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Pucci v. Somers

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan

August 16, 2013

JULIE A. PUCCI, Plaintiff,
v.
CHIEF JUDGE MARK W. SOMERS, in his individual capacity, Defendant, and CITY OF DEARBORN, Garnishee-defendant

For Julie A. Pucci, Plaintiff: Joel B. Sklar, LEAD ATTORNEY, Detroit, MI; Sanford Plotkin, Sanford Plotkin, P.C., Detroit, MI.

For Chief Judge Mark W. Somers, in his official and individual capacities, Defendant: Christina M. Grossi, Michigan Dept of Attorney General, Lansing, MI; Jeanmarie Miller, State of Michigan, Department of Attorney General, Lansing, MI; Mark W. Somers, 19th District Court, Dearborn, MI.

For Nineteenth District Court, 19th District Court, Amicus: Robert S. Harrison, Robert Harrison Assoc., Bloomfield Hills, MI.

OPINION

Page 932

Honorable DAVID M. LAWSON, United States District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO QUASH WRITS OF GARNISHMENT FOR WANT OF JURISDICTION AND DENYING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

On December 16, 2011, the Court entered an amended judgment against defendant state district court judge Mark Somers in the amount of $1,173,125.30 (which included prejudgment interest and attorney's fees) based on a jury award following trial. Now before the Court are motions relating to a writ of garnishment that the plaintiff served on the City of Dearborn, Michigan, which is the local funding unit for the court in which Judge

Page 933

Somers presides. Garnishee defendant Dearborn has filed a motion to quash the writ, alleging that the Court has no jurisdiction to entertain it, and the plaintiff and Dearborn have filed cross motions for summary judgment asserting their respective positions on liability for the judgment. The Court heard argument on the motions on November 21, 2012 and now concludes, after careful consideration, that it does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate this dispute. Sixth Circuit precedent holds that garnishment proceedings of this type -- so-called " non-periodic garnishments" -- require an independent basis for exercising federal jurisdiction, even though the garnishment is issued in an attempt to enforce a federal judgment. Therefore, the Court must dismiss the plaintiff's garnishment without prejudice. She must seek her remedies against the state district court and the City of Dearborn under the federal judgment in state court.

I.

The detailed facts of this case are recounted in the Court's opinion and order denying the defendants' first motion for summary judgment, Pucci v. Nineteenth Dist. Court, 565 F.Supp.2d 792, 796-802 (E.D. Mich. 2008), and the Sixth Circuit's previous opinion on interlocutory appeal, Pucci v. Nineteenth Dist. Court, 628 F.3d 752, 755-59 (6th Cir. 2010). To summarize, the plaintiff began her employment with the Nineteenth District Court in 1991 and through promotions became a deputy court administrator in 1998. In 2001, she began a romantic relationship with Judge Hultgren of that court. That relationship was opposed by Judge Somers, one of the other judges, leading to tension among the judges and between the plaintiff and Somers. The plaintiff was in line for a promotion to the court administrator position upon the retirement of the incumbent, but Somers blocked that advancement. The plaintiff also had complained to one of the state's regional court administrators that Judge Somers sent religious messages on court stationery and was proselytizing from the bench. When Judge Somers became chief judge, he eliminated the plaintiff's position and obtained from the Michigan Supreme Court a letter that states that the plaintiff should not become the court administrator. After the plaintiff's deputy court administrator position was eliminated and she was fired, she brought the present lawsuit, alleging, among other things, a violation of her rights under the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause.

The lawsuit named as defendants the City of Dearborn, the Nineteenth District Court, and Judge Somers in his official and individual capacities. The parties agreed to the dismissal of the City, and the Sixth Circuit on interlocutory appeal held that the district court was an arm of the State of Michigan and therefore the district court and Judge Somers in his official capacity were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity.

The case proceeded to a jury trial against Judge Somers as the sole defendant beginning on June 22, 2011. On June 30, 2011, the jury returned a verdict, finding for the plaintiff on her claims of violation of procedural due process and retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment rights, and awarded compensatory and punitive damages of $734,361. The jury found for the defendant on the plaintiff's claim of sex discrimination. On December 16, 2011, the Court entered an amended judgment in the amount of $1,173,125.30, which included prejudgment interest and attorney's fees.

According to the parties' briefing on the present motion, other developments were afoot. On June 13, 2011, defendant Somers, who was at that time the chief judge ...


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