Sumpter v. Atkins et al
ORDER Adopting 20 Report and Recommendation,Granting 5 Motion to Dismiss filed by Marilyn E. Atkins Signed by District Judge Paul D. Borman. (DTof)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 12-13958
Paul D. Borman
United States District Judge
David R. Grand
United States Magistrate Judge
MARYLIN E. ATKINS, Judge,
in her individual and official capacity,
ABED HAMMOUD, in his individual
and official capacity, and
ALLEN COX, IV, in his individual and
OPINION AND ORDER (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE DAVID R. GRAND’S
JANUARY 16, 2013 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NO. 20); and
(2) GRANTING JUDGE MARYLIN E. ATKINS’S MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF NO. 5)
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s objections (ECF No. 22) to the Magistrate
Judge’s January 16, 2013 Report and Recommendation to Grant Defendant Marylin E. Atkins’s
Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 20). A district court judge reviews de novo the portions of the report
and recommendation to which objections have been filed. 28 U .S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b). A district “court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. Having conducted a de novo review of the
parts of the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation to which objections have been filed
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Objections, ADOPTS the
Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, and GRANTS Judge Atkins’s motion to dismiss
(ECF No. 5.)
The factual background is adequately presented in detail in the Magistrate Judge’s report and
recommendation and the Court incorporates it here. (ECF No. 20, Report and Recommendation 24.) In sum, Plaintiff filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his state court
arrest and prosecution violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff seeks relief from, among other
defendants, Defendant Marylin E. Atkins, the state court judge who issued the warrant for his arrest
and who now moves to dismiss the claims against her based upon judicial immunity.
The essence of Plaintiff’s claim against Judge Atkins is that the criminal complaint against
him was not properly subscribed and authorized, that there was no probable cause for his arrest and
that Judge Atkins therefore acted outside her capacity as a judge and “lacked jurisdiction” to issue
the warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest. Plaintiff’s objections repeat this claim, asserting that the criminal
complaint was not properly presented or supported by an oath and was not based upon the personal
knowledge of the alleged affiant and that there was no probable cause for issuance of the warrant.
For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that the Magistrate Judge properly concluded that
Judge Atkins acted within her judicial capacity and did not act in the complete absence of subject
matter jurisdiction in issuing a warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest. Judge Atkins is, therefore, entitled to
immunity from suit.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A district court judge reviews de novo the portions of the report and recommendation to
which objections have been filed. 28 U .S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). A district “court
may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge.” Id. Objections must be timely to be considered. A party who receives notice
of the need to timely object yet fails to do so is deemed to waive review of the district court's order
adopting the magistrate judge's recommendations. Mattox v. City of Forest Park, 183 F.3d 515,
519-20 (6th Cir.1999). “[A] party must file timely objections with the district court to avoid waiving
appellate review.” Smith v. Detroit Federation of Teachers Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th
Cir. 1987) (emphasis in original).
Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute.
Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir.1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those
portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates the
arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the
magistrate judge. An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's
determination, “without explaining the source of the error,” is not considered a valid objection.
Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir.1991).
Specific objections enable the Court to focus on the particular issues in contention. Howard,
932 F.2d at 509. Without specific objections, “[t]he functions of the district court are effectively
duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of
time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes
of the Magistrate's Act.” Id.
“‘[O]bjections disput[ing] the correctness of the magistrate's
recommendation but fail[ing] to specify the findings [the objector] believed were in error” are too
summary in nature. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995)).
“Judicial officers generally are absolutely immune from civil suits for monetary damages
under § 1983 for their judicial actions.” Cooper v. Parrish, 203 F.3d 937, 944 (6th Cir. 2000)
(quoting Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991)). “Furthermore, ‘[b]y enacting the 1996 Federal
Courts Improvement Act . . . Congress . . . expanded the ambit of judicial immunity by amending
§ 1983 so as to prohibit injunctive relief against a judicial officer.’” Coleman v. Governor of
Michigan, 413 F. App’x 866, 873 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Gilbert v. Ferry, 298 F. Supp. 2d 606,
611 (E.D. Mich.2003) and Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104–317, § 309(c),
110 Stat. 3847, 3853 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1983)). “The rationale for granting judicial officers
absolute immunity when they act in their judicial capacities is that judicial officers should be free
to make controversial decisions and act upon their convictions without fear of personal liability.”
Cooper, 203 F.3d at 937.
“Judicial actions” include conduct that is “related to [the] general judicial functions” of the
office and that, a judge “would normally perform” in his judicial capacity. Cooper, 203 F.3d at 946.
“The Supreme Court has explained that courts should focus on the ‘nature’ and ‘function’ of an act,
and not the act itself, when deciding whether certain actions were taken in a judge’s judicial
capacity.” Id. at 945 (citation omitted). Although immunity is absolute, it will be unavailable in two
specifically defined circumstances:
[A]bsolute judicial immunity is overcome only in two situations. First, a judge is not
immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's
judicial capacity. Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in
nature, taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.
Whether an action is judicial depends on the nature and function of the act, not the
act itself. This functional analysis typically turns on two factors set forth by the
Supreme Court in Stump v. Sparkman[, 435 U.S. 349, 362, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d
331 (1978)]. First, looking to the nature of the act, courts must determine whether it
is a function normally performed by a judge. . . . Second, looking to the expectations
of the parties, courts must assess whether the parties dealt with the judge in his or her
DiPiero v. City of Macedonia, 180 F.3d 770, 784 (6th Cir. 1999) (additional internal citations and
quotation marks omitted).
