United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lamar Williams, a pre-trial detainee in the custody of the
Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee,
filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Leah Ruth Wilson, his court-appointed
defense attorney. (Doc. No. 1).
complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant
to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.
PLRA Screening Standard
the screening requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform
Act (“PLRA”), the court must conduct an initial
review and dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A,
1915(e)(2)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). The court must
also construe a pro se complaint liberally, United States
v. Smotherman, 838 F.3d 736, 739 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and
accept a pro se plaintiff's factual allegations as true
unless they are entirely without credibility, see Thomas
v. Eby, 481 F.3d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992)).
Section 1983 Standard
42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against any
person who, acting under color of state law, abridges
“rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws....” To state a claim under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must allege and show two elements:
(1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the
deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of
state law. Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d
543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Sigley v.
City of Panama Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533
(6th Cir. 2006)); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
complaint alleges that a state court judge appointed
Defendant Leah Ruth Wilson as Plaintiff's state criminal
defense attorney on February 7, 2019. According to the
complaint, Wilson has visited Plaintiff once concerning his
case. On May 31, 2019, Plaintiff appeared before a state
judge and Wilson refused to withdraw from representing
Plaintiff. The complaint alleges that Wilson refuses to file
any motions Plaintiff asks her to file. The complaint further
alleges that Plaintiff has written to Wilson and has received
no response. His trial is set for August 19, 2019, and she
has not talked with him about his case. Plaintiff believes
that Wilson's conduct violates his right to effective
counsel under the Sixth Amendment of the United States
Constitution. (Doc. No. 1 at 5).
complaint names only one Defendant: Leah Ruth Wilson,
Plaintiff's court appointed state criminal defense
attorney. Plaintiff is under the impression that an attorney
representing a client in the defense of a criminal charge in
state court is acting under color of state law within the
meaning of Section 1983. To the contrary, courts uniformly
have held that defense counsel, whether appointed or
retained, whether in state or federal court, is not acting
under color of law for purposes of Section 1983. See
Mills v. Davis, 2014 WL 2893215, at *4 (E.D. Tenn. June
24, 2014) (citations omitted); see also West v.
Adkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (holding that a public
defender does not act under color of sate law when performing
a lawyer's traditional function as counsel to a defendant
in a criminal proceeding); James v. Mann, 234 F.3d
1268, 1268 (6th Cir. 2000) (“James's
retained attorney was not a person acting under color of
state law so as to be subject to suit under §
1983.”); Mulligan v. Schlachter, 389 F.2d 231,
233 (6th Cir. 1968) (holding that a private
attorney does not act under color of state law despite the
fact that he or she was appointed by the court).
appointed attorney serves her client. Wilson was not
transformed into a state official under color of law for
purposes of Section 1983, because she is not acting on the
government's behalf but rather is acting as the
government's adversary. Because Wilson, as
Plaintiff's court-appointed defense lawyer, is not acting
under color of state law, the complaint fails to state a
claim under Section 1983 upon which relief can be granted.
The claim must be dismissed.
is correct that he is entitled to the effective
representation of counsel. The Sixth Amendment to the United
States Constitution, as applied to the states through the
Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees the right of a person
accused of a crime to the effective assistance of counsel. If
Plaintiff is unsatisfied with his attorney's
representation and is convicted of a crime in state court, he
may raise his concerns about his attorney's performance
in a state petition for post-conviction relief and, if
necessary, in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. However, he cannot obtain relief by
way of a federal civil rights action, as he has attempted to