United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER REOPENING CASE AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
APPLICATION TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF THE FILING FEE
AND DISMISSING CASE
COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
April 24, 2017, plaintiff Duane Letroy Berry (Berry) filed a
pro se complaint naming David M. Lawson, a district
judge in this district, [*] as defendant. Berry did not pay the
filing fee and did not submit a form to proceed without
payment of the filing fee (IFP). Accordingly, on May 1, 2017,
the Clerk entered a Notice of Filing Fee Not Paid (Doc. 3)
directing that Berry either pay the filing fee or file an
application to proceed IFP within seven (7) days, or by May
8, 2017. The Notice also said that if Berry did not comply,
“this case may be dismissed.” Berry did not pay
the filing fee or submit an application by that date. As
such, the Court dismissed the case without prejudice (Doc.
same day as the dismissal order issued, the Clerk docketed
Berry's IFP application which was apparently mailed on
May 6, 2017 and filed May 11, 2017. (Doc. 5). Although the
IFP application was filed and docketed late, it was timely
mailed. Under the circumstances, the case is REOPENED. Based
on the information in the application, Berry is GRANTED IFP
status. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, as
explained below, the case will be dismissed on the grounds
that it fails to state a claim.
November 19, 2015, Berry was indicted in a criminal case in
this Court. See United States v. Berry, No.
15-cr-20743 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 19, 2015). The case was assigned
to Judge Lawson. During those proceedings, Judge Lawson held
a hearing to determine whether Berry was competent to stand
trial. Judge Lawson found Berry incompetent to stand trial
and ordered that Berry be civilly committed. Thereafter,
Berry filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. See
Berry v. United States, No. 2:16-cv-12041 (E.D.
Mich. June 2, 2016). On October 18, 2016, Judge Lawson denied
the petition. See Doc. 13 in case no. 16-12041.
December 28, 2016, Berry filed a pro se complaint naming
Craig A. Daly his criminal defense attorney in the case
before Judge Lawson, and Judge Lawson as defendants.
Berry v. Daley, No. 16-14495 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 28,
2016). This case was before a different judge in this
district. The case was summarily dismissed on January 26,
2017 for failure to state a claim. See Doc. 6 in
case no. 16-14495.
noted above, Berry filed the instant complaint naming Judge
Lawson as a defendant on April 24, 2017.
§ 1915 (e)(2) a Court may dismiss a complaint at any
time if it determines that the case is frivolous or
malicious, that the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or seeks relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief. A complaint
"is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in
law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 325 (1989). Moreover, a federal court is always
“under an independent obligation to examine their own
jurisdiction, ” FW/PBS, Inc. v. City of
Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990), and a federal court
may not entertain an action over which it has no
jurisdiction. See Insurance Corp. of Ireland, Ltd. v.
Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 701
(1982). Indeed, a court is required to dismiss an action at
any time if it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); See Wagenknecht v.
United States, 533 F.3d 412, 416 (6th Cir.2008)
(“a district court may sua sponte dismiss an
action when it lacks subject matter jurisdiction.”).
Court must read pro se complaints indulgently,
see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and
accept plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are
clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).
the complaint lacks an “arguable basis” in law
against Judge Lawson. Judge Lawson is immune from Berry's
claims under the well-established doctrine of judicial
immunity. Under this doctrine, Judge Lawson enjoys both
immunity from liability and immunity from suit, see
Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991), and this
immunity protects Judge Lawson even if Berry seeks injunctive
relief rather than money damages. See Kipen v.
Lawson, 57 Fed. App'x 691, 691 (6th Cir. 2003)
(citing Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, ...