Anthony v. Segura

Filing 22

ORDER Granting with Prejudice Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 13 ). Signed by Judge Cynthia Bashant on 07/03/2024. (All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service)(mjw)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 MARIAN ANTHONY, Plaintiff, 12 ORDER GRANTING WITH PREJUDICE MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 13) v. 13 14 Case No. 24-cv-00458-BAS-SBC JUDGE DANIEL SEGURA, Defendant. 15 16 17 18 Plaintiff Marian Anthony filed this action seeking damages and other relief against 19 Defendant Judge Daniel Segura. Defendant is the Superior Court Judge presiding over 20 Plaintiff’s family court matter in state court. Defendant moves to dismiss the action with 21 prejudice. (ECF No. 13.) The Motion is fully briefed. (ECF Nos. 14, 19.) The Court finds 22 this matter suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. 23 See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s 24 Motion to Dismiss. 25 I. Background 26 Plaintiff is the petitioner in a family court dissolution matter pending in the San 27 Diego County Superior Court—Marian Anthony v. Corina Galvez, Case No. 28 -1- 24cv0458 1 19FL005322N (filed May 2, 2019) (“Family Court Matter”). (ECF No. 13-2.)1 Defendant 2 is presiding over the action. (Id.) 3 In broad brushes, Plaintiff alleges Defendant’s child custody orders in the Family 4 Court Matter violate Plaintiff’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (First 5 Am. Compl. (“FAC”) 2–3, ECF No. 8.) Plaintiff claims those orders are “analytically 6 flawed” and “empirically unjust.” (Id. at 2, 9.) Plaintiff alleges he has never been deemed 7 “unfit” by the state court, and thus Defendant’s custody orders are unconstitutional because 8 they impermissibly allow Plaintiff “no actual parenting time.” (Id. at 2, 4–5, 7, 8.) 9 Similarly, Plaintiff alleges Defendant’s order of supervised visitation is tantamount to “no 10 actual parenting time” and unconstitutionally severs the parent-child relationship. (Id. at 11 5–6.) Based on these allegations, Plaintiff seeks redress under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against 12 13 Defendant. (FAC 11–12.) He requests this Court grant broad relief, including: 14 (1) ordering Defendant to “undergo training”; (2) awarding money damages of 15 $15,000,000, plus $20,000 “for each day [Plaintiff] and [his] children were subjected to 16 court orders that grant ‘no actual parenting time’”; (3) holding an emergency hearing to 17 restore custody; and (4) disqualifying Defendant from presiding over the Family Court 18 Matter. (Id. at 13–14.) 19 Defendant moves to dismiss the matter under Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) of the 20 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Mot., ECF No. 13.) Plaintiff filed several Oppositions 21 to the Motion (ECF Nos. 14, 16, 17), as well as a Response to Defendant’s Request for 22 Judicial Notice (ECF No. 15). Defendant replied. (ECF No. 19.) 23 // 24 // 25 26 27 28 1 The Court grants Defendant’s request for judicial notice of the Register of Actions for the Family Court Matter under Federal Rule of Evidence 201. See, e.g., Taylor v. Kelety, No. 20-CV-1987-DMSAGS, 2021 WL 1733386, at *3 n.4 (S.D. Cal. May 3, 2021) (“Court records, as public records, are generally subject to judicial notice, although a court cannot judicially notice disputed facts contained within such records.”). -2- 24cv0458 1 II. Legal Standards 2 A. 3 Under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss 4 a claim based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). “Federal 5 courts are courts of limited jurisdiction” and “possess only that power authorized by 6 Constitution and statute.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 7 (1994). Accordingly, “[a] federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case 8 unless the contrary affirmatively appears.” Stock W., Inc. v. Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 9 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989). “[T]he burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party 10 Rule 12(b)(1) asserting jurisdiction.” Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. 11 B. Rule 12(b)(6) 12 A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the 13 claims asserted in the complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 14 731 (9th Cir. 2001). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must 15 plead sufficient factual allegations “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 16 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility 17 when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable 18 inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 19 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 20 III. Analysis 21 A. Younger Abstention 22 Defendant argues dismissal is appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 23 (1971) because Plaintiff is asking the Court to interfere with the Family Court Matter. 