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Chmura v. Norton, Hammersley, Lopez & Skokos Inverso PA

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 9, 2018

LINDA LAN CHMURA, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTON, HAMMERSLEY, LOPEZ & SKOKOS INVERSO PA, ACME INVESTMENT GROUP LLC, JOHN W. DEIDRE JAGO, SANCTUARY PELICAN POINTE HOA, PROGRESSIVE COMMUNITY MGT INC., JUDD, ULRICH, SCARLETT, WICKMAN, SIMMONTI & DEAN, PA, STEPHEN H. KURVIN, JUDGES LOGALBO JR., HAWORTH, BENNETT JR., DAKIN, ROBERTS, RUSHING, SHERIFF THOMAS KNIGHT, THE FLORIDA BAR, Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Linda Lan Chmura, appearing pro se, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, the Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1965(a), et seq., and other statutory provisions. She seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as punitive damages, in connection with a foreclosure action filed against her in Sarasota County, Florida.

         Ms. Chmura's complaint arises out of a foreclosure of a property she owned in Sarasota County, Florida (“the Property”). Ms. Chmura alleges that she retained a law firm, Norton, Hammersley, Lopez & Skokos PA (“Norton Hammersley”), to represent her in the foreclosure action. Eventually, as a result of disagreements between Ms. Chmura and her counsel, Norton Hammersley terminated its representation. Ms. Chmura filed a legal malpractice action against the firm in Florida state court (Case No. 09 CC 001986 NC) and retained attorney Stephen Kurvin to represent her. Norton Hammersley asserted counterclaims, including that Ms. Chmura owed the firm unpaid fees. Ms. Chmura fired Kurvin in May 2010 and ultimately lost the suit against Norton Hammersley. On September 13, 2010, Judge LoGalbo of the Florida Circuit Court for Sarasota County entered final judgment against Ms. Chmura and in favor of Norton Hammersley. (ECF No. 1-2 at 36-38.)

         On May 26, 2011, Sheriff Thomas Knight executed the judgment by foreclosing upon and selling the Property to Acme Investment Group, LLC (“Acme”). (ECF No. 1-2 at 50.) Ms. Chmura then filed another lawsuit (Case No. 11 CA 004853 NC) against Norton Hammersley and Acme, seeking a declaratory judgment that the foreclosure sale was void. (ECF No. 1-2 at 91-94.) On October 28, 2011, Judge Roberts of the Florida Circuit Court for Sarasota County entered final judgment against Ms. Chmura and in favor of Norton Hammersley and Acme, stating that Acme owned the Property. (ECF No. 1-2 at 34.)

         Ms. Chmura brings this action against Norton Hammersley, Acme Investment Group, her former attorney Stephen Kurvin, the Florida state court judges who rendered rulings against her, Clerk of Court Karen Rushing, Sheriff Thomas Knight, the Florida Bar, and various other individuals and entities. She seeks a declaration that the Sheriff's foreclosure sale was void, an injunction granting her the right to repossess the Florida property, and punitive damages.

         II. Legal Standard

         Because Ms. Chmura seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court must evaluate her complaint and determine whether it should advance. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (“[T]he court shall dismiss [a] case at any time if the court determines that [the action] is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.”) The Court must construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the “strongest arguments that they suggest.” Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 472 (2d Cir. 2006). A pro se plaintiff, however, still must meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (“[A] pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief.”) (citing Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 73 (2d Cir. 2009)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         III. Discussion

         A. Absolute Judicial Immunity

         Ms. Chmura's claims against Florida state court judges fail under the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity, which renders judges immune from suit for damages for judicial acts. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991). “[A]cts arising out of, or related to, individual cases before the judge are considered judicial in nature.” Bliven v. Hunt, 579 F.3d 204, 210 (2d Cir. 2009). Absolute judicial immunity protects judges from liability for their judicial acts, even when the plaintiff alleges that the judge acted “maliciously or corruptly.” Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978). Absolute immunity shields judges from all civil suits for damages, including suits under Section 1983, Section 1985, or civil RICO. See, e.g., Peia v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court, 62 Fed.Appx. 394, 396 (2d Cir. 2003) (summary order affirming dismissal of RICO claim as barred by judicial immunity); Turner v. Boyle, 116 F.Supp.3d 58, 81-82 (D. Conn. 2015) (dismissing Section 1983 and 1985 claims as barred by judicial immunity).

         Absolute immunity also bars Ms. Chmura's Section 1983 claim for injunctive relief. The 1996 amendments to Section 1983 make injunctive relief unavailable for claims against judges for actions taken in their judicial capacity “unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.” Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 761 (2d Cir. 1999).

         Ms. Chmura's claims against Defendants LoGalbo, Haworth, Bennett, Dakin, and Roberts arise from acts the judges took in their judicial capacities while presiding over Ms. Chmura's Florida lawsuits. Ms. Chmura does not allege that any of the actions violated a declaratory decree or that declaratory relief was unavailable. Therefore, the claims against Florida state court Judges LoGalbo, Haworth, Bennett, Dakin, and Roberts are dismissed under the doctrine of judicial immunity and because they are frivolous. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (iii); Mills v. Fischer, 645 F.3d 176, 177 (2d Cir. 2011) (“Any claim dismissed on the ground of absolute judicial immunity is ‘frivolous' for purposes of [the in forma pauperis] statute.”).

         B. Absolute ...


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