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Mark J. Cuyler v. United States District Court

November 14, 2011



Alleging "discrimination," "conspiracy to commit fraud," and "civil rights violations" under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, 18 U.S.C. § 242, and Bivens,*fn1 the pro se plaintiff sues (Doc. 1) both the Orlando Division of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida and seven district judges*fn2 in their individual and official capacity. The plaintiff demands $800,000,000 in damages. By two October 13, 2011, orders (Doc. 19) Judge Gregory A. Presnell recused and Chief Judge Conway recused and transferred (Doc. 20) the action to the Tampa Division. The defendants move (Doc. 16) to dismiss. The plaintiff responds (Doc. 18) in opposition and moves (Doc. 22) for disqualification.*fn3


The lawsuit arises from judicial action by each defendant in connection with a series of lawsuits by the plaintiff against Florida, the "United States of State of Florida," the United States of America, a loan service provider, two law firms, two individuals, a bank, an insurance company, and eight judges-seven of whom appear as a defendant in this action.*fn4

The series begins with a lawsuit (Cuyler v. Aurora Loan Services, LLC, 6:10-cv-1646-Orl-31GJK) before Judge Mary S. Scriven in the Orlando Division of the Middle District of Florida. Seeking $1,000,000, the plaintiff sued a loan services provider for allegedly bringing a frivolous foreclosure lawsuit against him. After a dismissal of the complaint without prejudice, the plaintiff moved for reconsideration, to disqualify Judge Scriven, and for each judge in the Middle District of Florida to disclose "financial interests." Judge Scriven denied each motion as patently frivolous.

In response, the plaintiff sued (Cuyler v. Scriven, et al., 6:11-cv-87-MEF, Doc. 1) Judge Scriven and the state of Florida for alleged violations arising from the first lawsuit. The second suit was assigned within the Orlando Division to Judge John Antoon, II. After Judge Antoon recused, the case was assigned to the Middle District of Alabama's Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller. Chief Judge Fuller dismissed and held that absolute judicial immunity bars each claim.

Again, the plaintiff responded to an adverse ruling by filing a series of frivolous motions and another lawsuit, (Cuyler v. Fuller, et al., 6:11-cv-429-Orl-31GJK) this one against Judge Scriven, Chief Judge Anne C. Conway of the Middle District Florida, and Chief Judge Fuller. Like the second suit, absolute judicial immunity barred each claim. From nine lawsuits since November 5, 2010,*fn5 a clear pattern emerges:

When a judge rules against them, the Plaintiff[] respond[s] by filing frivolous (and usually successive) motions seeking disqualification of that judge. When that tack fails, Plaintiff[] then file[s] a lawsuit against the judge, seeking exorbitant sums as damages, in retaliation for the adverse rulings. Then, Plaintiff[] return[s] [his] attention to the original case and argue[s] the judge cannot continue to preside over it because [he has] sued the judge. It is an understatement to characterize this course of action, repeated over and over again, as an abuse of the judicial system.*fn6

This action precisely fits within the pattern. The complaint accuses the defendants of numerous "violations," which allegedly arise from previous lawsuits and which include treason, "willfully and intentionally" dismissing valid complaints, ignoring "rules and laws," "intervening and taking over the cases and answering motions and objections for defendants," directing the clerk to close cases, instructing the U.S. Marshal to escort the plaintiff "from the time he enters the courthouse until the time he exit [sic] the courthouse," "answering their own motions to disqualify," "threatening [the] plaintiff" with sanctions, and refusing hearings. Each allegation of illegality wholly lacks factual detail and coherence; only a set of generalities remains.

Absolute Immunity

Absolute immunity protects a judge performing a judicial act from a suit for monetary damages. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967); Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335 (1871). Absolute immunity obtains despite an allegation that the judge acted maliciously or corruptly. Bradley, 80 U.S. at 347 ("The purity of [a judge's] motives cannot . . . be the subject of judicial scrutiny."); Pierson, 386 U.S. at 554 ("[A judge] should not have to fear that unsatisfied litigants may hound him with litigation charging malice or corruption."); Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1172 (11th Cir. 1985). An act by a judge is a "judicial act" if (1) "it is a function normally performed by a judge" and (2) the parties dealt with the judge in his official capacity." Stump, 435 U.S. at 361.

Each alleged violation occurred in a judicial setting, as a consequence of a case pending before each respective judge, and by virtue of a necessary judicial function. Each alleged violation arose from an order of a court-a "paradigmatic" judicial act-as an immediate consequence of the plaintiff's appearance. See Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227 (1988). Accordingly, absolute judicial immunity requires dismissal.*fn7


True to his established pattern, the plaintiff seeks disqualification and alleges that "Judge Steven Douglas Merryday [might] discriminate against and punish plaintiff for filing a lawsuit against his friend Judge Anne C. Conway and other judges of this court." Under 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), "[a] judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned." See also Christo v. Padgett, 223 F.3d 1324, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000); Canon 3(C)(1) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. Under a heading entitled "Civil Actions Against Other Judges on the Assigned Judge's Court," the Committee on Codes of Conduct's Advisory Opinion 103 explains:

If one or more of an assigned judge's judicial colleagues -- but not the assigned judge -- is named as a defendant in a civil action, the assigned judge need not automatically recuse from the case. This situation is governed by Canon 3C(1)'s general admonition against presiding over cases in which "the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Whether it would be appropriate for a judge to handle a matter ...

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