24 (Mot. 9:9–10:26.) In Younger, the Supreme Court espoused a strong federal policy against 25 federal court interference with pending state judicial proceedings. H.C. ex rel. Gordon v. 26 Koppel, 203 F.3d 610, 613 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Middlesex County Ethics Comm’n v. 27 Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982)). “Absent extraordinary circumstances, 28 Younger abstention is required if the state proceedings are (1) ongoing, (2) implicate -3- 24cv0458 1 important state interests, and (3) provide the plaintiff an adequate opportunity to litigate 2 federal claims.” San Remo Hotel v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco, 145 F.3d 1095, 1103 3 (9th Cir. 1998). State proceedings are ongoing until state-appellate review is completed, 4 and the Ninth Circuit has recognized that “protecting the authority of the [state] judicial 5 system” and the “field of domestic relations” are traditionally “vital” state interests and 6 “area[s] of state concern.” Koppel, 203 F.3d at 613. 7 In Koppel, similar to this case, the plaintiffs sought to invoke the power of the federal 8 courts to alter the course of pending state custody proceedings. 203 F.3d at 610. The Ninth 9 Circuit rejected the request, holding that: 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Important state interests [] are implicated. Family relations are a traditional area of state concern. In addition, a state has a vital interest in protecting the authority of the judicial system, so that its orders and judgments are not rendered nugatory. This is a particularly appropriate admonition in the field of domestic relations, over which federal courts have no general jurisdiction, and in which the state courts have a special expertise and experience. The plaintiffs have an adequate state forum in which to pursue their federal claims. In fact, they have already raised some of the same due process issues in the California appellate courts. Plaintiffs may appeal through those courts after final judgment. This is precisely the type of case suited to Younger abstention. Plaintiffs desire wholesale federal intervention into an ongoing state domestic dispute. They seek vacation of existing interlocutory orders, and a federal injunction directing the future course of the state litigation. This is not the proper business of the federal judiciary. Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). 24 The same reasoning applies here. Plaintiff is seeking an intervention into the Family 25 Court Matter, including by this Court holding a hearing to restore custody and requiring 26 Defendant to undergo judicial training. This Court is forbidden from doing so. See Koppel, 27 203 F.3d at 613. Plaintiff can raise his challenges to Defendant’s orders on appeal in the 28 -4- 24cv0458 1 state court system. Hence, Younger abstention is required in this case, and the Court must 2 dismiss Plaintiff’s action seeking injunctive relief. 3 B. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine 4 Defendant also relies on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to seek dismissal of Plaintiff’s 5 action. (Mot. 7:22–9:7.) The Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that federal district 6 courts may exercise only original jurisdiction; they may not exercise appellate jurisdiction 7 over state court decisions. See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 8 462, 482, 482–86 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923). Rooker- 9 Feldman thus bars “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by 10 state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and 11 inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. 12 Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies 13 even when the challenge to the state court decision involves federal constitutional issues. 14 See Dubinka v. Judges of the Superior Court, 23 F.3d 218, 221 (9th Cir. 1994); Worldwide 15 Church of God v. McNair, 805 F.2d 888, 891 (9th Cir. 1986). Further, “Rooker-Feldman 16 bars any suit that seeks to disrupt or ‘undo’ a prior state-court judgment, regardless of 17 whether the state-court proceeding afforded the federal-court plaintiff a full and fair 18 opportunity to litigate her claims.” See Bianchi v. Rylaarsdam, 334 F.3d 895, 901 (9th Cir. 19 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). 20 Defendant argues the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies here because Plaintiff’s 21 action constitutes a “de facto appeal” of Defendant’s rulings in the Family Court Matter. 