United States District Court, D. Nevada
AARON D. STODDART-CORDOVA, Plaintiffs,
MATHEW HARTER, et al., Defendants.
J. Koppe, United States Magistrate Judge.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 Plaintiff is proceeding in this
action pro se and has requested authority pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma
pauperis. Docket No. 1. Plaintiff also submitted a
complaint. Docket No. 1-1.
In Forma Pauperis Application
filed the affidavit required by § 1915(a). Docket No. 1.
Plaintiff has shown an inability to prepay fees and costs or
give security for them. Accordingly, the request to proceed
in forma pauperis will be granted pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Clerk's Office is further
INSTRUCTED to file the complaint on the
docket. The Court will now review Plaintiff's complaint.
Screening the Complaint
granting an application to proceed in forma
pauperis, courts additionally screen the complaint
pursuant to § 1915(e). Federal courts are given the
authority to dismiss a case if the action is legally
“frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2). When a court dismisses a complaint under
§ 1915, the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the
complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies,
unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the
deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Cato v.
United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for
dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is
essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v.
Lab. Corp. of Am., 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). A
properly pled complaint must provide a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although Rule 8 does
not require detailed factual allegations, it demands
“more than labels and conclusions” or a
“formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286
(1986)). The court must accept as true all well-pled factual
allegations contained in the complaint, but the same
requirement does not apply to legal conclusions.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Mere recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory
allegations, do not suffice. Id. at 678. Secondly,
where the claims in the complaint have not crossed the line
from conceivable to plausible, the complaint should be
dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Allegations of
a pro se complaint are held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Hebbe
v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010)
(finding that liberal construction of pro se
pleadings is required after Twombly and
case, Plaintiff brings claims against state court judge
Mathew Harter and Director of the District Attorney Family
Support Division, attorney Jeffrey Witthun. See
Docket No. 1-1 at 2. Plaintiff sues Judge Harter and Mr.
Witthun in both their personal and official capacities.
see Id. at 2. Although not always entirely clear,
the gist of Plaintiff's allegations are as follows: (1)
as part of Plaintiff's divorce proceedings, Plaintiff
alleges that Judge Harter ordered him to pay child support
with which Plaintiff disagrees, see Id. at 4, 8; (2)
Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Witthun incorrectly argued to
Judge Harter that the Court had jurisdiction over Plaintiff,
see Id. at 8; (3) Plaintiff did not meet his
child-support obligations because he disagreed with the
provision of his visitation rights, see Id. at 8;
and (4) Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of the
non-payment of his full child-support obligations, his
driver's license was suspended, see Id. at 8.
Given these allegations, Plaintiff asserts that Judge Harter
and Mr. Witthun are engaged in a criminal syndicate. See
Id. at 8. Plaintiff indicates that the allegations give
rise to myriad constitutional, statutory, and common law
causes of action arising under state and federal law. See
Id. at 3. Plaintiff is seeking damages in the amount of
$91, 250, 000, as well as other relief. See Id. at
claims against Judge Harter fail. As explained by the Ninth
Anglo-American common law has long recognized judicial
immunity, a “sweeping of immunity” for acts
performed by judges that relate to the “judicial
process.” This absolute immunity insulates judges from
charges of erroneous acts or irregular action, even when it
is alleged that such action was driven by malicious or
corrupt motives, or when the exercise of judicial authority
is “flawed by the commission of grave procedural
errors.” Judicial immunity discourages collateral
attacks on final judgments through civil suits, and thus
promotes the use of “appellate procedures as the
standard system for correcting judicial error.”
“Most judicial mistakes or wrongs are open to
correction through ordinary mechanisms of review.”
Curry v. Castillo, 297 F.3d 940, 947 (9th Cir. 2002)
(internal citations omitted). In this case, it appears that
Plaintiff's claims against Judge Harter arise entirely
out of Judge Harter's alleged actions taken in his
capacity as a judge. See, e.g., Docket No. 1-1 at 2,
4-5, 8-9. As such, it appears such claims are barred by
similarly bars Plaintiff's claims against Mr. Witthun.
Prosecutors are entitled to immunity for their actions taken
in that capacity. See, e.g., Kalina v.
Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 123-24 (1997). Such immunity
applies regardless of allegations of malice, bad faith, or
conspiracy. See Ashelman v. Pope, 793F.2d 1072,
1077-78 (9th Cir. 1986) (en banc). In the same vein,
“[a] government attorney is immune from suit for
actions taken in connection with bringing and prosecuting a
family law action involving child custody or child
support.” Amaral v. County of Los
Angeles, 2016 WL 4056299, at *2 (C.D. Cal. July 5, 2016)
(collecting cases). In this case, it appears that
Plaintiff's claims against Mr. Witthum arise entirely out
of his actions taken in his capacity as a government attorney
bringing and prosecuting a family law action. See,
e.g., Docket No. 1-1 at 2, 4-6, 8-9. As such, it appears
such claims are also barred by immunity.
respect to the official capacity claims, it is not entirely
clear what relief Plaintiff is seeking. To the extent damages
are sought, the Eleventh Amendment bars a damages action
against a state in federal court, including when officials
are sued for damages in their official capacities. See,
e.g., Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169
(1985). Therefore, any such damages claim fails. To the
extent injunctive relief is sought and it is properly before
the Court, Plaintiff appears to be seeking relief in the form
of this Court overturning the state court's decisions to
impose child-support payment obligations and to revoke his
driver's license. See Id. 6 (seeking as relief,
inter alia, “Reinstate my Driver License, Full
Refund plus 66% FFP”). It is well settled that a
federal district court does not have appellate jurisdiction
over a state court, whether by direct appeal, mandamus, or
otherwise. Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413 (1923); see also Bianchi v. Rylaarsdam, 334 F.3d
895, 898 (9th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff does not explain why this
Court is empowered to grant any such relief, rather than
Plaintiff pursuing relief through the normal appellate
process in state court.
light of the above, the complaint is hereby
DISMISSED. Although it appears unlikely that
Plaintiff can overcome the above deficiencies, the Court will
permit him the ...