Arunachalam v. United States Patent and Trademark Office et al

Filing 35

ORDER granting 18 Motion to Dismiss; denying 26 Motion to Disqualify Judge. The Clerk shall close this file. Signed by Judge Edward J. Davila on 09/14/2017. (ejdlc3, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/14/2017) Modified on 9/14/2017 (ejdlc1S, COURT STAFF).

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 SAN JOSE DIVISION 10 11 LAKSHMI ARUNACHALAM, Case No. 5:17-cv-03325-EJD United States District Court Northern District of California Plaintiff, 12 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS v. 13 14 15 UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE, et al., RE: DKT. NOS. 18, 26 Defendants. 16 17 I. INTRODUCTION 18 Pending before the Court are two motions. First, Plaintiff Dr. Lakshmi Arunachalam 19 (“Plaintiff”) seeks recusal of the undersigned judge pursuant to Judicial Canons 2 and 3 and 28 20 U.S.C.§§144, 455. Although the basis for Plaintiff’s motion is not entirely clear, it appears that 21 Plaintiff’s assertions of lack of impartiality, bias, and prejudice are based upon rulings by the 22 undersigned that Plaintiff perceives as unfavorable. The motion is denied. Judicial rulings are not 23 a proper ground for recusal. See Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994). 24 Second, Defendants United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), Patent Trial 25 and Appeal Board (“PTAB”), and United States move to dismiss Plaintiff Dr. Lakshmi 26 Arunachalam’s complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and (b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P. The Court finds it 27 appropriate to take the motion under submission for decision without oral argument pursuant to 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-03325-EJD ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS 1 1 Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motion to dismiss is 2 GRANTED. 3 II. BACKGROUND 4 Plaintiff’s complaint in this case is substantially similar to the complaints filed in 5 Arunanchalam v. U.S. et al, C16-6591 EJD and Arunanchalam v. Andrews et al, C17-3383 EJD. 6 Plaintiff alleges that she is an inventor and owns several patents relating to technology underlying 7 Web applications, and that she has been deprived of her patents in violation of her constitutional 8 rights. Plaintiff asserts claims for breach of contract, treason, conspiracy and denial of due 9 process, which are all predicated on actions taken by the PTAB during its review of Plaintiff’s patents. Among other things, Plaintiff alleges that the PTAB denied her electronic filing 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 privileges, refused to docket her pleadings, and issued rulings that were adverse to her. In the 12 prayer for relief, Plaintiff seeks to void all USPTO and PTAB orders against her, and requests an 13 award of damages in excess of $250 billion. 14 III. STANDARDS 15 Rule 12(b)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P., allows a defendant to challenge a court’s subject matter 16 jurisdiction. A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of 17 claims alleged in the complaint. Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th 18 Cir. 1995). Dismissal “is proper only where there is no cognizable legal theory or an absence of 19 sufficient facts alleged to support a cognizable legal theory.” Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 20 (9th Cir. 2001). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a 21 claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 22 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). 23 Pro se pleadings must be construed liberally. Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th 24 Cir. 2000). The Court “need not give a plaintiff the benefit of every conceivable doubt” but “is 25 required only to draw every reasonable or warranted factual inference in the plaintiff’s favor.” 26 McKinney v. De Bord, 507 F.2d 501, 504 (9th Cir. 1974). The Court “should use common sense 27 in interpreting the frequently diffuse pleadings of pro se complainants.” Id. A pro se complaint 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-03325-EJD ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS 2 1 should not be dismissed unless the court finds it “beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set 2 of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 3 519, 521 (1972). IV. DISCUSSION 4 Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity. See Mireles v. Waco, 5 6 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991) (federal judges have absolute immunity from civil liability for acts taken 7 in their judicial capacity); see also Jones v. U.S. Supreme Court, 2010 WL 2975790 (N.D. Cal. 8 2010) (judicial immunity bars claims that are based upon allegations concerning judicial officer’s 9 decision-making while presiding over cases and acts performed in judicial capacity). Judicial immunity applies even where “the action [the judge] took was in error, was done maliciously, or 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 was in excess of his authority; rather he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the 12 ‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.’” Mullis v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Dist. of Nevada, 828 13 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987), quoting Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978). In 14 Butz v. Economou, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967), the Supreme Court extended judicial immunity to 15 administrative judges, reasoning that “adjudication within a federal administrative agency shares 16 enough of the characteristics of the judicial process that those who participate in such adjudication 17 should also be immune from suits from damages.” In the present case, Plaintiff alleges that the PTAB judges denied her electronic filing 18 19 privileges, refused to docket her pleadings, and issued rulings in contravention of the doctrines of 20 patent prosecution history estoppel and res judicata. The PTAB was clearly acting within its 21 judicial capacity when taking these alleged actions. Accordingly, judicial immunity applies. 22 Further, sovereign immunity applies to claims against the United States or its agencies. United 23 States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212 (1983); see also Balser v. Dept. of Justice, 327 F.3d 903, 907 24 (9th Cir. 2003) (any lawsuit against an agency of the U.S. is an action against the U.S.). 25 // 26 // 27 // 28 Case No.: 5:17-cv-03325-EJD ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS 3 V. CONCLUSION 1 2 Defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED. Because any amendment to the complaint 3 would be futile, the dismissal is with prejudice. Steckman v. Hart Brewing, Inc., 143 F.3d 1293, 4 1298 (9th Cir. 1998); Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995). 5 6 7 8 9 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: September 14, 2017 ______________________________________ EDWARD J. DAVILA United States District Judge 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 Case No.: 5:17-cv-03325-EJD ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS 4

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