United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
ORDER, and FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Duane Angelo Burchill's
motion requesting leave to prosecute this action in forma
pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Because Burchill has
made the requisite showing, his motion for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis is properly granted. IT IS SO ORDERED.
juncture, the Court is obligated to examine Burchill's
complaint to determine whether the Court should exercise
jurisdiction over the subject matter of Burchill's claim.
appearing pro se, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 seeking monetary compensation from the Defendant Karen
J. Miller, Clerk of the Montana Fifth Judicial District
Court, Madison County. Burchill alleges, in essence, that Miller
deprived him of his constitutional right to conduct his own
defense in criminal proceedings against him. Specifically,
Burchill states that Clerk Miller (or presumably her deputy)
refused to file certain motions in the criminal proceedings
presented by Burchill pro se. Burchill acknowledges Clerk
Miller advised him that he had a court-appointed attorney
assigned to represent him, and could not file motions on his
own behalf unless he signed a waiver of counsel - which he
apparently did not do. At bottom, Burchill contends Clerk
Miller violated his right to self representation by not
unconditionally allowing him to file his motions pro se.
Younger abstention doctrine - named after the case
of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) - generally
prohibits federal courts from granting relief in a federal
suit that would interfere with pending state criminal
proceedings. Younger abstention “contemplates
the outright dismissal of the federal suit, and the
presentation of all claims, both state and federal, to the
state courts.” Gibson v. Berryhill, 411 U.S.
564, 577 (1973). Because Burchill's suit would directly
interfere with the ongoing state criminal proceeding, this
Court must decline to exercise jurisdiction.
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
a criminal defendant the “right to a fair and reliable
trial.” United States v. Erskine, 355 F.3d
1161, 1167 (9th Cir. 2004). The Sixth Amendment,
in turn, “guarantees a defendant a right to counsel but
also allows him to waive this right and to represent himself
without counsel.” Id. (emphasis in
original) (citing Faretta v. California, 422 U.S.
806, 820 (1975)). To alleviate the tension that exists
between the paramount objective of a fair trial and a
defendant's right to conduct his own defense, a trial
court is cast in the primary role of insuring that a
so-called Faretta waiver is knowing and intelligent.
Erskine, 355 F.3d at 1167.
fact the state district court has implemented a policy that
precludes a defendant represented by court-appointed counsel
from filing motions pro se does not constitute a per se
violation of the right to self-representation as contended by
Burchill. Rather, a fair assessment of the policy leads to
the conclusion that it is designed to insure the presiding
trial judge undertakes to satisfy the “fundamental
obligation” imposed upon him by Faretta.
See United States v. Hernandez, 203 F.3d 614, 625
n.16 (9th Cir. 2000), overruled on other grounds
by Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008).
important to note the record in Burchill's state criminal
case reflects the trial court ultimately granted
Burchill's request to conduct his own defense.
reasons discussed, IT IS RECOMMENDED that this action be
dismissed in accordance with the directive of Younger v.
Harris. IT IS FURTHER RECOMMENDED 1. The Clerk of Court
should be directed to close this matter and enter judgment
pursuant to Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Clerk of Court should be directed to have the docket reflect
that the Court certifies pursuant to Rule 24(a)(3)(A) of the
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure that any appeal of this
decision would not be taken in good faith. The record makes
plain the Court should abstain ...