Nilsen v. Andrew et al

Filing 34

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS by Judge William Alsup granting 13 Motion to Dismiss.(whalc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/5/2017)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 MICHAEL NILSEN, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 14 15 Plaintiff, No. C 17-04175 WHA v. JUDGE ANDREW BLUM, JUDGE MICHAEL LUNAS, JUDGE ARNOLD ROSENFIELD, and SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF LAKE, ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS Defendants. / 16 INTRODUCTION 17 18 19 In this pro se action for violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, defendants move to dismiss. For the reasons herein, the motion is GRANTED. STATEMENT 20 21 Pro se plaintiff Michael Nilsen was arrested in Lake County in April 2015 and charged 22 with drunk driving. At some unidentified time during the proceedings in his drunk driving case, 23 he “filed three appeals to the Appellate Department of the Superior Court of California, County 24 of Lake.” Nilsen alleges that as a result of these appeals, the Superior Court no longer had 25 jurisdiction of his case until such time as the appellate court returned a remittitur, but that 26 defendants Andrew Blum, Michael Lunas, and Arnold Rosenfield, all judges in the Superior 27 Court of California, County of Lake, nevertheless continued to proceed with his case (Amd. 28 Compl. ¶¶ 9–11, 15–20). 1 Nilsen’s description of these allegedly unlawful proceedings is confusing as it does not before different judges, or what most of those appearances concerned. According to his 4 allegations, in May 2017, Nilsen appeared before Judge Blum, who set a trial date in Nilsen’s 5 drunk driving case. Later in May, Nilsen appeared before defendant Judge Arnold Rosenfield. 6 The complaint does not explain the reason for this appearance; however, at the hearing Nilsen 7 objected that Judge Rosenfield did not have jurisdiction over him, and left the courtroom. After 8 he left, Judge Rosenfield issued a bench warrant for non-appearance and Nilsen was arrested 9 and confined. He then appeared before Judge Lunas the next day, May 18, and was again held 10 in custody. On May 19, he appeared before Judge Blum for trial readiness, and a trial date was 11 For the Northern District of California explain what decision or decisions he appealed, why he made numerous court appearances 3 United States District Court 2 set for May 24. At all of these appearances, the judges allegedly lacked jurisdiction over Nilsen 12 as a result of his appeal (id. ¶¶ 24–28). 13 Based on the foregoing, Nilsen brings four claims against the judicial defendants, and 14 the Superior Court of California, County of Lake: (1) violation of his Fourth Amendment right 15 to be free from unlawful seizure, (2) denial of due process in violation of his Fifth and 16 Fourteenth Amendment rights, (3) conspiracy to interfere with Nilsen’s civil rights pursuant to 17 Section 1985 of Title 42 of the United States Code, and (4) neglect to prevent damages pursuant 18 to Section 1986 of Title 42 of the United States Code. 19 Defendants move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, failure to state a 20 claim, immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, and judicial immunity. This order follows 21 full briefing and oral argument. 22 ANALYSIS ELEVENTH AMENDMENT IMMUNITY. 23 1. 24 The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "[t]he judicial 25 power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, 26 commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or 27 by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. CONST. AMEND. XI. The Eleventh 28 Amendment’s grant of immunity extends to state officials sued in their official capacities. Leer 2 1 v. Murphy 844 F.2d 628, 632 (9th Cir. 1988). This includes state courts and their employees. 2 Simmons v. Sacramento Cty. Super. Ct., 318 F.3d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 2003). 3 4 5 Here, Nilsen asserts claims against California Superior Court judges acting in their official capacities, and therefore his suit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Nilsen’s contrary arguments are nonsensical. He argues that the Eleventh Amendment 6 bars suits against a state or “arm of the state,” but his suit raises claims against state “actors” 7 acting as “persons . . . under color of law” and not as the state, nor one of its “arms” (Opp. at 6). 8 The phrase “arms of the state” for Eleventh Amendment purposes, however, means state 9 institutions, such as state courts, and state actors, such as judges. See Simmons, 318 F.3d at 1161. Defendants all plainly fall within the class of actors afforded immunity under the 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Eleventh Amendment. 12 Nilsen further cites Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 13 (1978), in support of his argument that the defendants are not entitled to immunity. That 14 decision, however, specifically limited its holding “to local government units which are not 15 considered part of the State for Eleventh Amendment purposes.” Id. at 690 n.54. In contrast, 16 California “state case law and constitutional provisions make clear that . . . suit against the 17 Superior Court is a suit against the State, barred by the Eleventh Amendment.” Greater Los 18 Angeles Council on Deafness, Inc. v. Zolin, 812 F.2d 1103, 1110 (9th Cir. 1987) (superceded by 19 statute on other grounds). Accordingly, Nilsen’s invocation of Monell is inapt. 20 21 CONCLUSION Because Nilsen’s claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, this order does not 22 reach defendants’ other arguments for dismissal. Nilsen’s claims are DISMISSED with 23 prejudice. Nilsen may not amend his complaint since amendment would be futile. 24 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 27 Dated: October 5, 2017. WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 28 3

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?