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Pellegrino v. Meredith

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 23, 2015

ANTHONY JOHN PELLEGRINO, Plaintiff,
v.
LYNN R. MEREDITH, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND WITHIN THIRTY (30) DAYS

STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.

On February 9, 2015, Plaintiff Anthony John Pellegrino filed the complaint in this action. (ECF No. 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any cognizable claims and that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed, with leave to amend.

I.

SCREENING

District courts may dismiss a claim sua sponte under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if the Court gives notice of its intention to dismiss and afford plaintiffs an opportunity to at least submit a written memorandum in opposition to such motion. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 683 n.7 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Omar v. Sea-Land Serv., Inc., 813 F.2d 986, 991 (9th Cir. 1987); Wong v. Bell, 642 F.2d 359, 362 (9th Cir. 1981)). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id . (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability... stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id . (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id . "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id . (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff names Lynn R. Meredith and the County of Stanislaus as defendants in this action. (Compl. ¶¶ 12-13.) Lynn R. Meredith is identified as a "Commissioner." (Compl. ¶ 12.)

Plaintiff's complaint arises from a traffic infraction Plaintiff received in December 2012 for failing to have his headlights on in foggy weather. Plaintiff's complaint recounts the events starting from when he received the traffic ticket from a California Highway Patrol Officer up through the guilty verdict Plaintiff received after a court trial.

Throughout the complaint, Plaintiff recounts in detail Plaintiff's harassing treatment of government officials. Nearly every interaction with a government official involves Plaintiff demanding to see an "oath of office." The complaint recounts numerous incidents where Plaintiff refuses to cooperate with requests from government officials, such as resisting requests to show his license, registration and insurance information to the officer who cited him, refusing to pay filing fees to court clerks, and contesting the government's authority and jurisdiction to prosecute traffic citations.

Plaintiff claims that his constitutional rights were violated when he was forced to rise during court proceedings, that he was denied due process when he was asked to pay a filing fee to file court documents, that he was denied due process when he was prosecuted for his traffic violation. Plaintiff also asserts claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for negligence.

III.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's complaint raises six causes of action: 1) for violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment right to freedom of religion, 2) for violation of Plaintiff's first amendment right of free speech, 3) for violation of Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment due process rights, arising from the filing fees the court clerk attempted to charge Plaintiff, 4) for violation of Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment due process rights, arising from the traffic infraction Plaintiff was found guilty of, 5) for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and 6) for negligence.

A. Absolute Judicial Immunity

As an initial matter, the Court notes that Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against Defendants for conduct which occurred during courtroom proceedings related to Plaintiff's traffic violation.

"Judges and those performing judge-like functions are absolutely immune from damage liability for acts performed in their official capacities." Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Richardson v. Koshiba, 693 F.2d 911, 913 (9th Cir. 1982)). "Judges are immune from damage actions for judicial acts taken within the jurisdiction of their courts." Id . "Judicial immunity applies however erroneous the act may have been, and however injurious in its consequences it may have proved to the plaintiff.'" Id . (quoting Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 199-200 (1985)). California law also affords judges absolute immunity to judges:

"It is well established judges are granted immunity from civil suit in the exercise of their judicial functions. [Citations]. This rule applies even where the judge's acts are alleged to have been done maliciously and corruptly. [Citations.]..." Judicial immunity from a civil action for monetary damages is absolute. [Citations.]

Soliz v. Williams, 74 Cal.App.4th 577, 585-586 (1999).

Defendant Meredith is absolutely immune from Plaintiff's claims for damages, as the acts alleged were judicial acts performed in her official capacity and taken within the jurisdiction of her court. Plaintiff's allegations challenging Defendant Meredith's jurisdiction are fanciful and implausible, and therefore not entitled to the presumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). For example, Plaintiff alleges the following frivolous objections to the state court's jurisdiction to prosecute Plaintiff for a traffic infraction:

• That the State lacks jurisdiction to prosecute Plaintiff because "the State" was the injured party and therefore a "conflict of ...

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