Jones v. Lobo et al
RULING (see attached) denying 2 Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order. The file on this case shall be returned to the Chambers of Judge Janet Bond Arterton and Plaintiff should address all further communications or applications on the case to that Chambers. Signed by Judge Charles S. Haight, Jr. on July 20, 2012.(Dorais, L.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
DEXTER A. JONES,
3:12 - CV - 1034 (JBA)
ALFRED LOBO, Individually & Official
Capacity; RONALD A. THOMAS,
Individually & Official Capacity; and MOST
WORSHIPFUL PRINCE HALL GRAND
LODGE OF FREE AND ACCEPTED
MASONS OF CT, INC.,
RULING ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER
HAIGHT, Senior District Judge:
I. INTRODUCTION AND FACTS
Plaintiff Dexter A. Jones, appearing pro se, moves this Court for an Order directing each of
the several named Defendants to Show Cause why a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) and
Preliminary Injunction should not be entered against them with respect to circumstances and conduct
alleged in Plaintiff’s Verified Complaint. Doc. #1.
Plaintiff filed his motion and the supporting documents in the New Haven Courthouse on
July 17, 2012. The case was assigned by random to the Honorable Janet Bond Arterton, United
States District Judge. Owing to Judge Arterton’s temporary absence from the District, and because
she is also the Duty Judge for July, Plaintiff’s motion was referred to the undersigned as a District
Judge at the same seat of court, for the purpose of considering Plaintiff's application for preliminary
relief. For the reasons that follow, the Court declines to enter a TRO. I decide no other issue. The
file will be respectfully returned to Judge Arterton for further proceedings.
Reading Plaintiff’s Complaint (Doc. #1) with the lenity traditionally accorded to pro se
pleadings, it alleges that Plaintiff Dexter A. Jones has for approximately 15 years been a member of
Freemasonry, a fraternal organization with a Grand Lodge and various local lodges located within
the State of Connecticut and this District. Plaintiff Jones, a United States citizen and a resident of
New Haven, CT., is a member of Widow's Son Lodge No. 1, a Freemasonry lodge located in New
Haven. The Grand Lodge in the State is Defendant Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of
Free and Accepted Masons of CT, Inc., a Connecticut corporation, with its headquarters located in
Hartford, CT. At the pertinent times, Defendant Alfred J. Lobo acted as the Interim Worshipful
Master of Widow's Son Lodge No. 1. Lobo is a citizen of the United States and a resident of of
Hamden, CT. Defendant Ronald A. Thomas acted as the Worshipful Grand Master of Most
Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of CT, Inc. Thomas is a citizen
of the United States and a resident of Meriden, CT. Complaint, ¶¶ 7-11.
According to the Complaint, this case "arises out of disciplinary action taken by the
defendant(s) officers" against Jones, as a member of Freemasonry. ¶ 13. Specifically, the Complaint
alleges that on March 27, 2012, Defendant Lobo issued an order suspending Jones on that day from
Freemasonry "without formal charges or a hearing." ¶ 15. A written Notice of Suspension Pending
a Trial, Ex. C to the Complaint, on the Widow's Son Lodge stationary and addressed to "Past Master
Dexter Jones," stated that Jones was "hereby suspended, pending formal charges and trial for un2
masonic conduct," and that "the formal charges will be read at our next communication (April 9,
2012), after which a copy will be given to you." The Complaint further alleges that on April 9 Jones
presented himself at the Lodge to hear the charges against him, but Lobo directed him to leave, and
when Jones refused, Lobo called the police and threatened Jones with arrest. Today, Jones remains
under suspension, without first having any opportunity to be heard. ¶¶ 16-17.
The Complaint and Jones's affidavit demonstrate graphically that being under Masonic
suspension causes Jones great distress. He misses the companionship and joie de vivre of Lodge life:
the preamble to the Complaint recites that Jones "has missed the countless dinners, parties & other
gatherings in this and other states as he is no longer welcomed at any official Masonic function or
the event or function of a Mason," owing to the fraternal rule that "no Mason can communicate with
a 'Brother' who has been suspended or expelled. Every day that passes erodes friendships and
relationships that have formed over the past 15 years . . . " Thus, a suspension such as that imposed
by Lobo upon Jones becomes, even in advance of institutional trial and conviction, a self-executing
condemnation and, within the context of Masonic community life, a near-capital punishment. The
emotional anguish felt by Jones is manifest from his court papers; and there is economic loss as well,
as Jones asserts in an affidavit in support of his motion for an injunction at ¶ 3: "On a weekly basis
I used to get phone calls for work doing photography however since the suspension compared to last
year I'm down 80% for parties, weddings etc. Many of the customers are other brothers from
different lodges and different states."
Jones's Complaint alleges that the Defendants' conduct in suspending him violated procedural
provisions of the Masonic Constitution and General Ordinances, and also violated provisions of the
United States Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution.
The main thrust Plaintiff's
memorandum of law, pages 12-13, appears to be that "approximately on March 26, 2012" Jones
posted two messages "via facebook" and that the order of suspension issued on March 27. The
facebook messages are alleged to be "protected free speech by Dexter A. Jones"; the copies attached
to the Complaint are illegible; the suspension is alleged to be retaliation against Jones for his
exercise of that free speech. As for relief, the Complaint prays for an order rescinding Plaintiff's
suspension from the Lodge by Defendants and restoring him to his original pre-suspension position.
Plaintiff also prays for judicial declarations of his rights in manners consistent with his theories of
the case. Complaint, ¶¶ 29-35.
