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Randell v. Martin

December 24, 2008

DEBRA LYNN RANDELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHARD C. MARTIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this civil action against several defendants. Currently before the court is defendants' motions to dismiss (Docs. 8, 12, 13). Plaintiff did not file an opposition. The hearing on this motion was taken off calendar pursuant to Local Rule 78-230(h).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's complaint names Lake County Sheriff Mitchell, Lake County Superior Court Judge Martin, and a Lake County Superior Court Clerk Mulka as defendants and alleges seizure without a warrant or cause and the imposition of slavery upon her in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Plaintiff, who paid the full filing fee, is not proceeding in forma pauperis, so her complaint has not been screened by the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Sheriff Mitchell seized her "without warrant or cause and did hold her for $1000.00 (one Thousand) dollars bail." (Complaint at 3). She alleges Judge Martin "while acting under the color of his office of judge in the Superior Court of California in Lake county, did, absent any grant of authority by the jurisdiction of the court, make the determination of his own jurisdiction over the person of Randell and ordered Randell to appear and defend unspecified charges." (Id.) Finally, she alleges that defendant Mulka "while acting under the color of her office as clerk of the Superior Court of California in Lake county, did, without any grant of authority by the jurisdiction of the court, purport to speak for the court in an exercise of her own jurisdiction over the person of Randell." (Id.)

II. MOTION TO DISMISS

The defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(b)(1) and (6) for failure to state a claim, lack of subject matter jurisdiction and judicial immunity.

A. JUDICIAL IMMUNITY

Turning first to defendants Martin and Mulka's claims of judicial immunity, the court notes defendant Martin is a judge in the Superior Court of Lake County and is sued in that capacity. Defendant Mulka is a clerk in the Superior Court of Lake County and is sued in that capacity. Plaintiff's complaint specifically states these defendants were "acting under the color of [his/her] office" and they are being sued in that capacity.

Judges are absolutely immune from damage actions for judicial acts taken within the jurisdiction of their courts. See Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1204 (9th Cir. 1988) (per curiam). This immunity is lost only when the judge acts in the clear absence of all jurisdiction or performs an act that is not judicial in nature. See id. Judges retain their immunity even when they are accused of acting maliciously or corruptly, see Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991) (per curiam); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978), and when they are accused of acting in error, see Meek v. County of Riverside, 183 F.3d 962, 965 (9th Cir. 1999). This immunity extends to the actions of court personnel when they act as "an integral part of the judicial process." See Mullis v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court, 828 F.2d 1385, 1390 (9th Cir. 1987).

As defendants Martin and Mulka are only being sued in their official capacities and the allegations arise from judicial acts taken within the jurisdiction of their court or acts which were an integral part of the judicial process, they are absolutely immune from damages. Plaintiff's only demand is monetary damages, for which defendants Martin and Mulka are immune. Therefore, defendants Martin and Mulka's motion to dismiss should be granted and this action dismissed as to these defendants without leave to amend.*fn1

B. FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

Next, defendant Mitchell moves to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). Allegations of specific facts are not necessary so long as the statement of facts gives the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. See Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197 (2007). Weighing a motion to dismiss, the question is "not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims"Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 985 (9th Cir. 2007).

In considering a motion to dismiss under this standard, the court must accept all allegations of material fact as true. See Erickson, 127 S.Ct. at 2197. The court must also construe the alleged facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236; see also Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Tr., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816 (9th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). All ambiguities or doubts must also be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. See Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 ...


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