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United States District Court, S.D. California

November 23, 2005.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARRY MOSKOWITZ, District Judge


On November 17, 2005, Plaintiff Curtis Richmond commenced this action. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend for failure to state a claim.

Plaintiff styles his complaint as a "Petition in the Nature of Petition to Vacate Void Judgments and a Collateral Attack Against the Listed Defendants for Violations Listed Below Under Fed. Rule 60(b) in General and Particularly Rule 60(b)(3)(4)." Plaintiff names as defendants three Utah state judges, Citibank, and two of Citibank's attorneys.

  Apparently, Plaintiff is a defendant in a suit brought by Citibank in the Third District Court, Salt Lake County, State of Utah. Judge Roth is the judge assigned to the case. On June 30, 2005, Judge Roth issued an Order on Citibank's Motion to Compel WAC to Appoint Counsel, Motions to Strike Allegations of Answers of Defendants Dale Stevens and Curtis Richmond and Motion for Emergency Order Enjoining Defendant Curtis Richmond from Threatening the Court, Citibank's Attorneys of Record and Witnesses, and Findings Thereon. On March 16, 2005, Judge Barrett denied a motion filed by Plaintiff to remove Judge Roth "for Cause of Bias and Prejudice." It also appears that Judge Henriod denied Plaintiff's "Petition for An Extraordinary Writ in the Nature of a Writ of Quo Warranto," which requested that the Court order Citibank's attorney to "state by what authority he presumes to issue fake, false, and fraudulent orders, usurping the Court's authority."

  In this action, Plaintiff seeks to "void" the decisions of Judges Roth, Barrett, and Henriod. Plaintiff claims that the judges lacked jurisdiction to issue these decisions because of his membership in a purported Indian tribe, Wampanoag Nation Tribe of Grayhead Wolf Band, and various rulings by the tribe's supreme court. (Complaint, ¶¶ 3, 4, 9, 11.) Plaintiff alleges that the judges violated his constitutional rights by acting without jurisdiction. (Id.)

  Plaintiff also claims that Citibank and its attorneys violated his constitutional rights by prosecuting the action against him when they lacked standing to do so. (Complaint, ¶ 4.) Plaintiff further alleges that attorney Erik Christiansen violated his constitutional rights by filing the Motion for Emergency Order and that Citibank's attorneys committed felonies by filing affidavits and thus acting as witnesses in the case. (Complaint, ¶¶ 5, 14.)

  The Court sua sponte dismisses Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. The Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to void any of the decisions or judgments entered in the state court action. Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, federal courts are barred from hearing de facto appeals from state-court judgments. Bianchi v. Rylaarsdam, 334 F.3d 895, 898 (9th Cir. 2003). Simply stated, a United States District Court lacks the authority to disrupt or "undo" a decision of a state court, regardless of whether the state court's decision was correct or whether the state court fully and fairly adjudicated the claim. Id. at 898-900.

  Furthermore, absolute immunity is accorded to judges for judicial acts taken within the jurisdiction of their courts. Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986). To determine if the judge acted with jurisdiction, the focus is on whether the judge was acting clearly beyond the scope of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 1076. Jurisdiction "should be broadly construed to effectuate the policies supporting immunity." Id. To determine if a given action is judicial, courts focus on whether (1) the precise act is a normal judicial function; (2) the events occurred in the judge's chambers; (3) the controversy centered around a case then pending before the judge; and (4) the events at issue arose directly and immediately out of a confrontation with the judge in his or her official capacity. Id. at 1075.

  Here, the judges were acting within the scope of their subject matter jurisdiction when they issued decisions in a civil action that was before them. Although Plaintiff argues that he was immune from suit because of his membership in the Wampanoag Nation Tribe of Grayhead Wolf Band and rulings by the tribal court, there is a question as to whether this tribe is federally recognized. See Motion for Emergency Order (attached to Complaint), p. 2 ("As has been discussed in multiple briefs previously filed in this matter, the tribal court that Richmond refers to is not recognized under any federal or state laws").*fn1 Accordingly, the judges were not acting clearly beyond the scope of subject matter jurisdiction by adjudicating the case before them.

  The acts at issue — ruling on motions, issuing orders, and otherwise adjudicating the case — are clearly judicial in nature. Therefore, judicial immunity applies.

  Plaintiff also fails to state a claim against the remaining defendants. Plaintiff claims that Citibank and its attorneys have violated his constitutional rights. However, their alleged acts, which consist of suing without standing, filing a retaliatory motion, and filing improper affidavits, do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Moreover, Plaintiff has not alleged that these parties acted under color of state law. See Franklin v. Fox, 312 F.3d 423, 444-45 (9th Cir. 2002) (explaining that plaintiffs do not enjoy constitutional protections against private conduct abridging individual rights).

  Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. However, the Court will grant Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint correcting the deficiencies identified in this order. If Plaintiff chooses to file an amended complaint, he must do so on or before January 9, 2006. If Plaintiff fails to do so, this case will be terminated.



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