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Holguin v. Cascade County

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

May 10, 2017

ROBERT MATHEW HOLGUIN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CASCADE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          John Johnston United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Robert Holguin, a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis and without counsel, has filed what has been construed as three motions to amend his Complaint. (Docs. 6, 7, 10.) Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

A party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within:
(A) 21 days after serving it, or
(B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). The Complaint was directed to be served upon Defendants by Order dated February 27, 2018. (Doc. 4.) Counsel for Defendants waived service on March 29, 2018 (Doc. 8) and Defendants filed an Answer on April 30, 2018 (Doc. 12). Mr. Holguin's motions to amend were filed within 21 days of waiver of service of the Complaint, accordingly the motions to amend will be granted. However, since Mr. Holguin is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review his amendments to the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A. Sections 1915A(b) and 1915(e)(2)(B) require the Court to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis and/or by a prisoner against a governmental defendant before it is served if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         The Court finds that the claims which Mr. Holguin seeks to amend are frivolous and should be dismissed.

         A. Racial Discrimination/Harassment

         Mr. Holguin seeks to amend his Complaint to raise a racial discrimination claim against Defendants Cascade County, Cascade County Attorney's Office, Cascade County Attorney's Office Employees Joshua A. Racki, Valerie M. Winfield, Stephanie L. Fueller, Cascade County Sheriff's, Cascade County Sheriff's Department, Correctional Officer Warner, and Attorney Sam Harris. He specifically asks to add Defendants Warner and Harris.

         Mr. Holguin first argues that his criminal defense lawyer, Scott Harris, has belittled, disrespected, insulted, prejudiced, racially profiled, and made bigotory remarks to Mr. Holguin. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). In Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981), the United States Supreme Court held that public defenders do not act “under color of state law” when performing traditional lawyer duties. Miranda v. Clark County, 319 F.3d 465, 468 (9th Cir. 2003)(en banc). Whether Mr. Harris is a public defender or an appointed private attorney, Mr. Holguin cannot state a federal claim against Mr. Harris because he is not a state actor.

         Mr. Holguin's only allegation against Office Warner is that he was present during a conversation between Mr. Holguin and Mr. Harris and laughed when they were talking. This is insufficient to state a federal constitutional claim for relief. Mere verbal harassment or abuse, including the use of racial epithets, does not violate the Constitution and, thus, does not give rise to a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Oltarzewski v. Ruggiero, 830 F.2d 136, 139 (9th Cir. 1987); Gaut v. Sunn, 810 F.2d 923, 925 (9th Cir. 1987). Mr. Holguin's allegations that Officer Warner laughed during the course of a conversation which he alleges was racial in nature, is insufficient to state a claim.

         To the extent Mr. Holguin's raises racial discrimination claims against Cascade County, Cascade County Attorney's Office, Cascade County Attorney's Office Employees Joshua A. Racki, Valerie M. Winfield, Stephanie L. Fueller, Cascade County Sheriff's, Cascade County Sheriff's Department the Court should abstain from hearing those claims for the reasons Mr. Holguin cannot otherwise challenge his state court criminal proceedings in this Court.

         There is a strong policy against federal intervention in pending state judicial processes in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-45 (1971); see also Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 973 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar Association, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982)). “Younger abstention is a jurisprudential doctrine rooted in overlapping principles of equity, comity, and federalism.” San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee v. City of San Jose, 546 F.3d 1087, 1091 (9th Cir. 2008). Specifically, Younger directs federal courts to abstain from granting injunctive or declaratory relief that would interfere with pending state or local criminal proceedings. Gilbertson, at 381 F.3d at 968.

         Younger abstention also applies to federal civil actions under § 1983 requesting money damages. Gilbertson v. Albright,381 F.3d 965, 979 (9th Cir. 2004). Claims for damages which turn on alleged violations of constitutional rights caused by ongoing criminal prosecutions implicate the same grounds for abstention as are ...


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