Bruzzone v. McManis et al

Filing 20


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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 MICHAEL A. BRUZZONE, 9 v. 10 JAMES MCMANIS, et al., 11 United States District Court Northern District of California Case No. 18-cv-01235-PJH Plaintiff, 8 Defendants. ORDER DISMISSING CLAIMS AGAINST INTEL AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE WHY CLAIMS AGAINST JUDGE ALSUP SHOULD NOT BE DISMISSED Re: Dkt. No. 18 12 13 BACKGROUND 14 15 Plaintiff Bruzzone is subject to a pre-filing order filed on August 19, 2014 in Case 16 No. 14-01279-WHA, based on his filing a series of lawsuits against Intel Corporation and 17 its employees. Bruzzone v. Intel Corporation, Case No. 14-cv-01279-WHA (N.D. Cal., 18 filed March 19, 2014), Dkt. 88. 19 Plaintiff’s original complaint in this action named as defendants James McManis, 20 William Faulkner, and Judge William Alsup. Dkt. 2. None of the three defendants 21 technically fall under the scope of the 2014 pre-filing order. When plaintiff submitted his 22 original complaint for pre-filing review, Judge Alsup noted that although it echoed 23 plaintiff’s “previous attempts to sue Intel,” the complaint was “deliberately drawn to name 24 as defendants only James McManis and William Faulkner—attorneys who previously 25 represented Intel—as well as [Judge Alsup].” Order Re Pre-Filing Review at 1, Bruzzone 26 v. McManis, Case No. 18-mc-80005-WHA (N.D. Cal., filed Jan. 4, 2018), Dkt. 9. Judge 27 Alsup opined that the “pre-filing order can no longer keep pace with Bruzzone’s tireless 28 crusade of frivolous lawsuits” and allowed the original complaint in this case to be filed 1 “[o]ut of an abundance of caution” because it did not specifically name Intel as a 2 defendant. Id. at 2. 3 On April 3, 2018, plaintiff amended his complaint in this action to add Intel 4 Corporation as a named defendant. Dkt. 18. It seems plaintiff has attempted to end-run 5 the pre-filing order by amending his complaint to add a party that would trigger pre-filing 6 review only after the initial complaint successfully avoided that review. But plaintiff 7 cannot render the court’s pre-filing order nugatory with such gamesmanship. As such, 8 this court will conduct pre-filing review with respect to plaintiff’s claims against Intel in 9 accordance with the August 19, 2014 pre-filing order. DISCUSSION 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 A. Complaint Against Intel 12 The court has reviewed plaintiff Bruzzone’s new complaint (Dkts. 1 & 18), and 13 finds its contents are frivolous or duplicative of past filings in plaintiff’s prolonged series of 14 complaints against Intel. Having reviewed plaintiff’s proposed complaint, the court 15 concludes that it does not state a potentially cognizable claim against Intel. 16 B. Complaint Against Judge Alsup 17 Next, the court reviews sua sponte plaintiff’s claims against Judge Alsup to 18 determine whether any could plausibly state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 19 Bruzzone seeks damages allegedly resulting from a court order indicating that Bruzzone 20 was not a “relator,” where Bruzzone was acting pro se and the United States was not a 21 party to the action. See Dkt. 2; Bruzzone, Case No. 14-cv-01279-WHA, Dkt. 88. 22 Bruzzone alleges various damages resulting from language in Judge Alsup’s order 23 concerning Bruzzone’s status as a “relator.” 24 25 26 1. Legal Standard a. Sua Sponte Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(6) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests for the legal sufficiency of the claims 27 alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock, 349 F.3d 1191, 1199–1200 (9th Cir. 2003). 28 Under the minimal notice pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, 2 1 which requires that a complaint include a “short and plain statement of the claim showing 2 that the pleader is entitled to relief,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a complaint may be 3 dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff fails to state a cognizable legal theory, or 4 has not alleged sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Somers v. Apple, 5 Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959 (9th Cir. 2013). 6 While the court must accept as true all the factual allegations in the complaint, 7 legally conclusory statements, not supported by actual factual allegations, need not be 8 accepted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). The complaint must proffer 9 sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 558-59 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows 12 the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct 13 alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not 14 permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has 15 alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Id. at 679. 16 Where dismissal is warranted, it is generally without prejudice, unless it is clear the 17 complaint cannot be saved by any amendment. Sparling v. Daou, 411 F.3d 1006, 1013 18 (9th Cir. 2005). 19 The Ninth Circuit has “recognized that ‘[a] trial court may dismiss a claim sua 20 sponte under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).’” Seismic Reservoir 2020, Inc. v. Paulsson, 785 21 F.3d 330, 335 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Omar v. Sea–Land Serv., Inc., 813 F.2d 986, 991 22 (9th Cir. 1987)). The district court “must give notice of its sua sponte intention to dismiss 23 and provide the plaintiff with ‘an opportunity to at least submit a written memorandum in 24 opposition to such motion.’” Id. (quoting Wong v. Bell, 642 F.2d 359, 362 (9th Cir. 1981)). 