United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MORALES HOWARD UNITED SLATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court on Defendant Judge Tyrie
Boyer's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 17; Motion) filed on
January 30, 2018. In the Motion, Defendant asserts that this
action should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to
state any claim for which relief can be granted, and because
the defendant judge is absolutely immune from suit. See
generally Motion. Plaintiff opposes dismissal, and filed
his Memorandum of Law to Support Plaintiff [sic] Opposition
to Defendant [sic] Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 18; Response) on
February 2, 2018. Accordingly, the Motion is ripe for review.
August 24, 2017, Arther Williamson, a pro se
litigant, filed his amended Complaint and Demand for Jury
Trial (Doc. 5; Complaint) in which he sues one Defendant, the
Honorable Tyrie W. Boyer. See Complaint at 1.
Williamson identifies the Defendant as a “Judge,
” but fails to indicate the court over which he
presides. The undersigned takes judicial notice that the
Honorable Tyrie W. Boyer is a Circuit Judge in Florida's
Fourth Judicial Circuit.
Complaint, Williamson attempts to allege that Judge Boyer
violated his constitutional rights to due process in
connection with a judicial proceeding that occurred on
December 8, 2016, which resulted in Judge Boyer's entry
of a Final Injunction for Protection Against Domestic
Violence against Williamson. See Complaint at 2;
Exh. A. According to Williamson, during the injunction
hearing Judge Boyer “unconstitutional [sic] indicted
and arraigned” him, “suppressed all information
[Williamson] tried to present, ” and “had
[Williamson] handcuffed and forcefully taken out of his
courtroom” by two police officers. Complaint at 2. By
these actions, Williamson claims, Judge Boyer violated his
due process rights. Complaint at 3. Williamson also suggests
that Judge Boyer's actions were driven by racial
animosity, and that “[t]he United State [sic] Federal
court has a history of violating African American
constitutional right [sic] from 1865 to the present.”
Complaint at 2.
Standard of Review
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the
factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009);
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1
(2002); see also Lotierzo v. Woman's World Med. Ctr.,
Inc., 278 F.3d 1180, 1182 (11th Cir. 2002). In addition,
all reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the
plaintiff. See Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 705
(11th Cir. 2010). Nonetheless, the plaintiff must still meet
some minimal pleading requirements. Jackson v. Bellsouth
Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2004)
(citations omitted). Indeed, while “[s]pecific facts
are not necessary[, ]” the complaint should
“‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per
curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Further, the plaintiff must allege
“enough facts to state a claim that is plausible on its
face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A
claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual
content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A “plaintiff's
obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to
relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do[.]” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(internal quotations omitted); see also Jackson, 372
F.3d at 1262 (explaining that “conclusory allegations,
unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions
masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal”)
(internal citation and quotations omitted). Indeed,
“the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the
allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal
conclusions[, ]” which simply “are not entitled
to [an] assumption of truth.” See Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678, 680. Thus, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the
Court must determine whether the complaint contains
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face[.]'” Id. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). And, while “[p]ro
se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than
pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be
liberally construed, ” Tannenbaum v. United
States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998),
“‘this leniency does not give the court a license
to serve as de facto counsel for a party or to
rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain
an action.'” Alford v. Consol. Gov't of
Columbus, Ga., 438 Fed.Appx. 837, 839 (11th Cir.
2011) (quoting GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cnty. of
Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998)
(internal citation omitted), overruled on other grounds
as recognized in Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 706
(11th Cir. 2010)).
Motion, Judge Boyer asserts that the Complaint must be
dismissed because Williamson fails to state a plausible claim
for a violation of his constitutional right to due process.
Motion at 3-5. Alternatively, even if the Complaint can be
liberally construed to state a claim, Judge Boyer contends
that it must be dismissed because he is “immune from
suit under the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity.”
Id. at 5. In his Response, Williamson asserts that
judicial immunity cannot be raised in a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
(Rule(s)). He further contends that he is entitled to a
default judgement because Judge Boyer failed to file an
answer. Id. at 4. With respect to the second
argument, the Court first notes that it is improper to seek
affirmative relief in a response to a motion. See
Rule 7(b)(1); Rule 3.01, Local Rules, United States District
Court, Middle District of Florida; see also Rosenberg v.
