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Raab v. McLeod

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

June 18, 2019

JAMES MCLOED et al., Defendants.



         This is a civil rights action brought by a pretrial detainee under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint 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). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against Defendant Blubaugh because Blubaugh is immune from suit. The Court will stay the action against Defendant McLeod.


         I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Joseph Malatamban Raab is presently detained at the Chippewa County Jail in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred prior to his arrest. Plaintiff sues Sault Sainte Marie Tribal Officer / Trident Agent James McLeod and Chippewa County District Judge Eric Blubaugh.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant McLeod prepared an affidavit in support of a search warrant that was approved by Judge Blubaugh. The warrant covered two apartments, one of which was a residence used by Plaintiff. The execution of the warrant apparently led to the discovery of evidence that resulted in criminal charges against Plaintiff and his arrest. Plaintiff alleges that the search warrant is part of an “open case” against him. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.)

         Plaintiff claims that the affidavit supporting the warrant is invalid because it contains false statements. He sues Officer McLeod for intentionally inserting false statements into the affidavit. Plaintiff also claims that, even with the false statements, the affidavit is defective because it does not support a finding of probable cause. He sues Judge Blubaugh for approving the warrant.

         Plaintiff apparently claims that Defendants violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. Immunity

         Plaintiff does not state a viable claim against Defendant Blubaugh. Generally, a judge is absolutely immune from a suit for monetary damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991) (“[I]t is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”) (internal quotations omitted); Barrett v. Harrington, 130 F.3d 246, 254 (6th Cir. 1997); Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997). Absolute judicial immunity may be overcome in only two instances. First, a judge is not immune from liability for non-judicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11; see Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 229 (1988) (noting that immunity is grounded in “the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it”). Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction. Id. at 12.

         Plaintiff's allegations clearly fail to implicate either of the exceptions to judicial immunity. There is no doubt that approving a search warrant was a judicial act and that Judge Blubaugh was acting within his jurisdiction in doing so. Accordingly, Judge Blubaugh is absolutely immune from liability. Because Judge Blubaugh is immune from liability in this case, Plaintiff may not maintain an action for monetary damages against him. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Accordingly, Defendant Blubaugh will be dismissed.

         III. Abstention

         According to the complaint, Plaintiff's lawsuit challenges a search warrant that relates to a pending criminal case. Generally, federal courts should abstain from deciding a matter that would interfere with pending state proceedings involving important state matters unless extraordinary circumstances are present. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44-55 (1971). This principle is based on notions of equity and comity, “and a continuance of the belief that the National Government will fare best if the States and their institutions are left free to perform their separate functions in their separate ways.” Id. at 44.

         Younger generally permits a federal court to abstain from considering a plaintiff's claims where: (1) the state proceedings are ongoing; (2) the state proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal questions. Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). Exceptions to the Younger abstention doctrine have been recognized in the following circumstances: (1) where “the state proceeding is motivated by a desire to harass or is conducted in bad faith, ” Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 611 (1975); (2) where “[a] challenged statute is flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions, ” Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 424 (1979) (quoting Huffman, 420 U.S. at 611); and (3) where there is ...

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