphin County is not warranted at this ...