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Skinner v. Lipscomb

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 9, 2016

TYRONE CARLOS SKINNER, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK G. LIPSCOMB, JR., Defendant.

ORDER

LYNN ADELMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff, who is representing himself, filed a complaint alleging that his attorney violated his rights in the course of his criminal case. This matter is before me on plaintiff’s motion to proceed without prepaying the filing fee (Docket #2) and for screening of his complaint (Docket #1).

Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed without Prepaying the Filing Fee The Prison Litigation Reform Act gives courts discretion to allow prisoners to proceed with their lawsuits without prepaying the $350 filing fee, as long as they comply with certain requirements. 28 U.S.C. §1915. One of those requirements is that the prisoner pay an initial partial filing fee. On March 22, 2016, I ordered plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $28.30. Plaintiff paid the initial partial filing fee on May 2, 2016. I will grant plaintiff’s motion to proceed without prepaying the full filing fee; he must pay the remainder of the filing fee as set forth at the end of this order.

Screening of Plaintiff’s Complaint

Federal law requires that I screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). I must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, a plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not necessary for a plaintiff to plead specific facts and his statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first, “identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations, courts must, second, “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). I am obliged to give plaintiff’s pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

Allegations in the Complaint

According to plaintiff’s complaint, defendant is the lawyer who represented him against unspecified criminal charges. Defendant allegedly belittled, coerced, and disparaged plaintiff. He gave the plaintiff bad advice, ignored his wishes, and failed to submit various motions/filings. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

As previously noted, to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983, a plaintiff must allege the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of United States. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Service, 577 F.3d 816, 822 (7th Cir. 2009). In addition, the alleged deprivation must have been committed by a person acting under the color of state law. Id. Criminal defense attorneys cannot be sued under §1983 because they do not act under the color of state law. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 318, 325 (1981) (“[A] public defender does not act under color of state law when performing a lawyer’s traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding.”); see also Swift v. Swift, 556 F.App'x 509, 510-11 (7th Cir. 2014). Even attorneys who are appointed are not acting under the color of state law. Polk, 454 U.S. at 318.

Plaintiff might be able to bring a malpractice claim against his attorney in state court. Or, if he has been convicted of criminal charges, he might be able to raise ineffective assistance of counsel as an issue on direct appeal of his conviction or in a federal habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. However, the plaintiff does not state a claim under § 1983.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion to proceed without prepaying the filing fee (Docket #2) is GRANTED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยงยง1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a ...


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