United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Bluefield
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FABER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Standing Order, the action was referred to United States
Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort for submission of
findings of fact and recommendations regarding disposition
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Magistrate Judge
VanDervort submitted his Findings and Recommendation
(“PF&R”) to the court on April 29, 2014, in
which he recommended that the court dismiss plaintiff's
complaint, and remove this matter from the court's
accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b),
the parties were allotted fourteen days plus three mailing
days in which to file any objections to Magistrate Judge
VanDervort's Findings and Recommendations. On May 5,
2014, plaintiff filed objections. Plaintiff has also filed a
number of documents in support of his objections.
See ECF Nos. 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11. With respect to
plaintiff's objections, where they are responsive to the
PF&R, the court has conducted a de novo review.
pro se complaint against the “State Judicial Court of
Tazewell County Virginia” arises out of the proceedings
surrounding and his conviction for misdemeanor domestic
violence in that court. Smith also complains that his
parental rights were improperly terminated in that court.
PF&R, Magistrate Judge VanDervort found that venue in
this court was improper and that, instead, the lawsuit should
have been filed in the Western District of Virginia.
Recognizing the power of the court to transfer a matter for
improper venue to the correct court, Magistrate Judge
VanDervort recommended that this court decline to do so for a
number of reasons. First, the magistrate judge recommended
dismissal because the State Judicial Court of Tazewell County
Virginia is not a proper defendant in an action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Magistrate Judge VanDervort also noted
that the complaint was subject to dismissal pursuant to
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Magistrate Judge VanDervort
further recommended that the claims against the judges
mentioned (although not specifically named as defendants)
were barred by judicial immunity. As to plaintiff's
allegations against David Harmon and Cathy Smith Wimmer, the
PF&R noted that Harmon and Wimmer were not state actors
under § 1983. The PF&R also recommended dismissal of
the conspiracy claim for failure to state a cognizable claim.
Finally, with respect to Smith's request that his firearm
rights be restored, Magistrate Judge VanDervort noted it was
without jurisdiction to entertain the request.
objections are focused on the PF&R's recommendation
regarding judicial immunity. According to Smith, “the
Federal Constitution implies limited immunity for State
Judges [and t]here is only one judicial court in the United
States, that has the power and authority to grant a dismissal
to to the State Judicial Judges of Tazewell County Virginia
for absolute immunity. That court is United United States
Supreme Court.” ECF No. 4, pp. 1-2. He goes on to
state: “The United States Supreme Court is the only
court in the United States that can interpret, whether
absolute immunity to the State Judicial Judges super[s]edes
the Federal Constitution for the citizen of the United
State[s]. It is written in stone! This is a matter that can
only be resolved by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Does absolute immunity super[s]ede the Federal Constitution.
Or does the Federal Constitution super[s]ede absolute
immunity. The Supreme Court must render a decision whether
absolute immunity to state Judicial Judges super[s]edes
Federal Constitution for dismissal of Civil Action No.
1:14-15068. Or Federal Constitution super[s]edes absolute
immunity to the State Judicial Judges of Tazewell County
Virginia, for trial by jury!” Id. at p. 4.
extent plaintiff argues that the Supreme Court must issue a
decision regarding the scope of judicial immunity, the Court
has done so. “As early as 1872, the Court recognized
that it was ‘a general principal 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 v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355 (1978) (quoting
Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 347 (1872)). For
that reason, judges “are not liable to civil actions
for their judicial acts, even when such acts are in excess of
their jurisdiction, and are alleged to have been done
maliciously or corruptly.” Bradley, 13 Wall.
335, 351. This judicial immunity applies even in suits
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Stump,
435 U.S. at 356. “Few doctrines were more solidly
established at common law than the immunity of judges from
liability for damages for acts committed within their
judicial jurisdiction.” Pearson v. Ray, 386
U.S. 547, 553-54 (1967). Judicial immunity applies even where
a “judge is accused of acting maliciously and
corruptly, and it is not for the protection or benefit of a
malicious or corrupt judge, but for the benefit of the
public, whose interest it is that the judge's should be
at liberty to exercise their functions with independence and
without fear of consequences.” Mireles v.
Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 12-13 (1991). Only when a judge has
acted in “clear absence of all jurisdiction” does
judicial immunity not attach to a judge's actions.
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978).
determining whether a judge's action is a judicial one
for purposes of immunity, a court is to consider “the
nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function
normally performed by a judge, and [ ] the expectations of
the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his
official capacity.” Id. at 362. Significantly,
“a judge's immunity is not pierced by allegations
that he conspired with others to do an allegedly unlawful act
so long as the act is within his judicial powers.”
Plotzker v. Lamberth, Civil No. 3:08cv00027, 2008 WL
4706255, *4 (W.D. Va. Oct. 22, 2008) (citing Dennis v.
Sparks, 449 U.S. 24 (1980)).
allegations make clear that all of the actions taken by the
judges in the state proceedings were taken in the course of
their official capacities as judges. None of the allegations
in plaintiff's complaint can be construed as alleging
action taken outside of official capacity nor is there any
indication that the judges lacked jurisdiction to hear the
cases of which plaintiff complains. Accordingly,
plaintiff's objection thereto is
foregoing reasons, the court adopts the Findings and
Recommendations of Magistrate Judge VanDervort,
DISMISSES plaintiff's complaint and
directs the Clerk to remove these matters from the
Clerk is directed to send copies of this Memorandum Opinion
and Order to counsel ...