Jackson v. Cox
ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE: Show Cause Response due by 12/3/2017. Signed by Chief District Judge Julie A Robinson on 11/21/17. (hw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
CHRISTOPHER ADAM JACKSON,
Case No. 17-2591-JAR-TJJ
HON. JAMES A. COX,
ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
Plaintiff Christopher Adam Jackson filed this action pro se on October 11, 2017, alleging
claims under various federal statutes against the Honorable James A. Cox, a California Superior
Court judge who is presiding over California state court litigation relating to a family trust to
which it appears Plaintiff is a beneficiary. Plaintiff asks the Court to order Judge Cox to issue
certain orders in that case, including setting aside judgments against Plaintiff that violate his due
process rights and access to the courts. In reviewing Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Court must
construe Plaintiff’s pro se pleadings liberally.1 However, the Court cannot assume the role of
advocate.2 Also, Plaintiff’s pro se status does not excuse him from “the burden of alleging
sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.”3 Plaintiff is not relieved from
complying with the rules of the Court or facing the consequences of noncompliance.4
Most of Plaintiff’s claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging constitutional
violations by Judge Cox in failing to grant his motions, and in disputing his appointment of a
See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991).
Ogden v. San Juan Cty., 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994) (citing Nielsen v. Price, 17 F.3d 1276, 1277
(10th Cir. 1994)).
trustee of a family trust in the state court proceeding. Section 1983 provides that “in any action
brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity,
injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief
Notwithstanding Plaintiff’s conclusory assertion that Judge Cox was not acting in his
judicial capacity in appointing a trustee, and in declining to hear and grant certain motions
submitted by Plaintiff in that matter, the challenged actions in this case are plainly actions by
Judge Cox taken in his judicial capacity in the case of In re Jackson Family Trust.6 Whether an
act is “judicial” turns on “the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally
performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the
judge in his judicial capacity.”7 Plaintiff alleges that Judge Cox denied his civil rights by
appointing someone ex parte to be trustee of the family trust over Plaintiff’s objection. Plaintiff
alleges that Judge Cox has “continuously refused to hear any motions or pleadings brought by
the Plaintiff” in the family trust case.8 Plaintiff accuses Judge Cox of bias. Assuming as true the
factual allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint, all of these constitute actions taken in Judge Cox’s
judicial capacity—they challenge his decision to appoint a trustee and to decline ruling on
Plaintiff’s motions regarding the trustee until all parties were served. These were official actions
taken in Judge Cox’s judicial capacity, as the presiding judge in the trust case. Moreover,
Plaintiff has failed to allege that a declaratory decree was violated, or that declaratory relief is
unavailable in the underlying state court case. As such, Plaintiff must show cause to this Court
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 361–62 (1978).
Id. at 362.
Doc. 1 at 3.
in writing why his claims that Judge Cox violated his constitutional rights under §§ 1983 and
1985(3) should not be dismissed under the doctrine of judicial immunity.
Moreover, it is evident from the Complaint, and the transcript attached thereto, that a
pending case exists in California state court, dealing with the rights and responsibilities of the
beneficiaries to the Jackson Family Trust. Therefore, Younger abstention likely counsels that
this Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction. “In the absence of extraordinary
circumstances, the Younger doctrine directs federal courts to refrain from interfering in ongoing
state civil proceedings.”9 Younger abstention “is the exception, not the rule.”10 In determining
whether Younger abstention is appropriate, a court considers whether: “(1) there is an ongoing
state criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding, (2) the state court provides an adequate forum
to hear the claims raised in the federal complaint, and (3) the state proceedings involve important
state interests, matters which traditionally look to state law for their resolution or implicate
separately articulated state policies.”11 “Once these three conditions are met, Younger abstention
is non-discretionary and, absent extraordinary circumstances, a district court is required to
It appears that the state proceeding challenged by Plaintiff is ongoing.13 The state court
provides an adequate forum for Plaintiff’s claims, and certainly provides a forum for the relief
Ysais v. Children Youth & Family Dep’t, 353 F. App’x 159, 161 (10th Cir. 2009) (citing Morrow v.
Winslow, 94 F.3d 1386, 1393 (10th Cir. 1996)).
Joseph A. ex rel. Corrine Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1267 (10th Cir. 2002) (quoting Ankenbrandt v.
Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 705 (1992)).
Crown Point I, LLC v. Intermountain Rural Elec. Ass’n, 319 F.3d 1211, 1215 (10th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Amanatullah v. Colo. Bd. of Med. Exam’rs, 187 F.3d 1160, 1163 (10th Cir. 1999) (internal quotations omitted)); see
Brown v. Day, 555 F.3d 882, 887 (10th Cir. 2009).
Crown Point I, 319 F.3d at 1215 (citing Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Okla. v. Okla. ex rel. Thompson, 874
F.2d 709, 711 (10th Cir. 1989)).
To the extent these proceedings have concluded, the Court would still be divested of jurisdiction under
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which “prevents federal courts from assuming jurisdiction over ‘cases brought by
state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court
sought.14 Finally, the Court finds that California has an important state interest in allocating the
personal property of its citizens through the law of probate, trusts, and estates.15 Furthermore,
Plaintiff bears the burden of showing the state court was an inadequate forum for his federal
claims.16 “[W]hen a litigant has not attempted to present his federal claims in related state-court
proceedings, a federal court should assume that state procedures will afford an adequate remedy,
in the absence of unambiguous authority to the contrary.”17 The Supreme Court has directed that
“the federal court should not exert jurisdiction if the plaintiffs ‘had an opportunity to present
their federal claims in the state proceedings.’”18 “[A]bstention is appropriate unless state law
clearly bars the interposition of the [federal statutory] and constitutional claims.”19 Plaintiff has
not made the necessary showing that the state court is an inadequate forum, and must show cause
in writing why this Court should not abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this case, in favor of
the pending case in California state court.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff shall show cause in writing by
December 3, 2017, why this case should not be dismissed on the basis of judicial immunity and
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: November 21, 2017
proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.’” Lambeth v. Miller,
363 F. App’x 565, 567 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284
Indeed, according to the transcript attached to Plaintiff’s Complaint, his motions for relief in that case
were set for hearing on October 24, 2017. See Doc. 1-1 at 5–6.
See Harper v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n of W. Va., 396 F.3d 348, 353 (4th Cir. 2005).
Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 14 (1987).
Id. at 15.
Moore, 442 U.S. at 425 (quoting Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 337 (1977)) (emphasis in original).
J.B. ex rel. Hart v. Valdez, 186 F.3d 1280, 1292 (10th Cir. 1999) (quoting Moore, 442 U.S. at 425–26).
S/ Julie A. Robinson
JULIE A. ROBINSON
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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