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Bodge v. Trinity County Sheriff's Dep't

October 29, 2010

DEBORAH LENORE BODGE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRINITY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER

Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, brings this civil action alleging violations of her civil rights. Pending before the court is plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1). The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court is also required to screen complaints brought by litigants who have been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Under these screening provisions, the court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(A), (B) and 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h), this court must dismiss an action "[w]henever it appears . . . that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter . . . ." Because plaintiff, who is not a prisoner, has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court will screen the complaint pursuant to § 1915(e)(2). Pursuant to Rule 12(h), the court will also consider as a threshold matter whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction.

I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff names the following as defendants: Trinity County Sheriff's Department; Trinity County Narcotic Task Force; Trinity County Jail; Trinity County District Attorney's Office; Trinity County Sheriff Royce Grossman; Trinity County Superior Court Judge James Woodward; Trinity County District Attorney Eric Hereford; and former Trinity County District Attorney James Woods.

Plaintiff alleges that on April 21, 2006, defendant Grossman presented to a judge an arrest warrant for plaintiff based on information supplied by confidential informants. Plaintiff was then arrested on April 22, 2006, by Grossman and others and taken to the Trinity County Jail. Plaintiff was released on her own recognizance on April 26, 2006. Two days later felony drug charges were filed against plaintiff. On September 25, 2006, defendant Woodward conducted a preliminary hearing and bound plaintiff for trial. Plaintiff claims that, between December 2006 and March 2007 defendant Woodward denied various motions, including a motion to quash the arrest warrant for lack of probable cause. On July 3, 2007, plaintiff plead no contest to the charges and was placed on informal probation for 36 months and ordered to serve 30 days in jail. Plaintiff appealed and the sentence was stayed pending resolution of the appeal.

On January 12, 2009, the Court of Appeal concluded that there was no probable cause for the initial arrest warrant and remanded for further proceedings. On May 5, 2009, plaintiff appears at a hearing at which the prosecutor, Hereford, asked that the charges be dismissed. Judge Woodward granted the request and dismissed the charges.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants' conduct resulted in false arrest, false imprisonment, wrongful prosecution, as well as cruel and unusual punishment, unreasonable search and seizure, denial of due process, and denial of equal protection.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's complaint suffers from a number of defects as discussed below.

A. Immune Defendants

Plaintiff names a number of defendants who are immune from suit. Specifically, Trinity County Superior Court Judge James Woodward is entitled to judicial immunity and the attorney defendants -- Trinity County District Attorney Eric Hereford and former Trinity County District Attorney James Woods -- are entitled to prosecutorial immunity.

1. Judicial Immunity

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).

In this case, plaintiff appears to allege that Judge Woodward is liable based on actions he performed as a judge. Specifically, plaintiff seems to fault the judge with issuing the warrant and/or denying various motions including the motion to quash the warrant. Because plaintiff does not claim that Judge Woodward acted in the absence of any jurisdiction ...


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