United States District Court, D. Connecticut
A. Richardson United States Magistrate Judge
Se plaintiffs, both referred to in the Complaint as Jane
Doe, bring this action against the United States of America
as well as eight unidentified John Does. Pending before
the court is plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
(Dkt. #2). Based on the financial information submitted by
plaintiffs, the motion is GRANTED. However, the undersigned
recommends that the action be dismissed without prejudice
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
U.S.C. § 1915, which governs in forma pauperis
status, also allows the court to review and dismiss the
underlying action, if necessary. Under subsection (e) a court
“shall dismiss the case at any time if the court
determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or
malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B); 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
§1915(e), an action is frivolous, “if it has no
arguable basis in law or fact, as is the case if it is based
on an ‘indisputably meritless legal theory.'”
Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 760 (2d Cir. 1999)
(quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327). The “term
‘frivolous,' when applied to a complaint, embraces
not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the
fanciful factual allegation.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325.
An action fails to state a claim to relief if it lacks
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face . . . . 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 . . . .
The plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer
probability that a defendant has acted unlawfully.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
“most pro se plaintiffs lack familiarity with
the formalities of pleading requirements, [the court] must
construe pro se complaints liberally.”
Lerman v. Bd. of Elections, 232 F.3d 135, 140 (2d
Cir. 2000) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Therefore, pro se complaints “are held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9
(1980)(citation internal quotation marks omitted). “In
evaluating [a plaintiff's] complaint, [the court] must
accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and
draw all reasonable inferences in [the plaintiff's]
favor.” Cruz v. Gomez, 202 F.3d 593, 596-97
(2d Cir. 2000).
have submitted a 47-page complaint that articulates
grievances against the United States District Courts in both
the District of Connecticut and the District of Columbia. The
main allegation contained in the complaint is that plaintiffs
have been discriminated against because of race and
disability and have not been provided meaningful access to
the courts. The complaint discusses previous litigation filed
by plaintiffs and their brother. The complaint takes issue
with rulings from and conduct by the Honorable Janet C. Hall
and the Honorable Robert N. Chatigny. Plaintiffs argue that
previous rulings from within this District have denied them
access to the court and are judicial abuses. Specifically,
plaintiffs allege that various judges have abused their
power, are unfit to serve as judges, have discriminated
against the plaintiffs based on race and financial status,
and have conspired to obstruct justice. (Compl. at 10-19.)
Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief as well as
actual and punitive damages in the amount of $5, 000, 000.00.
(Compl. at 46.)
plaintiffs complaint names the United States of America and
John Does 1-8 as defendants. (Compl. at 1.) Considering the
contents of the complaint, it appears that the only
identified individuals who could be the John Doe defendants
mentioned in the caption of the complaint are federal judges
or members of the clerk's office. In addition, there is
no indication in the complaint of any behavior by any judge
which is outside of his or her official duties. “Judges
are immune from suit for exercising their judicial authority.
The classification of a judge's actions as judicial or
nonjudicial is a question of law for the court.”
Patterson v. Rodgers, 708 F.Supp.2d 225, 236 (D.
Conn. 2010); see also Whitnum v. Emons, No.
3:15-CV-959 (SRU), 2015 WL 5010623, at *2 (D. Conn. Aug. 24,
2015) (“Absolute immunity is enjoyed by judges for all
acts that are judicial in nature.”). As the United
States Supreme Court stated in Stump v. Sparkman,
435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978), “the relevant cases
demonstrate that the factors determining whether an act by a
judge is a ‘judicial' one relate to the nature of
the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function
normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the
parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in
his judicial capacity.” Even when the Court construes
plaintiffs' complaint liberally, plaintiffs do not allege
any conduct by any judge that could be construed as outside
of his or her official capacity or not performed in the
normal course of his or her duties. Each of the acts alleged
in the complaint involves a function that is normally
performed by a judge and each such act was performed while
the plaintiffs were dealing with the judge in his or her
official capacity. See Stump, Id. The
complaint alleges that the judges engaged in the following
conduct: issuing rulings which are unfair, legally incorrect,
or not supported by the law, including but not limited to
rulings regarding judicial immunity and/or sovereign immunity
(Doc. #1 pp, 4-5, 6, 10, 13-17, 24, 26, 33, 34); failing to
cite precedent when issuing decisions (Doc. #1, p. 18);
allegedly failing to process complaints until ordered to do
so by an appellate court (Doc. #1, p. 6); failing to
liberally construe John Doe complaints (Doc. #1, p. 10);
misconstruing plaintiff's complaints (Doc. #1, p.16);
forcing plaintiffs to amend their complaints (Doc. #1, p.
11); improperly reviewing In Forma Pauperis Complaints (Doc.
