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Sheets v. State

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 21, 2018



         THIS MATTER is before the Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the Civil Rights Complaint filed by Plaintiffs Steven H. Sheets and Philip D. Sheets (Doc. 1) (“Complaint”). The Court will dismiss the Complaint.

         In 2003, Plaintiff Steven Sheets pled guilty to Second Degree Murder (Firearm Enhancement), Conspiracy to Commit 1st Degree Murder, Tampering with Evidence, and Possession of a Firearm by a Felon, in New Mexico state court cause no. D-1329-CR-2001-00196. On January 15, 2004, Steven Sheets was sentenced to serve 38 years of incarceration with 3 years suspended, for a total of 35 years. (Doc. 1 at 29, 31). He is presently serving his sentence in the custody of the State of New Mexico Corrections Department. (Doc. 1 at 3, 17). Plaintiff Philip Sheets is the father of Steven Sheets and is proceeding in this case “as a third party, paying for the Defense of my son's case in State District Court.” (Doc. 1 at 3).

         Plaintiffs Steven and Philip Sheets filed their Complaint on November 15, 2017. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs allege violations of the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 13th, and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 1 at 3). Plaintiffs name, as Defendants, the State of New Mexico, Sandoval County Sheriff's Officer Steve Reynolds, District Attorney Lemuel Martinez, Deputy District Attorney Patrick C. McNertney, Deputy District Attorney Charlie Brown, Judge Camille Martinez Olguin, retained defense attorney, Ray Twohig, and Public Defenders Marc Gordon and Lisa Schatz-Vance. (Doc. 1 at 1-2). Plaintiffs allege Defendants engaged in judicial misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, coercion to obtain confession, perjury, “subordination” to perjury, conspiracy to mislead the Grand Jury, conspiracy to over-charge and over-sentence, ineffective defense, and over charging fees. (Doc. 1 at 3). Plaintiff Steven Sheets seeks relief in the form of a writ of habeas corpus to be delivered into his father's custody, a refund of all fees collected by attorney Twohig, and compensation in the amount of $10, 000, 000. (Doc. 1 at 19).


         Pending before the Court are Applications to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs filed by Steven Sheets (Doc. 2) and Philip Sheets (Doc. 3). However, the filing fee for this proceeding has been paid, in full. (Doc. 10). The Court will deny the Applications to Proceed as moot in light of the payment of the full filing fee.

         Plaintiff Philip Sheets also filed a Motion for Summons. (Doc. 12). Without waiting for a ruling on the Motion, Philip Sheets then had the Clerk of the Court issue summons for all of the Defendants. The Court will also deny the Motion for Summons as moot in light of the Clerk's issuance of the requested summons to Philip Sheets.

         Last, Plaintiff Philip Sheets, pro se, has filed a “Motion to Vacate or Set Sdide (sic) Sentence 28 U.S.C. 2255, ” asking the Court to “remove Plaintiff Steven H. Sheets from State custody, as he is now serving time for Conspiracy to commit First Degree Murder.” (Doc. 11). The Court will deny the Motion to Vacate. First, Philip Sheets may not prosecute a motion on behalf of his son. Adams ex rel. D.J.W. v. Astrue, 659 F.3d 1297, 1299 (10th Cir. 2011). Second, a motion to vacate or set aside a conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 may only be brought by a prisoner in federal custody under a sentence of a federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Because Steven Sheets is a prisoner in state custody under a sentence of a state court, he cannot seek relief under § 2255.


         The Court may dismiss a pro se complaint sua sponte for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not conclusory, unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside the pleading. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if “it is ‘patently obvious' that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting McKinney v. Oklahoma Dep't of Human Services, 925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim should be dismissed where it is legally or factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court liberally construes the factual allegations. See Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants and a pro se plaintiff must abide by the applicable rules of court. Ogden v. San Juan County, 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994). The Court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or to supply factual allegations to support the plaintiff's claims. Nor may the Court assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1110.

         A. Plaintiff Philip Sheets May Not Proceed On Behalf of Steven Sheets and the Complaint Fails to State Any Claim for Relief by Philip Sheets

         Philip Sheets, proceeding pro se, is named as a Plaintiff in this case. He claims to have standing because he has paid for his son, Steven Sheets' criminal defense costs in state court. (Doc. 1 at 3). Many of the filings in this case have been submitted by Philip Sheets on behalf of Steven Sheets. See, e.g., Doc. 2, 11.

         The right of an individual plaintiff to proceed pro se in a civil action in federal court is guaranteed by law. 28 U.S.C. § 1654. However, because proceeding pro se means to appear for one's self, a person may not appear on another person's behalf. An individual appearing pro se may only litigate an interest personal to him. Adams ex rel. D.J.W. v. Astrue, 659 F.3d 1297, 1299 (10th Cir. 2011).

         In Fymbo v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 213 F.3d 1320 (10th Cir.2000), the Tenth Circuit concluded that a litigant may bring his own claims to federal court without counsel, but not the claims of others because “the competence of a layman is ‘clearly too limited to allow him to risk the rights of others.' ” Id. at 1321 (quoting Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir.1975)); see also 7A Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 1769.1 (citing cases for the rule that class representatives cannot appear pro se). Philip Sheets may only assert his own claims and may not act on behalf of his son, Steven Sheets, in this proceeding.

         Further, even though Philip Sheets has the right to assert his own individual claims, the Complaint does not state any claim for relief on behalf of Philip Sheets. The only allegations in the Complaint that might, conceivably, support a claim by Philip Sheets relate ...

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