Spiegel v. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al
Chief Judge Patti B. Saris: ORDER entered. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. The Court orders that this case be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (PSSA, 3)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
THE COMMONWEALTH OF
MASSACHUSETTS, et al.,
C.A. No. 16-12654-PBS
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
For the reasons set forth below, the Court dismisses this
action in its entirety.
On December 30, 2016, pro se litigant Robert Spiegel filed a
civil complaint in which he alleges that state court judges and
employees violated his federal rights in the course of his
divorce proceedings in the Norfolk Probate and Family Court.
names as defendants the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Norfolk
Probate and Family Court, four justices of that court, and three
In an order dated January 11, 2017 (Docket
Entry #6), the Court directed Spiegel to show cause why his
complaint should not be dismissed based on judicial immunity, the
state’s immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, and the Court’s
inability to award injunctive relief against a state judicial
officer under the alleged facts of this case.
See 42 U.S.C.
On May 17, 2017, Spiegel filed a show cause response (Docket
Entry #15), which consists of a four-page single-spaced
memorandum to the Court.
He included exhibits concerning his
medical condition, copies of state court orders, and copies of
photographs of electronic devices and storage items that
purportedly relate to his divorce proceedings.1
In his show cause memorandum, Spiegel discusses at length
the emotional, physical, and financial injuries he and his family
have allegedly suffered as a result of the state court divorce
He argues that a great injustice would occur to him
and his children should the defendants be able to avoid liability
for their alleged corruption, callousness, and cruelty.
Spiegel’s show cause response is insufficient to overcome
the legal impediments to Spiegel’s action that Court identified
in its January 11, 2017 memorandum and order.
In his response,
Spiegel argues against the fairness of applying immunity
doctrines to his claims in light of the grievousness of the
defendants’ alleged actions and the resulting injuries to him.
Such contentions are irrelevant to the Court’s consideration
as to whether the relevant immunity doctrines are applicable to
As the Court has already explained, judges are
immune “from liability for damages for acts committed within
their judicial jurisdiction . . . even when the judge is accused
of acting maliciously and corruptly.”
Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S.
Spiegel also submitted a copy of a photograph of a man and
women and three girls. The Court assumes the photograph is of
Spiegel, his former spouse, and their three children.
547, 554 (1967).
Thus, whether judicial immunity bars a claim
for damages against a judicial officer does not depend on whether
application of the doctrine would work an unfairness, however
great, on the plaintiff.
The relevant inquiry is limited to
whether the alleged misconduct occurred outside of the judge’s
judicial capacity, see Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 11-12 (1991), or
if it was taken in the “clear absence of all jurisdiction,” Stump
v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978) (quoting Bradley v.
Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 351 (13 Wall.) (1872)).
Because nothing in
Spiegel’s complaint or show cause response suggests that the
alleged misconduct of the defendant judicial officers was not
judicial in nature or was taken in “clear absence of all
jurisdiction,” the plaintiff’s claims for damages against the
judicial officers are barred by the doctrine of judicial
Similarly, application of the Eleventh Amendment immunity to
the claims against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not
turn on the specific facts of an individual case but rather on
This immunity likewise extends to defendants McDermott,
Gamberoni, and Wright, who were allegedly acting in conjunction
with or at the behest of judicial officers. See, e.g., Severin
v. Parish of Jefferson, 357 Fed. Appx. 601, 605 (5th Cir. 2009)
(per curiam) (“A court employee who acts under the explicit
instructions of a judge ‘acts as the arm of the judge and comes
within his absolute immunity,’ even if the employee acts ‘in bad
faith or with malice.’” (quoting Williams v. Wood, 612 F.2d 982,
985 (5th Cir.1980) (per curiam))); Rodriguez v. Weprin, 116 F.3d
62, 66-67 (2d Cir. 1997) (court clerks who, at the direction of
the judges, refused plaintiff’s document request, were entitled
to absolute immunity); Bush v. Rauch, 38 F.3d 842, 847-48 (6th
Cir. 1994) (person who acts as the judge’s designee, and who
carries out a function for which the judge is immune, is also
protected by judicial immunity).
the legal question of whether the claim asserted against the
state is one for which the state has waived its Eleventh
Amendment immunity or the United States Congress has abrogated
In this action, Eleventh Amendment immunity applies to all
of Spiegel’s claims against the Commonwealth.
Finally, nothing in the show cause response changes the
Court’s determination that, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the
Court cannot order injunctive relief against the judicial
officers named as defendants in this action.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated above and in the Court’s
memorandum and order of January 11, 2017, the Court orders that
this case be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted.
/s/ Patti B. Saris
PATTI B. SARIS
CHIEF, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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