Cornell v. State of California

Filing 10

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S IFP APPLICATION 2 AND DISMISSING CASE. Signed by Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu on 1/27/2012. (dmrlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/27/2012)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 THERESA CORNELL, No. C-11-05431 (DMR) 8 Plaintiff(s), 9 v. STATE OF CALIFORNIA, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S IFP APPLICATION AND DISMISSING CASE FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM 12 Defendant(s). ___________________________________/ 13 Plaintiff filed this case, in conjunction with an Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, on 14 November 9, 2011. [Docket Nos. 1-2.] Her complaint alleges that a California state judge acted 15 unethically during her criminal trial. Specifically, she asserts that, upon conviction, he gave her a 16 more stringent sentence than others who had committed more egregious crimes; that he failed to 17 properly disqualify an allegedly biased juror; that he improperly influenced the jury’s behavior; that 18 he refused to recuse himself upon her request; that he tampered with her legal documents to deprive 19 her of an appeal; and that when she appealed, her case again appeared before this judge. 20 After reviewing Plaintiff’s IFP Application, the court determines that Plaintiff meets the 21 financial requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The court therefore GRANTS the application. The 22 court nevertheless must dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), because it fails 23 to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Even taking into account the court’s duty to 24 construe pro se pleadings liberally, see Bernhardt v. L.A. Cnty., 339 F.3d 920, 925 (9th Cir.2003), 25 the court cannot discern a valid legal claim. Judges and “individuals necessary to the judicial 26 process” at the state and federal levels, Olsen v. Idaho State Bd. of Med., 363 F.3d 916, 923 (9th Cir. 27 2004) (citations and quotation marks omitted), are “generally immune from civil liability.” Meek v. 28 (1991)). This policy reflects the “‘general principle of the highest importance to the proper 3 administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising authority vested in him, shall be free to 4 act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.’” Olsen, 5 363 F.3d 916 at 922 (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 347 (1871)). This rule remains 6 sacrosanct “[a]lthough unfairness and injustice to a litigant may result on occasion.” Meek, 183 F.3d 7 at 965 (citation and quotation marks omitted). Thus, a judge receives immunity even if “he takes 8 actions which are in error, are done maliciously, or are in excess of his authority.” Id. (citing Stump 9 v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978)). The law will strip a judge of immunity only if he acts 10 “‘in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.’” Sadoski v. Mosley, 435 F.3d 1076, 1079 (9th Cir. 2006) 11 (quoting Stump, 435 U.S. at 356-57) (quotation marks omitted). 12 The facts proffered in Plaintiff’s amended complaint concern her objections to the actions of 13 a judge in his official capacity, and nothing before the court suggests that the judge acted in a clear 14 absence of jurisdiction. Under these circumstances, the law mandates that the judge receive 15 immunity from suit. The court therefore dismisses Plaintiff’s complaint without prejudice.1 S RT ER H 19 R NIA u y na M. R on Judge D FO Dated: January 27, 2012 NO 18 ERED O ORD IT IS S LI 17 ISTRIC ES D TC AT T A IT IS SO ORDERED. UNIT ED 16 RT U O For the Northern District of California Cnty. of Riverside, 183 F.3d 962, 965 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 2 United States District Court 1 C DONNA N DIRYUT OF M. S T RIC United States Magistrate Judge 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 A magistrate judge generally must obtain the consent of the parties to enter dispositive rulings and judgments in a civil case. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). However, in cases such as this one, where the plaintiff has consented but not served the defendants, “all parties have consented pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1),” and a magistrate judge therefore “‘may conduct any or all proceedings in a jury or nonjury civil matter and order the entry of judgment in the case.’” Gaddy v. McDonald, No. 11-CV-8271, 2011 WL 5515505, at *1 n.2 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 9, 2011) (not reported in F. Supp. 2d) (quoting § 636(c)(1)) (citing United States v. Real Property, 135 F.3d 1312, 1317 (9th Cir. 1995)); Third World Media, LLC v. Doe, No. C-10-4470 LB, 2011 WL 4344160, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2011)); see also Neals v. Norwood, 59 F.3d 530, 532 (5th Cir.1995) (holding that magistrate judge had jurisdiction to dismiss . . . action . . . as frivolous without consent of defendants because defendants not yet served and therefore not parties). 2

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