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Gerardy v. Seventh District Court

United States District Court, D. Utah

May 2, 2019



          Robert J. Shelby, District Judge

         Plaintiff, Daniel Thomas Gerardy, filed this pro se civil rights suit, see 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2019), [1] proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 id. § 1915. Having now screened the Complaint, (Doc. No. 3), under its statutory review function, [2] the Court orders Plaintiff to show cause why the Complaint should not be dismissed for failure to identify an appropriate defendant and lack of jurisdiction.

         Based on the latest information available to the Court, Plaintiff is incarcerated in New Mexico, with Utah warrants pending. Plaintiff names Utah Seventh District Court as the only defendant. He asserts that Defendant violated his federal constitutional rights by maintaining criminal charges against him and warrants for his arrest. As remedy, he asks the Court to dismiss the charges and warrants.


         1. Grounds for Dismissal

         In evaluating the propriety of dismissing claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, this Court takes all well-pleaded factual assertions as true and regards them in a light most advantageous to the plaintiff. Ridge at Red Hawk L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). Dismissal is appropriate when, viewing those facts as true, the plaintiff has not posed a "plausible" right to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247-48 (10th Cir. 2008). "The burden is on the plaintiff to frame a 'complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief." Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When a civil rights complaint contains "bare assertions," involving "nothing more than a 'formulaic recitation of the elements' of a constitutional . . . claim," the Court considers those assertions "conclusory and not entitled to" an assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1951 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554-55). In other words, "the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims." Red Hawk, 493 F.3d at 1177 (italics in original).

         This Court must construe pro se "'pleadings liberally,' applying a less stringent standard than is applicable to pleadings filed by lawyers. Th[e] court, however, will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf." Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). In the Tenth Circuit, this means that if this Court can reasonably read the pleadings "to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Still, it is not "the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant." Id.; see also Peterson v. Shanks, 149 F.3d 1140, 1143 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989) (per curiam)).

         2. Inappropriate Defendant

         Utah Seventh District Court is not an entity that may be sued under § 1983. “It is clear that a state court simply is not a ‘person' or a juridical entity capable of being sued under § 1983.” Magee v. Alexander, No. 16-14697, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184918, at *4 (E.D. La. Nov. 4, 2016); see also Harris v. Champion, 51 F.3d 901, 905-06 (10th Cir. 1995) (holding state court properly dismissed under § 1983 because “governmental entity that is an arm of the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes” is not “person”); Coopersmith v. Colorado, 465 F.2d 993, 994 (10th Cir. 1972) (stating state courts not “persons” under § 1983); Rey v. Hostetler, No. 18-3210- SAC, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30164, at * (D. Kan. Feb. 26, 2019) (“The defendant . . . County Court is an arm of the State, and therefore, it is not a ‘person' suable under § 1983.” (citing Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989))); Agrawal v. Courts of Okla., No. CIV-18-396-D, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13591, at *5 (W.D. Okla. July 9, 2018) (unpublished) (dismissing claims sua sponte because “courts are not suable entities”).

         3. Issues in Ongoing Criminal Case

         Plaintiff asks that his state charges and warrants be dismissed here.

         The Court proposes to deny relief under the Younger abstention doctrine. See Housley v. Williams, No. 92-6110, 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 5592, at *8 (10th Cir. Mar. 12, 1993) (unpublished); Cen v. Castro, No. C 02-2094 PJH (PR), 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9314, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 1, 2002). After all, "[t]he rule of exhaustion in federal habeas corpus actions is rooted in considerations of federal-state comity," as defined in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44 (1971). Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 491 (1973). The abstention analysis has three parts: "First, is there a pending state judicial proceeding; 'second, do the proceedings implicate important state interests; and third, is there an adequate opportunity in the state proceedings to raise constitutional challenges.'" Oltremari ex rel. McDaniel v. Kan. Social & Rehab. Serv., 871 F.Supp. 1331, 1356 (D. Kan. 1994) (quoting Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)).

         Applying the analysis here, the Court first determines based on the information in the complaint that there is a pending state judicial proceeding. Second, although this is a federal civil-rights case, "'[t]he importance of the state interest may be demonstrated by the fact that the noncriminal proceedings bear a close relationship to proceedings criminal in nature.'" Oltremariex rel McDaniel, 871 F.Supp. at 1356 (quoting Middlesex County Ethics Comm., 457 U.S. at 432). Considering that Petitioner actually attacks--both here and in state court--ongoing criminal proceedings, the Court concludes the issues in this noncriminal civil-rights case clearly are integral to "proceedings criminal in nature," and, consequently, involve an important state interest. Id. Finally, Petitioner has an adequate chance to raise any of his federal ...

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