United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
KUANG-BAO P. OU-YOUNG, Plaintiff,
LAWRENCE E. STONE, Santa Clara County Assessor; JEANETTE TONINI, Senior Assessment Clerk; EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge; and COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, Defendants.
ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS AGAINST JUDGE
EDWARD J. DAVILA WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND
LABSON FREEMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
October 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed the complaint in the
present action in the Santa Clara County Superior Court,
alleging that his spouse transferred her interest in their
residence to him, and that the Santa Clara County
Assessor's Office thereafter terminated his
homeowners' exemption in order to illegally raise
Plaintiff's property tax. See Notice of Removal
Exh. 4 (Complaint), ECF 1-4. Plaintiff named as Defendants
Lawrence E. Stone, Santa Clara County Assessor
(“Stone”); Jeanette Tonini, Senior Assessment
Clerk (“Tonini”); the County of Santa Clara
(“the County”); and United States District Judge
Edward J. Davila (“Judge Davila”). The claims
against Judge Davila relate to Judge Davila's judicial
acts in screening a complaint, pursuant to a pre-filing
screening order regarding Plaintiff, filed by Plaintiff in
federal district court on October 15, 2019.
United States of America removed the present action to
federal district court on behalf of Judge Davila pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(3), providing for removal of state
court actions asserted against “[a]ny officer of the
courts of the United States, for or relating to any act under
color of office or in the performance of his duties.”
See Notice of Removal, ECF 1. The removed action was
opened as Case No. 19-cv-07000 and assigned to the
undersigned judge. See id.
Court granted the United States' motion to appear as
amicus curiae and issued an Order to Show Cause
directing Plaintiff to show cause in writing, on or before
November 19, 2019: (1) why this action should not be
dismissed as to Judge Davila on the basis of absolute
judicial immunity, and (2) why the pre-filing screening order
regarding Plaintiff should not be expanded to include claims
against federal judges. See Order to Show Cause, ECF
15. Plaintiff timely responded to the Order to Show Cause,
arguing that Judge Davila should not be dismissed and that
the pre-filing screening order should not be expanded.
order, the Court addresses Judge Davila's entitlement to
absolute judicial immunity. The Court addresses the requested
expansion of the pre-filing screening order regarding
Plaintiff in a separate order.
JUDGE DAVILA IS ENTITLED TO ABSOLUTE JUDICIAL
generally are absolutely immune from civil suit. See
Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9 (1991)
(“[G]enerally, a judge is immune from a suit for money
damages.”); Atkinson-Baker & Assocs., Inc. v.
Kolts, 7 F.3d 1452, 1454 (9th Cir. 1993) (“Federal
judges are absolutely immune from claims for declaratory and
injunctive relief arising from their judicial acts.”).
“[J]udicial immunity is an immunity from suit, not just
from ultimate assessment of damages.” Mireles,
502 U.S. at 11.
immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or
malice, the existence of which ordinarily cannot be resolved
without engaging in discovery and eventual trial.”
Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11. “[I]mmunity is
overcome in only two sets of circumstances.”
Id. “First, a judge is not immune from
liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not
taken in the judge's judicial capacity.”
Id. “Second, a judge is not immune for
actions, though judicial in nature, taken in the complete
absence of all jurisdiction.” Id.
allegations against Judge Davila clearly arise from acts
taken in Judge Davila's judicial capacity. Plaintiff
alleges that he filed a lawsuit against Stone, Tonini, and
the County in federal district court on October 15, 2019 and
the case was assigned to Judge Davila as Case No.
19-cv-80255. See Compl. ¶¶ 12-13
& Unnum. Para. at p. 3, ECF 1-4. In fact, the complaint
was assigned to Judge Davila as Case No. 19-mc-80255
only in Judge Davila's role as General Duty Judge and
only for the purpose of pre-filing screening. See
Case No. 19-mc-80255, ECF 1, 2.Plaintiff appears to believe that
Judge Davila directed that the federal complaint was
“subject to dismissal without trial.”
See Compl. Unnum. Para. at p. 3, ECF 1-4. Plaintiff
alleges that “[f]or this reason, judge Davila, Santa
Clara County, assessor Stone, and clerk Tonini have conspired
to deprive plaintiff of the Fourth Amendment right against
unreasonable seizures.” See Id. In fact, Judge
Davila issued an order authorizing the filing of the federal
complaint. See Case No. 19-mc-80255, ECF 2. Even if
Judge Davila had dismissed Plaintiffs federal complaint,
however, such act would be an act taken in Judge Davila's
judicial capacity and within his jurisdiction. Accordingly,
it is clear that Judge Davila is entitled to absolute
judicial immunity from this suit.
response to the Order to Show Cause, Plaintiff argues that
Judge Davila is not entitled to immunity pursuant to the
Federal Tort Claims Act. That argument does not address or
undermine Judge Davila's entitlement to absolute judicial
immunity under the authorities discussed above.
Plaintiffs claims against Judge Davila stem from acts for
which he is absolutely immune, granting leave to amend would
be futile. Plaintiffs claims against Judge Davila therefore
are DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. See Yakama Indian
Nation v. State of Wash. Dep't of Revenue, 176 F.3d
1241, 1249 (9th Cir. 1999) (affirming dismissal of claims
without leave to amend where amendment would have been futile
in light of Eleventh Amendment immunity).
claims against Judge Davila are DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO
AMEND on the ...