Gould, 554 F.3d 962, 967 (11th Cir. 2009) (“Where
a request for leave to file an amended complaint simply is
imbedded within an opposition memorandum, the issue has not
been raised properly.”) (quoting Posner v. Essex
Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 1209, 1222 (11th Cir. 1999)). Second,
and more importantly, Judge Boyer did file a timely response
to the Complaint by filing his Motion. See Rule
12(a). As such, he has not “failed to plead or
otherwise defend” against the claims in this action and
Williamson is not entitled to an entry of default or a
default judgment. See Rule 55.
to the merits of the Motion, the Court addresses the issue of
judicial immunity first as it is dispositive.
Williamson's Complaint appears to allege violations of
due process under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution. Complaint at 1. The claims arise
from the proceedings on a Final Injunction for Protection
Against Domestic Violence entered against Williamson by Judge
Boyer. See Complaint Exh. A. The Court construes
these constitutional claims as causes of action brought
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, the
well-established principle of judicial immunity from civil
liability bars these claims. Harris v. Deveaux, 780
F.2d 911, 914 (11th Cir. 1986); see also Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978); Wahl v.
McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1172 (11th Cir. 1985).
application of the doctrine of absolute immunity is strictly
a question of law for the Court to determine. See Brown
v. Crawford County, Ga., 960 F.2d 1002, 1012 (11th Cir.
1992). “Few doctrines were more solidly established at
common law than the immunity of judges for liability for
damages for acts committed within their judicial
jurisdiction.” Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547,
553-54 (1967), overruled in part on other grounds by
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 819 (1982).
“As early as 1872, the Court recognized that it . . .
[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, [should] be free
to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of
personal consequences to himself.'” Stump,
435 U.S. at 355 (second alteration in original) (quoting
Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 347 (1871)). For
these reasons, the Supreme Court has determined that judges
cannot be held liable for their judicial acts even if those
acts are corrupt, done with malice or in excess of the
judges' jurisdiction. See Stump, 435 U.S. at
356; see also Wahl, 773 F.2d at 1172.
“‘Judges are entitled to absolute judicial
immunity from damages for those acts taken while they are
acting in their judicial capacity unless they acted in the
clear absence of all jurisdiction.'” William B.
Cashion Nevada Spendthrift Trust v. Vance, 552 Fed.Appx.
884, 885-85 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bolin v.
Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir.
Stump, the Supreme Court recognized a two-part test
to be used in determining whether a judge is absolutely
immune from potential civil liability. See Stump,
435 U.S. at 356-62. The reviewing court must ask whether the
judge was acting in a judicial capacity while dealing with
Williamson, and whether the judge acted in the “clear
absence of all jurisdiction.” Id. at 356-57,
360. Only in circumstances where a judge acted in the
“clear absence of all jurisdiction” or dealt with
Williamson in a non-judicial capacity can the judge face
civil liability for actions taken. See id. at
determining whether the judge was acting within his or her
judicial capacity, the Eleventh Circuit instructs a court to
consider several factors, including: whether “(1) the
precise act complained of . . . is a normal judicial
function; (2) the events involved occurred in the judge's
chambers; (3) the controversy centered around a case then
pending before the judge; and (4) the confrontation arose
directly and immediately out of a visit to the judge in his
official capacity.” Harper v. Merckle, 638
F.2d 848, 858 (5th Cir. Unit B Mar. 1981) (quoting
McAlester v. Brown, 469 F.2d 1280, 1282 (5th Cir.
1972)); see also William B. Cashion Nevada
Spendthrift Trust, 552 Fed.Appx. at 886. Notably,
“[a] judge is entitled to immunity ‘even when the
judge's acts are in error, malicious, or were in excess
of his or her jurisdiction.” William B. Cashion
Nevada Spendthrift Trust, 552 F'Appx at 886 (quoting
Bolin, 225 F.3d at 1239). Utilizing this framework,
the Court will now consider whether Judge Boyer would be
entitled to immunity from the claims Williamson wishes to
construing Williamson's allegations, it is evident that
he is complaining of actions taken by Judge Boyer in his
judicial capacity. First, the precise acts of which
Williamson complains, suppressing evidence, having people
removed from a courtroom, and entering a domestic violence
injunction, are normal judicial functions. Second,
Williamson states in his Complaint that he has been wronged
because Judge Boyer improperly suppressed evidence and had
him forcibly removed from the courtroom. Complaint at 2.
These actions are alleged to have occurred as part of an
ongoing judicial proceeding in the Fourth Judicial Circuit
Court of Florida. Williamson fails to suggest or provide any
basis for a conclusion that Judge Boyer's actions
occurred outside of his judicial chambers. Third, the actions
about which Williamson complains occurred in a case that was
assigned to and pending before Judge Boyer. Fourth, the acts
of which Williamson complains did arise ...