#1, p. 11 and 41); holding the plaintiffs to a higher
standard of pleading than required by law (Doc. #1, p. 11,
41); dismissing plaintiffs' complaints (Doc. #1, p 6,
12-13, 22, 41, 43); failing to grant discovery to the
plaintiffs (Doc. #1, pp. 12, 15); not issuing rulings in a
timely manner (Doc. #1, pp. 15, 19, 23-26); failing to
appoint counsel for the plaintiffs (Doc. #1, pp. 29, 34);
allegedly refusing to enforce the laws that the plaintiffs
have cited and relied upon in their complaints (Doc. #1 pp.
5, 14); allegedly failing to remain neutral (Doc. #1, p. 13);
allegedly being disrespectful at a hearing (Doc. #1, p. 29);
refusing to recuse from cases (Doc. #1, p. 25); unfairly
scheduling and canceling hearings (Doc. #1, pp. 17, 37);
improperly pressuring plaintiffs during settlement
negotiations (Doc. #1, p. 27); believing or relying upon
witnesses who, according to the plaintiffs, were lying (Doc.
#1, p. 28); and allegedly making improper statements in court
(Doc. #1, p.6). Additionally, while it is not entirely clear
if the plaintiffs are making any claims against the Second
Circuit Court of Appeals, the complaint also asserts that the
Second Circuit Court has remanded cases to biased judges and
failed to remove such biased judges. (Doc. #1, pp. 27, 43).
the conduct alleged in the complaint could be construed as
outside of a judge's official capacity or not being
performed in the normal course of a judge's duties.
See, Tucker v. Outwater, 118 F.3d 930, 933
(2d Cir.1997) (a judge “will be subject to liability
only when he [or she] has acted in the clear absence of
all jurisdiction”) (quotation and citation
omitted) (emphasis in original); see also Whitnum v.
Emons, No. 3:15-CV-959 (SRU), 2015 WL 5010623, at *2 (D.
Conn. Aug. 24, 2015); see also Skipp v. Conn. Judicial
Branch, No. 3:14-CV-00141 (JAM), 2015 WL 1401989, at *7
(D. Conn. Mar. 26, 2015) (finding that “[n]o exception
to judicial immunity applies . . . [where] the allegations
against the judges relate to actions taken in their capacity
as judges, rather than to actions in their personal or
non-judicial capacity or to actions taken in the complete
absence of jurisdiction.”). Even when construed
liberally, the complaint does not allege any conduct by any
judge that would be sufficient to avoid judicial immunity.
Accepting the allegations as true, some of the alleged
conduct would be inappropriate and improper but not outside
of each judge's capacity as a judge. Even if there are
allegations of an improper motive, the United States Supreme
Court has stated in Forrester v. White, 484 U.S.
219, 227 (1988), that a judicial act “does not become
less judicial by virtue of an allegation of malice or
corruption of motive.” See also Stump, 435
U.S. at 356-57 (“A judge will not be deprived of
immunity because the action he took was in error, was done
maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather, he
will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the
‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.'”)
(quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall 335, 351
(1872)); Bliven v. Hunt, 418 F.Supp.2d 135, 137
(E.D.N.Y. 2005)(“Judges are absolutely immune from
liability for judicial acts, however erroneous the act and
however evil the motive.”).
claims against judges, styled against John Does or otherwise,
should be dismissed based on judicial immunity. Additionally,
if plaintiffs are attempting to sue John Does other than the
federal judges whose actions are outlined in the complaint,
the undersigned recommends dismissal of those claims as well.
“Ordinarily, a plaintiff may proceed against
fictitiously named defendants only if it appears that the
claims are otherwise proper . . . and the plaintiff will be
able to obtain the names of the unnamed defendants through
the discovery process.” Gilhooly v. Armstrong,
No. 3:03CV1798(MRK)(WIG), 2006 WL 322473, at *2 (D. Conn.
Feb. 9, 2006); see also Bliven, 418 F.Supp.2d at 138
(dismissing unnamed judges or members of court staff who
assisted in the performance of judicial functions, based on
immunity, but stating that even if their conduct did not fall
within the scope of immunity, the complaint was devoid of
allegations as to who the individual defendants were or how
they were involved). After thoroughly reviewing the complaint
and documents that are cross referenced in the complaint, the
Court is unable to identify any reference to any conduct that
is attributed to any John Does who are not protected by
to the extent that plaintiffs attempt to bring claims against
the United States of America under the Federal Tort Claims
Act, those too must be dismissed. “The United States
shall be entitled to assert any defense based upon judicial
or legislative immunity which otherwise would have been
available to the employee of the United States whose act or
omission gave rise to the claim.” 28 U.S.C. §
2674. As referenced above, the alleged acts or omissions that
form the basis of ...