United States District Court, Northern District of California
April 13, 2003
TSEGAI HAILE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
LAURENCE SAWYER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin J. Jenkins, United States District Judge.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
Before the Court is Judge Laurence Sawyer, Judge Lawrence G. Antolini, Judge Knoel Owen, Judge Robert Boyd, Judge Raima Ballinger,*fn1 Janice Bercut, and Fran gi Sanders' ("collectively, Defendants") motion to dismiss the complaint of Tsegai Haile ("Plaintiff").*fn2 To decide this motion, the Court must determine if Plaintiff, in his complaint, states a claim or claims upon which relief can be granted. Having considered the briefing in this matter, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a local contractor, Cotherman Construction (Sonoma County Court, case no. MCV 162663). Complaint ¶ 4. The case was arbitrated on November 17, 1999. Id. ¶ 5. The arbitration was binding (Id. ¶ 6, 10), but, according to Plaintiff, limited to statutory violations under California Business & Professions Code § 7085. Id. ¶ 6. The arbitrator awarded Cotherman Construction $1,895. Id. ¶ 9.
Plaintiff then filed a petition to vacate the award and initiate judicial proceedings. The first trial was held on January 25, 2001, and the trial judge, Judge Antolini, ruled against Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 11, 18. Plaintiff then filed a petition for rehearing which was heard on September 27, 2001 by Judge Antolini; the arbitration award was again affirmed. Id. ¶¶ 21, 22. Plaintiff also alleges that he was improperly sanctioned by Judge Antolini (Id. ¶¶ 24, 25), and that the judge slandered and defamed him during oral argument. Id. ¶ 29.
Plaintiff then filed a third appeal on January 28, 2002, which was heard on March 28 of the same year. This matter was heard en banc by Judge Owen, Judge Boyd, and Judge Ballinger. Prior to the hearing date, Plaintiff filed a "peremptory challenge" to the panel, which was denied. Id. ¶¶ 35-39. Although the complaint is unclear on this point, it appears, based on Plaintiff's actions, that his appeal was denied.
Afterwards, Plaintiff complained that entry of judgment from the March 28, 2002 hearing was delayed for six weeks, and that the transcript of the hearing was not made available to him until 60 days after the hearing. Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Plaintiff also alleges that the Court reporter, Defendant Sanders, misquoted and erroneously transcribed Plaintiff's arguments during the hearing. Id. ¶ 38.
On June 14, 2002, Plaintiff filed another motion to disqualify the judges. Id. ¶ 40. The matter was heard on September 26, 2002, after being continued several times by the Court. Id. ¶¶ 41-44. The Court denied Plaintiff's motion. Id. ¶ 45. After exhausting his appeal of the arbitration award, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the attorneys for Cotherman Construction; this complaint was dismissed by Judge Sawyer. Id. ¶ 47.
Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Bercut, Court clerk for the Sonoma Court Superior Court, "denied [P]laintiff[: 1] the right of proper filing of a challenge . . . [; 2] filed the defendant's . . . motion for sanctions to the judge [who] tried the case without official instructions[; 3] continuously discussed the challenges submitted with the judge being challenged and his office . . . [; 4] [c]oncealed the name / identity of the Presiding judge of all judges . . . [; 5] discouraged notification of the events of the Presiding judge . . . [; and 6] failed to consult with the Court clerk to address pleadings properly." Complaint ¶ 184.
On December 6, 2002, Plaintiff filed the instant action, alleging the following causes of action against all Defendants: (1) "Intentional Tort"; (2) "Con[s]piracy"; (3) "Perjury"; (4) "Subornation of Perjury"; (5) "Felony"; (6) "Fraud"; (7) "Breach of Civil Obligation"; (8) "Oppression"; (9) "Obstruction of Justice"; (10) "Malice"; (11) "Harassment"; (12) "False / Defamation & Slander"; (13) "Endangerment"; (14) "Civil Rights Violation"; (15) "Racial Discrimination"; (16) "Intentional Gross Negligence"; and (17) "Abuse of Judicial Power." The Court now considers Defendants' motion to dismiss.
