Randle v. Contra Costa Cnty. Super. Ct.

Filing 6

ORDER OF DISMISSAL. Signed by Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley on 3/27/2024. (ahm, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/27/2024)Any non-CM/ECF Participants have been served by First Class Mail to the addresses of record listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 RAMELLO D. RANDLE, et al., 7 Plaintiffs, 8 ORDER OF DISMISSAL v. 9 United States District Court Northern District of California Case No. 23-cv-05799-JSC 10 CONTRA COSTA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT OF MARTINEZ, et al., 11 Defendants. 12 INTRODUCTION 13 14 15 16 17 18 Plaintiffs, inmates in the Martinez Detention Facility of the Contra Costa County Jail who are proceeding without representation by an attorney, filed this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Contra Costa County Superior Court and four of its judges.1 (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff Romeo Randle is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order. For the reasons explained below, the complaint is dismissed because it does not state a claim that is capable of judicial review and determination. 19 STANDARD OF REVIEW 20 21 22 Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of 23 the complaint, if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief 24 may be granted,” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. 25 26 27 28 The Court’s mail to Plaintiff Jason Thomas was returned by the postal service as undeliverable. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff Ramello Randle wrote a letter to the Court stating Thomas is deceased and asking to dismiss him from this lawsuit. (ECF No. 4.) This request is denied as unnecessary in light of the conclusion below that the claims must be dismissed because they are not capable of judicial determination. 1 1 § 1915A(b). Pleadings filed by unrepresented parties must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. 2 Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). United States District Court Northern District of California 3 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the 4 claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the 5 statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim is and the grounds upon 6 which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). Although to state 7 a claim a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff’s obligation to 8 provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a 9 formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must 10 be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 11 550 U.S. 544, 555 (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim for 12 relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. 13 To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a 14 right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged 15 violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 16 42, 48 (1988). 17 18 LEGAL CLAIMS Plaintiffs claim the judicial defendants made erroneous rulings in their criminal 19 proceedings regarding their objections to evidence, motions to dismiss, motions to suppress, 20 motions for substitution of counsel, and jury instructions, and made prejudicial comments to 21 jurors. (Id. at 11-14, 16-17.) Plaintiffs claim that these decisions were based upon their race, and 22 African-Americans are convicted more frequently, have longer sentences, are detained longer, 23 receive higher bail amounts, and receive trials that are less fair than criminal defendants of other 24 races. (Id. at 15.) They seek ten million dollars in damages. (Id. at 18.) 25 Plaintiffs’ claims are not capable of judicial determination for two reasons. The Eleventh 26 Amendment “immunize states from suit in federal court by citizens and noncitizens alike.” Kohn 27 v. State Bar of Cal., 87 F.4th 1021, 1025 (9th Cir. 2023) (en banc). Eleventh Amendment 28 immunity extends to the state superior courts. Munoz v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 91 2 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 F.4th 977, 980 (9th Cir. 2024) (holding Superior Court of State of California has 11th Amendment 2 “sovereign” immunity as arm of state and “[n]o exception” to 11th Amendment immunity changes 3 this conclusion). A suit against individual state judges in their judicial capacity is also barred by 4 the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 980-81 (citing Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, 595 U.S. 30, 5 39 (2021)). In addition, state judges are absolutely immune from a suit for damages for acts 6 performed in their judicial capacity. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985). Whether an 7 act by a judge is a judicial one relates to (1) the nature and function of the act and not the act itself, 8 i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and (2) the expectations of the parties, 9 i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 10 362 (1978). The judicial actions about which Plaintiffs complain –– making bail determinations, 11 ruling on motions, ruling on trial objections, instructing the jury, and sentencing criminal 12 defendants –– are clearly functions judges normally perform when carrying out their duties. See, 13 e.g., Duvall v. County of Kitsap, 260 F.3d 1124, 1133 (9th Cir. 2001) (ruling on a motion and 14 exercising control over a courtroom are normal judicial functions). Defendants are immune from 15 Plaintiffs’ lawsuit seeking damages against them for their actions in in adjudicating Plaintiffs’ 16 state court criminal proceedings. Accordingly, the complaint does not state a claim that is capable 17 of judicial determination. 18 If the Court finds that a complaint does not state a claim that can proceed, it should 19 determine whether to grant leave to amend. Even when a request to amend is not made, “[l]eave 20 to amend should be granted unless the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of 21 other facts, and should be granted more liberally to pro se plaintiffs.” Lira v. Herrera, 427 F.3d 22 1164, 1176 (9th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 23 1128-29 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). However, if amendment of the pleading would be futile, leave 24 to amend is properly denied. See Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 603 F.3d 676, 680 (9th Cir. 2010). It 25 is clear from the allegations in the complaint Plaintiffs mean to sue Defendants for the rulings they 26 made in criminal proceedings, actions for which Defendants are immune from suit. Such claims 27 cannot be amended to state a claim against that is capable of judicial review and determination 28 under Section 1983. Accordingly, leave to amend will not be allowed. 3 CONCLUSION 1 2 3 For the foregoing reasons, the case is DISMISSED. The dismissal is without leave to amend and with prejudice. 4 The Clerk shall enter judgment and close the file. 5 IT IS SO ORDERED. 6 Dated: March 27, 2024 7 8 JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States District Judge 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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