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Smart v. Dalton

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 11, 2018

SALAHUDDIN F. SMART, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY DALTON, ESQ., OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER CAMDEN REGION; STATE OF NEW JERSEY, and CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, Defendants.

          SALAHUDDIN F. SMART, PLAINTIFF PRO SE

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff Salahuddin F. Smart, who is proceeding pro se and a pretrial detainee presently housed at the Camden County Department of Corrections in Camden, New Jersey, filed a Verified Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, also styled as an “Emergency Injunction for Relief, ” see ECF No. 1 at 1, to enjoin a New Jersey state criminal proceeding;[1] and

         WHEREAS, when Petitioner filed his Verified Complaint, he sought to proceed in forma pauperis without prepayment of fees, ECF No. 1-1; and

         WHEREAS, upon an initial review of the IFP application, it appears that it is missing the certification required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) (“A prisoner seeking to bring a civil action . . . in a civil action . . . without prepayment of fees or security therefor . . . shall submit a certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the prisoner for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint or notice of appeal, obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at which the prisoner is or was confined.”); and

         WHEREAS, the Court will, in the interest of justice, dispense with the review of Plaintiff's IFP application in light of his request for emergency injunctive relief for the limited purpose of assessing that request;[2] and

         WHEREAS, the Court will liberally construe in light of Plaintiff's pro se status the Verified Complaint, on which he writes in the caption, “Emergency Injunctive Relief, ” as a separate motion for an ex parte temporary restraining order (“TRO”) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(b)(1), which provides, “The court may issue a temporary restraining order without written or oral notice to the adverse party . . . .”; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff seeks a TRO because the state prosecuting attorney for Camden County must “be stopped” from pursuing the presently pending criminal action[3] against him via a grand jury proceeding and presentation scheduled for tomorrow, December 12, 2018, see ECF No. 1 at 6-7; and

         WHEREAS, it also appears that Plaintiff is challenging his attorney's waiver of a probable cause hearing prior to the presentment of the indictment, for which Plaintiff demands a probable cause hearing to challenge the probable cause of his arrest, see id. at 7; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff also references the denial of a pro se hearing, for which, combined with the lack of a probable cause hearing, has denied Plaintiff his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, see id.; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff also requests as relief that this Court determine his pro se status “for purposes of pre-trial motions and hearings, ” presumably in his state court criminal proceeding, id. at 7-8; and

         WHEREAS, a federal court “may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments.” 28 U.S.C. § 2283. An action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, however, has been construed to authorize such federal action. See Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 242-43 (1972) (finding that “under the criteria established in our previous decisions construing the anti-injunction statute, § 1983 is an Act of Congress that falls within the ‘expressly authorized' exception to that law.”). Although a court may issue an injunction in such circumstances, “the principles of equity, comity, and federalism that must restrain a federal court when asked to enjoin a state court proceeding” apply, id. at 243; and

         WHEREAS, the Court must deny Plaintiff's request for a TRO for the following reasons:

(1) The Rooker-Feldman doctrine states that “a party's recourse for an adverse decision in state court is an appeal to the appropriate state appellate court, and ultimately to the Supreme Court, ” Parkview Associates Partnership v. City of Lebanon, 225 F.3d 321, 324 (3d Cir. 2000), and, therefore, only state appellate courts or the U.S. Supreme Court can review the decisions of state courts for constitutional error, PortAuth. Police Benevolent Ass'n, Inc. v. Port Auth. of New York and New Jersey Police Dep't, 973 F.2d 169, 177 (3d Cir. 1992). Here, the Court should abstain pursuant to Rooker-Feldman because Plaintiff's requested injunctive relief - an order from this Court ordering the Superior Court of New Jersey to hold a probable cause hearing and a finding from this Court to ...

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