22 (Mot. 8:26–28.) The Court agrees. Plaintiff is asking the Court to restore custody, and his 23 action can only succeed if Defendant’s rulings were incorrect. 24 Complaint is subject to dismissal on this ground for lack of subject matter 25 jurisdiction. See Cooper v. Ramos, 704 F.3d 772, 779 (9th Cir. 2012) (providing claims 26 are “inextricably intertwined” for purposes of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine where “the 27 relief requested in the federal action would effectively reverse the state court decision or 28 void its ruling” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)). -5- Consequently, the 24cv0458 1 C. Eleventh Amendment 2 Defendant further argues that the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff’s case. (Mot. 3 6:20–7:21.) In Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, the Supreme Court emphasized that 4 “‘an injunction against a state court’ or its ‘machinery’ ‘would be a violation of the whole 5 scheme of our Government.’” 595 U.S. 30, 39 (2021) (quoting Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 6 123, 163 (1908)). “As such, state court judges cannot be sued in federal court in their 7 judicial capacity under the Eleventh Amendment.” Munoz v. Superior Ct. of Los Angeles 8 Cnty., 91 F.4th 977, 981 (9th Cir. 2024). 9 Here, Plaintiff is suing Defendant in his judicial capacity in federal court. 10 Consequently, the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff’s action. See Munoz, 91 F.4th at 11 981 (“Consistent with Jackson, Eleventh Amendment immunity is a threshold 12 jurisdictional issue, and we have no power to resolve claims brought against state courts or 13 state court judges acting in a judicial capacity.”). 14 D. Judicial Immunity 15 Aside from the grounds addressed above, Defendant argues Plaintiff cannot state a 16 claim because Defendant is immune from liability. (Mot. 4:2–6:19.) A long line of 17 Supreme Court precedent “acknowledges that, generally, a judge is immune from a suit for 18 money damages.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9 (1991) (per curiam) (collecting cases). 19 This immunity is overcome in only two sets of circumstances. Id. at 11. “First, a judge is 20 not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's 21 judicial capacity. Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, 22 taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.” Id. at 11–12 (citations omitted). 23 “[W]hether an act by a judge is a ‘judicial’ one relate[s] to the nature of the act itself, i.e., 24 whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the 25 parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.” Stump v. Sparkman, 26 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978). A “complete absence of all jurisdiction” means a clear lack of 27 subject matter jurisdiction. Miller v. Davis, 521 F.3d 1142, 1147 (9th Cir. 2008). 28 -6- 24cv0458 1 As summarized above, Plaintiffs’ allegations against Defendant are based on 2 Defendant’s rulings and decisions made in his official capacity as a judge in the Family 3 Court Matter. Issuing rulings and expressing views on legal or factual issues presented in 4 proceedings before the court are normal judicial functions. Duvall v. County of Kitsap, 5 260 F.3d 1124, 1133 (9th Cir. 2001). Thus, even accepting Plaintiff’s allegations as true, 6 Defendant was acting in his judicial capacity and cannot be held liable for his rulings and 7 decisions made in this capacity. See Stump, 435 U.S. at 362. Additionally, there are no 8 facts alleged supporting a finding that Defendant acted “in the clear absence of all 9 jurisdiction.” See Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986). Hence, judicial 10 immunity applies and bars Plaintiff’s action against Defendant. *** 11 12 For the reasons detailed above, Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint must be 13 dismissed. Generally, when a court dismisses a complaint, leave to amend is granted “even 14 if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless [the court] determines that the 15 pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 16 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (citation omitted). Here, any amendment would 17 be futile. Plaintiff’s action cannot proceed in light of the Eleventh Amendment, the 18 Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Younger abstention, and judicial immunity. The Court therefore 19 denies leave to amend. 20 IV. Conclusion 21 For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the 22 First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 13). The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE 23 this action. The Clerk of Court shall enter a judgment of dismissal and close the file. 24 IT IS SO ORDERED. 25 26 DATED: July 3, 2024 27 28 -7- 24cv0458

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