Chabrowski v. Cretan

Filing 34

ORDER by Judge Edward M. Chen Granting 13 Defendant's Motion to Dismiss; and Denying 28 Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate of Service). (emcsec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/25/2013)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 DEREK CHABROWSKI, 9 Plaintiff, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS v. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 No. C-12-4443 EMC CLIFFORD V. CRETAN, 12 Defendant. ___________________________________/ (Docket No. 13) 13 14 15 16 I. INTRODUCTION Plaintiff Derek Chabrowski, representing himself pro se, brings this action against the 17 Honorable Clifford V. Cretan, individually and in his official capacity as a judge of the Superior 18 Court of California for San Mateo County, following Judge Cretan’s issuing of an injunction against 19 Plaintiff related to his alleged harassment of a former business associate, Courtney Lawson. 20 Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint on the grounds that the Court lacks 21 jurisdiction to review final state court judgments pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, that the 22 Younger doctrine prohibits the Court from intervening in ongoing state court proceedings, that Judge 23 Cretan is entitled to judicial immunity, and that the Eleventh Amendment bars claims against Judge 24 Cretan in his official capacity. Plaintiff now asserts that he does not seek to challenge the injunction 25 in this forum, as he is appealing the injunction in the ongoing state court proceeding. Rather, 26 Plaintiff brings suit against Judge Cretan for “deprivation of rights of due process” and “violations 27 of his civil rights . . . .” Pl.’s Opp’n 2. 28 1 2 3 For the reasons stated herein and as discussed at the hearing in this matter, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion to dismiss. In addition, on the same day as the hearing on Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff filed 4 an application for preliminary injunction and order to show cause why a preliminary injunction 5 should not be issued. As the Court is dismissing Plaintiff’s entire complaint, it goes without saying 6 that Plaintiff has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits, as required to obtain a preliminary 7 injunction. See Germon v. Times Mirror Co., 520 F.2d 786, 788 (9th Cir. 1975). Thus, the Court 8 DENIES Plaintiff’s application. 9 FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Plaintiff’s complaint alleges that, in approximately August 2011, Plaintiff, a resident of 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 II. Maricopa County in Arizona, ceased a work relationship with Courtney Lawson. Complaint, 12 Docket No. 1, ¶¶ 1, 9. Following the end of this relationship, Ms. Lawson sought an injunction 13 against what she deemed to be Plaintiff’s harassing behavior, including a blog post written about 14 her. See id. ¶¶ 10, 16. While she first sought the injunction in Arizona state court, she subsequently 15 did so in California state court beginning in April 2012. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10. Defendant ultimately issued 16 an injunction on July 27, 2012 after failing to consider Plaintiff’s complete evidence and testimony, 17 demonstrating favoritism towards Ms. Lawson, failing to consider Plaintiff’s unclean hands defense, 18 failing to consider Ms. Lawson’s vindictive motive, failing to consider that Ms. Lawson lied in 19 court, and failing to consider Ms. Lawson’s unstable mental condition. Id. ¶¶ 12-13, 18. Plaintiff 20 filed a motion to vacate on July 30, 2012. Id. ¶ 14. 21 22 Plaintiff filed suit in this Court on August 23, 2012 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the First, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. ¶ 4. 23 24 25 26 III. DISCUSSION Judicial immunity, the Younger abstention doctrine, and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine each serve to bar Plaintiff’s current suit. First, as for judicial immunity, the doctrine of absolute immunity entitles certain individuals 27 to “immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability . . . .” See Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 28 U.S. 511, 526 (1985). “Where not clearly lacking subject matter jurisdiction, a judge is entitled to 2 793 F.2d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 1986). Here, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant lacked jurisdiction to 3 issue an injunction against him, and therefore judicial immunity does not apply. See Pl.’s Opp’n at 4 3-4. However, Plaintiff does not argue how Defendant lacked jurisdiction and, from the face of the 5 complaint, it is not clear how he lacked jurisdiction, as California law clearly empowers judges to 6 issue injunctions prohibiting harassment. See id.; Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6 (authorizing 7 injunctive relief for harassment). Thus, Defendant is entitled to judicial immunity for his actions. 