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Johnson v. Edgar

United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Northern Division

February 27, 2015

ERIK JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT ALLAN EDGAR, GORDON J. QUIST, and JEFFERY G. BARSTOW, Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT HOLMES BELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This action brought by a pro se plaintiff against two federal district judges and a state district court judge comes before the Court on Defendants’ motions to dismiss. (ECF Nos. 7, 9.) Plaintiff has also filed a motion for default judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motions to dismiss will be granted, and the motion for default judgment will be denied.

I.

Plaintiff Erik Johnson, appearing pro se, filed this action in the 41st Circuit Court for the State of Michigan against United States District Court Judges Robert Allan Edgar and Gordon J. Quist of the Western District of Michigan, and Michigan District Court Judge Jeffery G. Barstow of the 95A District Court in Menominee, Michigan. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have committed fraud and acted negligently. Plaintiff seeks equitable relief and $6 million in damages.

The federal defendants removed the action to this court because Plaintiff’s claim is against an officer of the United States sued in an official or individual capacity for an act under color of such office. See 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). Defendants have filed motions to dismiss.

II.

Defendants’ move to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to rule 12(b)(6) on the basis of absolute judicial immunity and for failure to state a claim.

Rule12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The availability of absolute judicial immunity is the proper subject of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, this court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepts the plaintiff’s factual allegations as true, and determines whether the complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Heinrich v. Waiting Angels Adoption Servs., Inc., 668 F.3d 393, 403 (6th Cir. 2012).

A. Judicial Immunity

Both federal and state law accord judges absolute immunity from liability for damages for acts performed in the exercise of their judicial functions. “No immunity doctrine affecting persons is more strongly established than that of judicial immunity.” Kurz v. State of Mich., 548 F.2d 172, 174 (6th Cir. 1977) (dismissing action against state circuit judge for actions performed in the discharge of his official duties on the basis of judicial immunity).

Absolute judicial immunity protects the finality of judgments and discourages inappropriate collateral attacks. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 225 (1988). It also preserves judicial independence by “insulating judges from vexatious actions prosecuted by disgruntled litigants.” Id. Judicial immunity “serves the public interest in enabling such officials to perform their designated functions effectively without fear that a particular decision may give rise to personal liability.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 693 (1997). Judicial immunity “applies even when the judge is accused of acting maliciously and corruptly, ” because such immunity benefits “the public, whose interest it is that the judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions with independence and without fear of consequences.” Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967) (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 349 n.16 (1871)).

In Michigan, the common law doctrine of absolute judicial immunity has been codified in a statute:

A judge, a legislator, and the elective or highest appointive executive official of all levels of government are immune from tort liability for injuries to persons or damages to property if he or she is acting within the scope of ...

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