United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MATT M. ALTON, Plaintiff,
SNOHOMISH COUNTY CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.
ORDER DECLINING SERVICE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO
A TSUCHIDA United States Magistrate Judge
Alton, who is presently confined at the Snohomish County
Corrections (“SCC”), filed a civil rights
complaint against Snohomish County Corrections and the
Snohomish County Public Defenders Association. Dkt. 1-1. Mr.
Alton alleges that the Snohomish County Public Defender's
office is denying him the right to change his counsel. He
claims that he is in need of a mental evaluation because his
wife attacked him and he has been charged with her murder. He
also claims that the SCC is denying him outside counseling to
help with his defense. Dkt. 1-1, p. 3. Mr. Alton acknowledges
that there is a grievance process in place at the SCC but he
has not filed a grievance for “fear of abuse.”
Id., p. 3.
Court DECLINES to serve the complaint because, as discussed
in more detail below, the complaint contains numerous
deficiencies. However, the Court GRANTS Mr. Alton leave to
file an amended complaint by June 9, 2017.
Court declines to serve the complaint because it contains
fatal deficiencies that, if not addressed, might lead to a
recommendation of dismissal of the entire action for failure
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii), 1915A(b)(1). In order to
sustain a civil rights action under § 1983, a plaintiff
must show (1) that he suffered a violation of rights
protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute,
and (2) that the violation was proximately caused by a person
acting under color of state or federal law. See Crumpton
v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991).
Government Entities and Public Defender as Parties
Alton has failed to name a proper defendant. A state public
defender performing traditional lawyer functions is not a
state actor. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312,
324-25, 102 S.Ct. 445, 70 L.Ed. 509 (1981); Miranda v.
Clark County, 319 F.3d 465, 468 (9th Cir.
2002). In addition, government entities such as the Snohomish
County Public Defender Association, and Snohomish County
Corrections are not proper parties to a § 1983
complaint. See Howlett v. Rose, 496 U.S. 356, 365
(1990). While Snohomish County is a municipality that can be
sued under § 1983, Monell v. New York City Dept. of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978), Mr. Alton
fails to allege how the County's employees or agents
acted through an official custom, pattern or policy that
permits deliberate indifference to, or violates, his civil
rights or that the County ratified the unlawful conduct.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91.
Challenge to Ongoing State Criminal Action
Mr. Alton were granted leave to amend his complaint to name a
proper defendant as to his claims regarding his underlying
state criminal proceeding, he may not challenge the propriety
of those proceedings in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit.
Federal courts will not intervene in a pending criminal
proceeding absent extraordinary circumstances where the
danger of irreparable harm is both great and immediate. See
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45, 46 (1971). The
Younger abstention doctrine requires that a district
court dismiss a federal action if state proceedings are (1)
ongoing, (2) implicate important state interests, and (3)
afford the plaintiff an adequate opportunity to raise the
federal issue. Columbia Basin Apartment Ass'n v. City
of Pasco, 268 F.3d 791, 799 (9th Cir. 2001) (citation
omitted). All of the Younger criteria appear to be
satisfied here. The proceedings are ongoing, involve a
criminal prosecution that implicates important state
interests, and there is nothing to indicate that Mr. Alton
cannot raise in his criminal case the same claims he raises
here or that there is a danger of great and immediate
irreparable harm. Therefore, it appears that this action
would unduly interfere with the state criminal proceeding in
a way Younger disapproves.
Conditions of Confinement at SCC
regard to Mr. Alton's remaining claim, that the SCC will
not provide him with outside counseling to help in his
defense, Mr. Alton has failed to state a claim for relief
under § 1983. To the extent Mr. Alton is seeking a
mental health evaluation as to his criminal proceedings he
must seek relief in those proceedings. To the extent Mr.
Alton is claiming that he is being denied mental health care
at the SCC, he has failed to allege facts sufficient to allow
the Court to determine whether he has stated a claim. Mr.
Alton may file an amended complaint to set out these
allegations more fully. In the amended complaint, plaintiff
must write out short, plain statements telling the Court: (1)
the constitutional right plaintiff believes was violated; (2)
the name of the person or persons who violated the right; (3)
exactly what that person(s) did or failed to do; (4) how the
action or inaction of that person(s) is connected to the
violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (5)
what specific injury plaintiff suffered because of that
person(s)'s conduct. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423
U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976).
person named as a defendant was a supervisory official,
plaintiff must either state that the defendant personally
participated in the constitutional deprivation (and tell the
Court the five things listed above), or plaintiff must state,
if he can do so in good faith, that the defendant was aware
of the similar widespread abuses, but with deliberate
indifference to plaintiff's constitutional rights, failed
to take action to prevent further harm to plaintiff and also
state facts to support this claim. See Monell, 436
U.S. at 691.
must repeat this process for each person he names as a
defendant, including any “John Doe” and
“Jane Doe” defendants. If plaintiff fails to
affirmatively link the conduct of each named defendant with
the specific injury suffered by plaintiff, the claim against
that defendant will be dismissed for failure to state a
claim. Conclusory allegations that a defendant or a group of
defendants have violated a constitutional right are not
acceptable and will be dismissed.