25 However, a court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte without giving a plaintiff 26 notice of its intention to dismiss and an opportunity to respond if a plaintiff “cannot 27 possibly win relief.” Sparling v. Hoffman Construction Co., 864 F.2d 635, 638 (9th Cir. 28 1988); Omar, 813 F.2d at 991; Wong, 642 F.2d at 362. 3 1 b. Judicial Immunity 2 Judges are absolutely immune from civil suits for damages. E.g., Stump v. 3 Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967); Bradley v. Fisher, 4 13 Wall. 335 (1872); Randall v. Brigham, 7 Wall. 523 (1869). “Like other forms of official 5 immunity, judicial immunity is an immunity from suit, not just from ultimate assessment of 6 damages.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11–12 (1991) (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 7 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)). 8 “Though judicial prerogative is broad, two rules circumscribe it. First, the immunity covers only those acts which are ‘judicial’ in nature.” O’Neil v. City of Lake Oswego, 642 10 F.2d 367, 369 (9th Cir. 1981) (quoting Stump, 435 U.S. at 360–64) (citations and internal 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 quotation marks omitted). “[T]he factors determining whether an act by a judge is a 12 ‘judicial’ one relate to the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally 13 performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with 14 the judge in his judicial capacity.” Stump, 435 U.S. at 362. 15 “Second, a judge will not be deprived of immunity because the action he took was 16 in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather, he will be subject 17 to liability only when he acted in the ‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.’” O'Neil, 642 F.2d at 18 369 (quoting Stump, 435 U.S. at 360–64) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); 19 accord Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11–12. The Stump court explained the difference between a 20 judge exceeding jurisdiction and one lacking all jurisdiction: “if a probate judge, with 21 jurisdiction over only wills and estates, should try a criminal case, he would be acting in 22 the clear absence of jurisdiction and would not be immune from liability for his action; on 23 the other hand, if a judge of a criminal court should convict a defendant of a nonexistent 24 crime, he would merely be acting in excess of his jurisdiction and would be immune.” 25 435 U.S. at 370 n.7 (citation omitted). 26 “Moreover, allegations that a conspiracy produced a certain decision should no 27 more pierce the actor’s immunity than allegations of bad faith, personal interest or 28 outright malevolence.” Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1078 (9th Cir. 1986). Even “a 4 1 conspiracy between judge and prosecutor to predetermine the outcome of a judicial 2 proceeding, while clearly improper, nevertheless does not pierce the immunity extended 3 to judges and prosecutors. As long as the judge’s ultimate acts are judicial actions taken 4 within the court’s subject matter jurisdiction, immunity applies.” Id. 2. 5 Analysis 6 First, Judge Alsup was clearly executing a judicial act normally performed by a 7 judge to the expectations of the parties. Bruzzone’s alleged damages derive from an 8 order granting Intel’s motion to declare Bruzzone a vexatious litigant. Intel’s motion was 9 filed in a Northern District of California action initiated by Bruzzone against Intel and others. Bruzzone, Case No. 14-cv-01279-WHA, Dkt. 1. Bruzzone filed an opposition to 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Intel’s motion, and Intel filed a reply. Id., Dkts. 81, 82. The court heard oral argument on 12 the motion on August 14, 2014, although Bruzzone did not appear. Id., Dkt. 85. These 13 regular, judicial proceedings and the form of the order evidence that Judge Alsup heard, 14 decided, and resolved the dispute upon which Bruzzone’s complaint is based in his 15 official judicial capacity. Second, the vexatious litigant order requiring pre-filing review was within the 16 17 court’s jurisdiction. See Ringgold-Lockhart v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 761 F.3d 1057, 1060 18 (9th Cir. 2014); De Long v. Hennessey, 912 F.2d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 1990). Because Judge Alsup would be totally immune from any plausible claim alleged by 19 20 Bruzzone’s complaint, Bruzzone cannot possibly win relief and the complaint does not 21 state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 22 /// 23 /// 24 /// 25 /// 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// 5 CONCLUSION 1 2 For the reasons stated above, plaintiff’s claims against Intel are DISMISSED with 3 prejudice. Although plaintiff cannot possibly win relief against Judge Alsup, out of an 4 abundance of caution plaintiff is ORDERED TO SHOW CAUSE why his claims against 5 Judge William Alsup should not be dismissed with prejudice in light of the analysis 6 presented in this order. Plaintiff shall file his response, if any, within 21 days from the 7 date of this order. 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 10, 2018 __________________________________ PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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