8 While judicial immunity is not a bar to prospective injunctive relief against a judicial officer acting 9 in her judicial capacity (see Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 541-42 (1984)), § 1983 itself provides 10 that, “in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s 11 For the Northern District of California immunity even if there was no personal jurisdiction over the complaining party.” Ashelman v. Pope, 2 United States District Court 1 judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or 12 declaratory relief was unavailable.” See Washington v. Victim Compensation & Gov’t Claims Bd., 13 No. C-09-1291 WHA, 2009 WL 1068888, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 20, 2009) (discussing relation 14 between Pulliam and § 1983). 15 Second, the Younger abstention doctrine prohibits federal courts from granting injunctive or 16 declaratory relief that would interfere with state civil proceedings where “state proceedings are (1) 17 ongoing, (2) implicate important state interests, and (3) provide the plaintiff an adequate opportunity 18 to litigate federal claims.” San Remo Hotel v. City & County of San Francisco, 145 F.3d 1095, 1103 19 (9th Cir. 1998). Here, Plaintiff seeks “injunctive relief commanding defendant to cease any legal 20 proceedings in State Court that are in violation of and protected under the United States 21 Constitution, First Amendment,” as well as “declaratory relief as this Court deems appropriate [and] 22 just.” Complaint ¶ 26; see also Appl. for Prelim. Inj., Docket No. 28, at 3 (requesting the Court 23 enjoin Defendant from “presiding, ruling or otherwise exercising judicial authority over State Cases 24 relating to the Plaintiff” and require Defendant “[i]ssu[e] an official recusal order.”). The 25 underlying state court proceeding is ongoing, it implicates the important state interest of prohibiting 26 harassment, and Plaintiff has the opportunity to assert the First Amendment in defense thereto. See 27 Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6(b)(1) (“[c]onstitutionally protected activity” not within definition of 28 harassing “course of conduct”); Rosicrucian Fellowship v. Rosicrucian Fellowship Nonsectarian 3 1 Church, 39 Cal. 2d 121, 145 (1952) (“an injunction will not be granted where the restraint interferes 2 with freedom of speech”). Thus, Plaintiff’s requested prospective relief is barred. 3 Third, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine limits prohibits this Court from exercising subject- Kougasian v. TMSL, Inc., 359 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2004). This doctrine, which evolved from 6 two Supreme Court cases – Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and District of 7 Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983) – arises through a “negative inference 8 from 28 U.S.C. § 1257,” which, by authorizing the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from a state 9 court judgment, “impliedly prohibits the lower federal courts from doing so.” Kougasian, 359 F.3d 10 at 1139. Here, the gist of Plaintiff’s claim is a challenge to Defendant’s issuance of injunctive relief 11 For the Northern District of California matter jurisdiction over what is essentially a de facto appeal of a state court judgment. See 5 United States District Court 4 in a state court action. By bringing the matter before this Court, Plaintiff is essentially seeking an 12 appeal of that decision. Pursuant to Rooker-Feldman, this Court may not exercise subject-matter 13 jurisdiction over such a de facto appeal. 14 15 IV. CONCLUSION As judicial immunity, the Younger abstention doctrine, and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine 16 serve to bar this suit, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion to dismiss and DENIES Plaintiff’s 17 application for a preliminary injunction and order to show cause. Because any attempt to plead 18 around these doctrines would be futile, the dismissal is with prejudice. Although the Court indicated 19 at the hearing in this matter that it intended to dismiss this case without prejudice and with leave to 20 amend, upon further review it appears that any attempt to plead around these doctrines would be 21 futile. Thus, the dismissal is with prejudice and without leave to amend. The Clerk shall enter 22 judgment and close the file. 23 This order disposes of Docket No. 13. 24 IT IS SO ORDERED. 25 Dated: February 25, 2013 26 _________________________ EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge 27 28 4

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