A federal district court such as this one must examine every case when it is filed to determine
if the case is within the court's "subject matter jurisdiction." In that context, "jurisdiction" means
that the court has the power to hear and decide the case. "Subject matter" is legal shorthand for what
the case is about.
It is generally said that a trial court maintained by one of the States of Union, such as
Connecticut, is a court of "general jurisdiction," while a federal district court situated within that
State is a court of "limited jurisdiction." These labels mean that a state court has power to hear and
decide a broad range of cases having a sufficient connection with the State in question. A federal
court, in conterast, has the power to hear and decide a case only if it is given power to do so by the
Constitution of the United States or a statute enacted by the federal Congress. A federal district
judge is required to consider each newly filed case and determine whether his or her court has the
jurisdiction – that is to say, the power – to decide the case. If the federal district court has that
power, the case proceeds before the assigned judge. If the court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction, the case must be dismissed, without prejudice to the plaintiff asserting the same claims
before a court of competent jurisdiction, frequently a state court.
Criminal cases and civil cases are the two main categories of cases that come before courts.
Plaintiff Jones's disputes with the Defendants give rise to a civil case. Generally speaking, a federal
district court's subject matter jurisdiction over civil cases depends upon federal statutes. The two
principal statutory provisions are 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which is captioned "Federal Question," and 28
U.S.C. § 1332, which is captioned "Diversity of Citizenship." Federal Question jurisdiction exists
because in § 1331 Congress gave the district courts "original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising
under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States." Diversity of Citizenship jurisdiction
exists because in § 1332 Congress gave the district courts "original jurisdiction of all civil actions
where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs,
and is between – (1) citizens of different states . . . "
In the present case, Jones asserts that his claims against the Grand Lodge and the individual
Masonic officers, Lobo and Thomas, fall within federal question jurisdiction. He cannot rely upon
diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, because according to the allegations of the Complaint, Jones,
the Grand Lodge, Lobo and Thomas are all citizens of the same state: Connecticut.1
Jones's claims against these Defendants are that their conduct violated his rights to free
speech, assembly, equal protection of the laws, liberty and property: all secured to him by the United
The Complaint speaks of the residence addresses of the individual parties.
purposes of diversity jurisdiction, an individual's citizenship is determined by domicile, not
residence. An individual may have residences in more than one state, but can be legally domiciled
in only one state. We need not pursue the question further in this case, because there is no reason
to believe that the required complete diversity of citizenship exists between the Plaintiff and the
States Constitution and certain of its Amendments. One may accept that the Defendants' acts had
these adverse effects upon Jones, but they are the acts of private parties, directed against another
private party, and the great weight of authority is that these constitutional guarantees do not apply
to private entities, with the result that, as a matter of law, such conduct does not violate the
Constitution. See, e.g., Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614, 619 (1991) ("The
Constitution structures the National Government, confines its actions, and, in regard to certain
individual liberties, confines the actions of the States. With a few exceptions, such as the provisions
of the Thirteenth Amendment, constitutional guarantees of individual liberty and equal protection
do not apply to the actions of private entities.") (citations omitted); Hotel Employees & Restaurant
Employees Union v. City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation, 311 F.3d 534, 543 (2d
Cir. 2002) ("It is, of course, a commonplace that the constitutional guarantee of free speech is a
guarantee only against abridgment by government, federal or state.") (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted); Vandermark v. City of New York, 615 F.Supp.2d 196, 207 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) ("The
First Amendment prohibits a state, as sovereign, from abridging an individual's right to associate
with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, and cultural ends.
A First Amendment claim requires a showing of state action or private action taken under color of
state law.") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); Tolbert v. Goode, No. 1:08-1258, 2009
WL 3424329 ( S.D. West Va. Oct. 22, 2009) ("Under Section 1983, liability attaches only to
conduct occurring under color of State law. Merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory
or wrongful, fails to qualify as State action.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
"Section 1983" is a reference to the civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides for
suits in federal district courts for violation of individual constitutional rights "under color of" the law
of a state. In Edmonson, the Supreme Court said at 500 U.S. 620: "Although the conduct of private
parties lies beyond the Constitution's scope in most instances, governmental authority may dominate
an activity to such an extent that its participants must be deemed to act with the authority of the
government and, as a result, be subject to constitutional restraints." In the present case, there is no
suggestion or indication that the conduct of officers of the Masonic lodges may be characterized as
actions taken "with the authority of the government."
In the light of the foregoing authorities, I am not satisfied that this Plaintiff's Complaint
against these private, non-governmental defendants states a viable claim under the United States
Constitution or federal statutes.2 In consequence, and notwithstanding the strength and passion of
Jones' s concerns, I am constrained to decline to sign an order for a temporary restraining order, or
schedule a hearing on Plaintiff's motion for preliminary relief of any kind.
The file on this case is being respectfully returned to the Chambers of Judge Arterton. The
opinions expressed herein are mine, and binding on no other Judge. I make no Order with respect
to Plaintiff's requests for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3] and for instructions on
making service upon the Defendants. They may be addressed upon Judge Arterton's return to the
Plaintiff should address all further communications or applications on the case to the
Plaintiff's claims that Defendants violated the Connecticut Constitution, and the
Masonic Constitution and General Ordinances, may be presented to a Connecticut court, but they
are not federal in nature and cannot support subject matter jurisdiction in this Court. There is no
basis for this Court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these state claims pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1367, since there is no federal jurisdiction to which supplemental jurisdiction might attach.
Chambers of Judge Arterton.
It is SO ORDERED.
Dated: New Haven, Connecticut
July 20, 2012
/s/Charles S. Haight, Jr.
Charles S. Haight, Jr.
Senior United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?