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Thomas v. Lawson

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division

July 11, 2017

THOMAS L. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
KAREN LAWSON; JANET BELL; VINCENT CULLOTTA; DAVID A. BASINSKI; and J. KELLY BROOKS, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court for review of Plaintiff's pro se Complaint and Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. After review, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, (doc. 2). For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint, DENY Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on January 12, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 through 1986. (Doc. 1.) In his Complaint, which is the third cause of action Plaintiff has filed in this Court contesting child custody proceedings arising in the State of Ohio and in Brantley County, Georgia, Plaintiff contends Defendants Lawson, Bell, Cullotta, and Basinski, all of whom are or were judges in the State of Ohio, and Defendant Brooks, a Brantley County Superior Court Judge, acted outside of their judicial authority. Specifically, Plaintiff avers Defendants Lawson and Bell acted without subject matter jurisdiction by entering rulings in an Ohio state custody proceeding after he had filed a notice of removal in this Court. Plaintiff claims Defendants Cullotta and Basinski refused to issue orders on certain of his requests and that Defendant Basinski retaliated against him by refusing to issue an order. Further, Plaintiff maintains Defendant Brooks entered a final order denying his motion for relief from judgment and ordered the clerk not to forward Plaintiff's appeal by right to the Georgia Court of Appeals. (Id. at pp. 6- 16.) Plaintiff seeks $10, 000, 000 in damages and the issuance of preliminary injunctive relief against Defendants. (Id. at pp. 17-18.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 113 n.19 (3d Cir. 2002) (non-prisoner indigent plaintiffs are “clearly within the scope of § 1915(e)(2)”); Dutta-Roy v. Fain, No. 1:14-CV-280-TWT, 2014 WL 1795205, at *2 (N.D.Ga. May 5, 2014) (frivolity review of indigent non-prisoner plaintiff's complaint).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 F.App'x 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys.”) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 Through 1986 Claims

         A. Claims Against Defendants in Their Capacities as Judicial Officials

         Judicial immunity bars Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities.[1]Congress did not abrogate the doctrine of judicial immunity when it enacted Section 1983. Judicial immunity is an absolute immunity, and it applies even when a judge acts maliciously. Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir. 2000) (“Judges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity from damages for those acts taken while they are acting in their judicial capacity unless they acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.”); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978) (holding judicial immunity doctrine applies in Section 1983 actions). Absolute immunity not only protects against liability but also against a case going to trial at all. Harris v. Deveaux, 780 F.2d 911, 914 (11th Cir. 1986) (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)). To determine whether a judge is entitled to absolute immunity from money damages under Section 1983, a two-part test was established in Stump: 1) whether the judge dealt with the plaintiff in a judicial capacity; and 2) whether the judge acted in the “clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Id. (quoting Stump, 435 U.S. at 357). The second prong of this test is “only satisfied if a judge completely lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” Id. at 916.

         Plaintiff clearly complains about Defendants' actions or omissions in their capacities as judicial officials in cases pending before them in which Plaintiff was a named party. He fails to make a plausible claim that Defendants acted in the clear absence of jurisdiction. Plaintiff maintains Defendants Lawson and Bell entered orders in the Ohio child custody case, even though he had filed his notice of removal in this Court. However, it appears the orders Defendants Lawson and Bell entered in the Ohio proceedings were in response to motions Plaintiff had filed in the Ohio proceedings after he filed the notice of removal in this Court. (Docs. 1-11, 1-12, 1-13.) These Defendants did not act in a clear absence of all jurisdiction. Plaintiff cannot complain about judicial actions taken as a result of his filings and claim that ...


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