Mays et al v. Braden et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: 1. The Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [R. 8 ] is GRANTED; 2. The case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; 3. All other pending motions are DISMISSED as moot. Signed by Gregory F. VanTatenhove on 9/26/11.(SYD)cc: COR, mailed to pro se filers
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
ELVERT S. MAYS and
GLENDA G. SEXTON
PAUL E. BRADEN
Civil No. 10-350-GFVT
*** *** *** ***
This matter is before the Court on various motions made by the parties as well as third
parties including the pro se Plaintiffs’ Motions for Summary Judgment [R. 9], Permission to
Substitute a Party [R. 21 and 24], Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss [R. 8], and third party Whitley
County’s Motion to Intervene [R.26]. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendant’s Motion to
dismiss the current action will be granted.
In their Complaint [R. 2] and Amended Complaint [R. 6], the Plaintiffs allege that the
Defendant, Judge Paul E. Braden, a Senior Circuit Judge of Whitley County, violated their civil
rights while presiding over Plaintiff Sexton’s state court divorce proceeding. It is worth noting,
as a preliminary matter, that Judge Braden is recently deceased [R. 19]. With respect to the
current suit, Plaintiffs allege that Judge Braden is liable under 42 U.S.C. §1983 because of
various decisions he made from the bench during the divorce proceeding and that Judge Braden
made judicial determinations pertaining to Sexton’s social security income violating 42 U.S.C
Plaintiffs also argue that Judge Braden is liable under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for judicial
decisions he made while presiding over a defamation suit involving the Plaintiffs. Additionally,
Sexton makes nebulous statements referencing sexual advances that Judge Braden allegedly
made towards Sexton, but she does not provide details as to when these occurred or how they
pertain to the current action. In essence, the current suit is one where Plaintiffs seek to simply relitigate, in federal court, Judge Braden’s determinations concerning marital property made in a
prior state court action.
Defendant seeks dismissal under FRCP 12(b)(6). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion,
the Court “construe[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept[s] its
allegations as true, and draw[s] all inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” DirecTV, Inc. v. Treesh,
487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The Court, however, “need not accept as
true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Id. (quoting Gregory v. Shelby
County, 220 F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000)). Recently, the Supreme Court explained that in order
“[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937,
1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). See also
Courier v. Alcoa Wheel & Forged Products, 577 F.3d 625, 629 (6th Cir. 2009). Stated
otherwise, it is not enough for a claim to be merely possible; it must also be “plausible.” See
Courier, 577 F.3d at 630. According to the Court, “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.).
Pro se pleadings are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972). While pro se litigants are allowed some leniency in this area, “[l]iberal construction does
not require a court to conjure allegations on a litigant’s behalf.” Erwin v. Edwards, 22 Fed.Appx.
579, 580 (6th Cir. 2001). Thus, the Plaintiffs’ pleadings must still “contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
The Plaintiffs various allegations allege that Judge Braden violated 42 U.S.C. §1983. In
order for a Plaintiff to successfully sue on a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, he “must establish that: 1)
he was deprived of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the United States; 2) the
deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law; and 3) the deprivation
occurred without due process of law.” O’Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990, 995 (6th
Cir. 1994). Construing the Plaintiffs’ pleadings leniently, it appears that they allege that Sexton
was deprived of property without due process, as required by the 14th Amendment, by Judge
Braden while he was acting as a state court judge.
Whether these facts are sufficient to satisfy the three required elements of a prima facie
§1983 case need not be answered because the Plaintiffs’ suit fails due to Judge Braden’s judicial
immunity. “[J]udges of courts of superior or general jurisdiction are not liable to civil actions for
their judicial acts, even when such acts are in excess of their jurisdiction, and are alleged to have
been done maliciously or corruptly.” Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978) (citation
omitted). The doctrine of judicial immunity applies to suits such as this one which are grounded
on alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at 356 (citing Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547
The Plaintiffs’ claims against Judge Braden are based on the Plaintiffs’ disagreement
over Judge Braden’s judicial decisions and the manner in which he reached those decisions. The
Plaintiffs also take umbrage over the fact that neither Judge Braden, nor the Supreme Court of
Kentucky [R. 8, Attach. 9] deemed it necessary for Judge Braden to be recused from the divorce
proceeding. These are the types of decisions a judge makes while performing his judicial
functions and which, accordingly, cannot be the basis of valid §1983 suit. Stump, 435 U.S. at
355-56. To the extent the Plaintiffs’ pleadings allege facts which may form the basis of other
common law or state law causes of action against Judge Braden, the Court lacks jurisdiction to
consider those claims as they do not present a federal question under 28 U.S.C. §1331.
The Plaintiffs also seek to collaterally attack Judge Braden’s decision concerning the
division of marital property. The Plaintiffs allege that Judge Braden violated 42 U.S.C. §407
when he ordered Sexton to make payments totaling $10,000 to her ex-husband [R. 6]. Under 42
U.S.C. §407(a), social security benefits are not to be the subject of “execution, levy, attachment,
garnishment, or other legal process, or [subject] to the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency
law.” 42 U.S.C. §407(a).
In the “Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage” the Plaintiff cites, Judge
Braden found it necessary to order Sexton to “pay [her ex-husband] $10,000 to equalize the
property division and restore him his non-marital property.” [R. 8, Attach. 8, 11]. Judge Braden
thought this was necessary after taking “into consideration the fact that [Sexton] wrongfully sold
approximately $18,500.00 worth of [her ex-husband’s personal property].” Nowhere in the
Judgment does Judge Braden reference Sexton’s social security income. He merely states that
Sexton is responsible for paying $10,000 to her ex-husband. The mere fact that all of Sexton’s
income comes from social security does not mean that the prior judgment violated 42 U.S.C.
§407. If it did, then anyone whose sole source of income was social security would forever be
immune from civil judgments. As such, Plaintiffs’ claim under 42 U.S.C. §407 fails as well.
Finally, the Plaintiffs argue that they are entitled to an entry of default or default
judgment based on the purported procedural errors of the Defendant [R. 9]. Rule 55(a) states
that a default is proper “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought
has failed to plead or otherwise defend . . . .” FRCP 55(a). The Defendant moved for dismissal
on February 8, 2011 [R. 8] while Plaintiffs filed their motion for default (stylized as a “Motion
for Summary Judgment”) on February 9, 2011 [R.9]. Because the motion for dismissal is
properly considered “otherwise defending” the suit, the Plaintiffs’ motion for default was not
timely and is properly dismissed.
For the reasons above, it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. The Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss [R. 8] is GRANTED;
2. The case is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE;
3. All other pending motions are DISMISSED as moot.
This the 26th day of September, 2011.
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?