In determining the issue of judicial capacity, “paradigmatic judicial acts are those that
involve resolving disputes between parties who have invoked the jurisdiction of a court.” Barnes
v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111, 1116 (6th Cir. 1997) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
“It is well-settled in this Circuit that the issuance of an arrest warrant is a judicial act for judicial
immunity purposes.” DiPiero, 180 F.3d at 784 (citing Ireland v. Tunis, 113 F.3d 1435, 1441–42
(6th Cir. 1997) and Foster v. Walsh, 864 F.2d 416, 417–18 (6th Cir.1988)). Under Michigan law,
“[t]he district court has the same power to issue warrants . . . as the circuit court now has or may
hereafter have.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.8317. Thus, issuing warrants was well within the
functions that a state district court judge normally performs. There is no question that Judge Atkins
was acting in her judicial capacity when she issued the warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest. That she may
have done so, according to Plaintiff, without probable cause does not rob the act of its judicial
Nor has Plaintiff demonstrated that Judge Atkins was without subject matter jurisdiction in
issuing the warrant for his arrest. In determining whether there was an absence of jurisdiction for
purposes of judicial immunity, the term “jurisdiction” is broadly construed:
The term “jurisdiction” is to be broadly construed to effectuate the purposes of
judicial immunity. Stump, 435 U.S. at 356, 98 S.Ct. at 1104-05. Acts done “in the
clear absence of jurisdiction,” for which no immunity is afforded, should be
distinguished from actions in “excess of jurisdiction,” which fall within the ambit of
immunity protection. Id. at 357 n. 7, 98 S.Ct. at 1105 n. 7 (quoting Bradley, 80 U.S.
(13 Wall.) at 351-52). Thus, for example, a criminal court judge would be immune
from liability for convicting a defendant of a nonexistent crime, an act taken in
excess of his jurisdiction, whereas a probate court judge would not be immune from
liability if he tried a criminal case because he clearly lacked all subject matter
jurisdiction. Id. (citing Bradley, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) at 352).
Generally, where a court has some subject matter jurisdiction, there is sufficient
jurisdiction for immunity purposes. Adams, 764 F.2d at 298. In Sevier, despite the
fact that a judge of limited jurisdiction ordered the initiation of criminal and
contempt proceedings, this court noted that the judge was “empowered to handle
Juvenile Court cases ... [and], therefore, did not act in the clear absence of all
jurisdiction.” Sevier [v. Turner], 742 F.2d  at 271 [(6th Cir. 1984)]; see also
Lopez [v. Vanderwater], 620 F.2d  at 1234[(7th Cir. 1980)] (despite not being
assigned to the particular branch of court, the judge was authorized by law to hear
the kind of case in which he acted; his actions were not taken in clear absence of all
Barnes, 105 F.3d at 1122.
In this case it is clear that Judge Atkins had sufficient subject matter jurisdiction over the
issuance of the warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest. The criminal complaint pursuant to which Plaintiff was
charged in this case states that it was sworn under oath. While Plaintiff denies that the criminal
complaint was adequately supported and sworn, this factual dispute does not diminish Judge Atkin’s
subject matter jurisdiction to entertain the criminal complaint and issue a warrant for Plaintiff’s
arrest. As the Magistrate Judge recognized, as a sitting Michigan district court judge, Judge Atkins
was “empowered to preside over the criminal proceedings that flowed from [the complaint] . . .
[e]ven assuming that there was a procedural problem with respect” to issuance of the complaint.
Barnes, 105 F.3d at 1123. Judge Atkins plainly had jurisdiction to issue an arrest warrant for
Plaintiff’s arrest. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.8317. Even if Judge Atkins issued the warrant
pursuant to a defective criminal complaint, she was not without jurisdiction to do so. “Even grave
procedural errors or acts taken when no statute purports to confer on the court the authority
purportedly exercised will not deprive a judge of judicial immunity.” Leech v. DeWeese, 689 F.3d
538, 542-43 (6th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Issuing a warrant pursuant to the criminal complaint
against Plaintiff is a function that Judge Atkins is empowered to undertake. “Subject matter
jurisdiction concerns a court’s abstract power to try a case of the kind or character of the one
pending and is not dependent on the particular facts of the case.” People v. Lown, 488 Mich. 242,
268 (2011) (internal quotation marks, citations and emphasis omitted).1
Having conducted a de novo review of the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation
and Plaintiff’s objections thereto, the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge correctly concluded that
Judge Atkins’s actions in this case were judicial in nature and were not taken in the complete
absence of all jurisdiction and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 20.)
Accordingly, Judge Atkins is entitled to judicial immunity and her motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
(ECF No. 5.)
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Paul D. Borman
PAUL D. BORMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: August 6, 2013
It is clear to the Court that Judge Atkins was acting within her jurisdictional authority and
engaging in an act of a judicial nature, and thus is entitled to judicial immunity in this case. The
Court notes, however, that under Michigan law the time for Plaintiff, who was tried and found guilty
and sentenced to a period of incarceration, to challenge the validity of the warrant or complaint has
long passed. See People v. Bohm, 49 Mich. App. 244, 250-51 (1973) (“[W]here a defendant fails
to object to the validity of the arrest warrant or the complaint upon which it is based at the
arraignment when the trial court obtains jurisdiction of him by the filing of an information by the
prosecuting attorney and defendant pleads thereto, that he cannot thereafter object to either the
complaint or the warrant.”).
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that a copy of the foregoing order was served upon each attorney or party
of record herein by electronic means or first class U.S. mail on August 6, 2013.
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