United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge.
Maurice Edward Thompson has sued Wendy Hazelton, a North
Carolina judge, for holding him in contempt and sentencing
him to jail as part of a criminal proceeding. D.E. 1-1, 5.
Thompson claims that Hazelton's actions violated his
rights under the First, Eighth, and Ninth Amendments to the
Constitution. D.E. 5. He has also asked the court to
allow him to proceed without paying the typical filing fee
for civil actions. D.E. 1. Although the court will allow his
motion, the undersigned recommends that the district court
dismiss the Complaint because the doctrine of judicial
immunity bars his claims.
asks the court to allow him to proceed with his action
without paying the required filing fee and other costs
associated with litigation (colloquially known as proceeding
in forma pauperis or IFP). The court may grant his request if
he submits an affidavit describing his assets and the court
finds that he could not pay the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §
1915. In assessing a request to proceed IFP, the court should
consider whether the plaintiff can pay the costs associated
with litigation “and still be able to provide himself
and his dependents with the necessities of life.”
Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S.
331, 339 (1948) (internal quotations omitted).
court has reviewed Thompson's application and finds that
he lacks the resources to pay the costs associated with this
litigation. The court thus grants Thompson's motion (D.E.
1) and allows him to proceed IFP.
with determining whether Thompson is entitled to IFP status,
the court must also analyze the viability of the claims in
the Complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court reviews a
complaint to eliminate those claims that unnecessarily impede
judicial efficiency and the administration of justice. The
court must dismiss any portion of the complaint it determines
is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from that relief. Id. §
claims that Hazelton violated his constitutional rights by
holding him in contempt and ordering him to jail. D.E. 1-1,
5. Whatever the merits of his claim, it has long been settled
that a judge is absolutely immune from a claim for damages
arising out of his or her judicial actions. Chu v.
Griffith, 771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985). This immunity
applies even when judges have acted “in excess of their
jurisdiction, and [that] are alleged to have been done
maliciously or corruptly.” Stump v. Sparkman,
435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978).
Supreme Court has recognized two exceptions to judicial
immunity. The doctrine does not apply to “nonjudicial
actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial
capacity.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11- 12
(1991). The question of “whether an act by a judge is a
‘judicial' one relate[s] to the nature of the act
itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by
a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e.,
whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial
capacity.” Id. (citing Stump, 435
U.S. at 362; Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219,
judge cannot claim immunity for “actions, though
judicial in nature, taken in the complete absence of all
jurisdiction.” Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11- 12.
When analyzing whether a judge acted in the complete absence
of all jurisdiction, the court must consider “
‘whether at the time [the judge] took the challenged
action he had jurisdiction over the subject matter before
him,' and, in answering that question, ‘the scope
of the judge's jurisdiction must be construed
broadly[.]'” King v. Myers, 973 F.2d 354,
357 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting Stump, 435 U.S. at
review of the Complaint shows that the actions underlying
Thompson's claims are judicial in nature and that
Hazelton was not acting in the complete absence of
jurisdiction. Thus, Hazelton is entitled to judicial
immunity, and the district court should dismiss the
reasons stated above, the court grants Thompson's motion
to proceed IFP. D.E. 1. But the undersigned recommends that
the court dismiss Thompson's Complaint because his claims
are barred by judicial immunity.
Clerk of Court must serve a copy of this Memorandum and
Recommendation (“M&R”) on each party who has
appeared . Any party may file a written objection to the
M&R within 14 days from the date the Clerk serves it on
them. The objection must specifically note the portion of the
M&R that the party objects to and the reasons for their
objection. Any other party may respond to the objection
within 14 days from the date the objecting party serves it on
them. The district judge will review the objection and make
their own determination about the matter that is the subject
of the objection. If a party does not file a timely ...