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. See Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337 (9th Cir. 1996). Dismissal of an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where it "appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Levine v. Diamanthuset, Inc., 950 F.2d 1478, 1482 (9th Cir. 1991)(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). In reviewing such a motion, the Court must assume all factual allegations to be true and must construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See North Star v. Arizona Corp. Comm., 720 F.2d 578, 580 (9th Cir. 1983). Therefore, the Court will dismiss the complaint or any claim in it without leave to amend only if "it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment." Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).
A. Defendant Judges
The Defendants Judges are all judges on the Sonoma County Superior Court. It is well-settled that judges are immune from civil suit for actions taken in their judicial capacity, unless "taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction." See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). Plaintiff makes no factual allegations that Defendant Judges acted outside the scope of their judicial capacity or lacked jurisdiction in this matter. In fact, all of his claims are based on rulings by the Defendant Judges or their in-court comments. Thus, all of Plaintiff's claims against the Defendant Judges are dismissed based on judicial immunity.
B. Defendant Bercut
Defendant Bercut is the Civil Division Supervisor for the Sonoma County Superior Court. She is responsible for supervising the deputy clerks who handle all civil filings and civil cases. Motion at 8:24-9:1, n. 2; see also Complaint at 24:26. Defendant Bercut is entitled to "absolute quasi-judicial immunity because [her] challenged activities were an integral part of the judicial process." Sharma v. Stevens, 790 F.2d 1486, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986) (emphasis added) (holding the Clerk of the United States Supreme Court is immune from suit under the Federal Tort Claim Act for activities that were an integral part of the judicial process).
C. Defendant Sanders
As a Court reporter, Defendant Sanders is not protected by quasi-judicial immunity. See Antoine v. Byers & Anderson, Inc., 508 U.S. 429 (9th Cir. 1993). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sanders "unreasonably misquoted and transcribed [his] legal argument . . . under the excuse of an accent and refused to correct [such errors even] with an informal and formal request." Complaint ¶ 38. He also alleges that she "gave inconsistent reasons for [withholding] the transcript for 60 days." Id. Aside from non-specific claims of constitutional violations (see, e.g., Complaint ¶¶ 125, 150), Plaintiff alleges the following specific constitutional and federal statutory causes of action against all Defendants (including Sanders): (1) 18 U.S.C. § 241, 242, 1513 (Complaint ¶ 128); (2) Article I (Section 9), Article III, and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Complaint ¶ 128); (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Complaint ¶ 142); and (4) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Complaint ¶ 164). The Court will address each of these claims in turn.
1. Title 18
All of Plaintiff's claims under Title 18 are dismissed because these are criminal statutes, and Plaintiff is not authorized to bring such claims.
2. Constitutional Violations
Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable claims for violations of Article I, Section 9; Article III; or the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. Rather, Plaintiff baldly states that Defendants "grossly neglected, and disregarded" these constitutional provisions. Complaint ¶ 174.*fn3 Therefore, all of Plaintiff's constitutional claims are dismissed.
3. 42 U.S.C. § 1981
A claim under § 1981 requires a showing of intentional racial discrimination. See Evans v. McKay, 869 F.2d 1341, 1344 (9th Cir. 1989). Although Plaintiff asserts that Defendants deprived him of his fundamental rights because he and his family are Black (Complaint ¶ 142), he offers no factual assertions to support a claim of racial bias. Therefore, Plaintiff's § 1981 is dismissed as well.
4. 42 U.S.C. § 1983
To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Based on the above analysis, Plaintiff fails to assert that Defendants violated a provision of the Constitution or law of the United states. Thus, Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is also dismissed.
Because the Defendant Judges and Defendant Bercut are protected by judicial and quasijudicial immunity, Defendants' motion to dismiss, as to these Defendants, is GRANTED with prejudice. Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED without prejudice as to Defendant Sanders.
IT IS SO ORDERED.