PILOT v. GOLDSMITH et al
OPINION and ORDER Construing the Pleading as a Bivens Action and Dismissing the Complaint. Signed by District Judge Judith E. Levy. (SBur)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Michael Charles Pilot,
Case No. 17-11854
Judith E. Levy
United States District Judge
Mark A. Goldsmith, The United
States District Court for the
Eastern District of Michigan,
Donald J. Trump, Jefferson B.
Sessions, Channing D. Phillips,
and Jeffrey B. Wall,
Mag. Judge Anthony P. Patti
OPINION AND ORDER CONSTRUING THE PLEADING AS
A BIVENS ACTION AND DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT
On May 17, 2017, Michael Charles Pilot (“Pilot”), a private citizen
from Warren, Michigan, filed a pro se pleading in the United States
District Court for the District of Columbia. He labeled his pleading an
application for the writ of habeas corpus, but he also requested
declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
And even though the filing fee for a habeas petition is $5.00, Pilot paid
the $400.00 filing fee for a civil complaint. Pilot named the following
parties as defendants or respondents:
United States District Judge
Mark A. Goldsmith; the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan; Donald J. Trump; United States Attorney General
Jeff Sessions; United States Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the
District of Columbia; and United States Solicitor General Jeffrey B.
On May 23, 2017, United States District Judge Colleen KollarKotelly of the District of Columbia denied the habeas petition because
Pilot had not satisfied the custody requirement for obtaining habeas
relief. Judge Kollar-Kotelly then transferred the remainder of the case
to this District. On June 12, 2017, the case was received in this Court
and treated by the Clerk’s Office as a habeas petition.
II. Legal Framework
As noted in the previous paragraph, Judge Kollar-Kotelly
dismissed the habeas portion of Pilot’s pleading, and because all the
individuals being sued here are federal officials, the Court construes
Pilot’s pleading as a civil rights complaint under Bivens v. Six Unknown
Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
Bivens “is the ‘federal analog to suits brought against state officials
under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 675-76 (2009) (quoting Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 254 n.2
(2006)). The same legal principles apply to cases brought under Bivens
and under § 1983,
except for the requirement of federal action under Bivens and
state action under § 1983. A plaintiff must prove two elements to
prevail on either type of claim: (1) that he or she was deprived of a
right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and
(2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color
of law. Bivens, 403 U.S. at 392, 91 S.Ct. 1999; Marcilis v. Twp. of
Redford, 693 F.3d 589, 595 (6th Cir. 2012); Redding v. St. Eward,
241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001).
Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 614 (6th Cir. 2014).
While a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations,” the
“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the
complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal and end citations and
footnote omitted). In other words, “a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570). “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.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
A. Judge Goldsmith’s Rulings
The basis for Pilot’s complaint is Judge Goldsmith’s rulings in two
prior cases that Pilot filed. See Compl., Exs. A-H. In the first case,
Pilot attempted to remove a case from state court to federal court. The
state court case was an action brought by the City of Hazel Park,
Michigan against Pilot for an alleged violation of a municipal ordinance.
Judge Goldsmith remanded the case to the state court because Pilot had
failed to establish that the federal district court had subject-matter
jurisdiction over the matter. See 43rd Judicial District Court, et al. v.
Michael C. Pilot, No. 16-cv-13682 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 12, 2017).
appealed Judge Goldsmith’s ruling, but the United States Court of
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the appeal because a remand
order based on lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is immune from
review. See 43rd District Court for the State of Michigan, et al. v. Pilot,
No. 17-1164 (6th Cir. Mar. 21, 2017).
In a second case, Pilot filed what appeared to be a civil complaint
as a habeas corpus petition.
Judge Goldsmith initially directed the
Clerk’s Office to change the nature of the suit to a civil rights action and
to change the parties’ designations because Pilot was not in custody.
See Pilot v. 43rd Judicial District Court, et al., No. 16-cv-14382 (E.D.
Mich. Jan. 13, 2017). Judge Goldsmith subsequently ordered Pilot to
pay the filing fee for his complaint or to submit an application to
proceed in forma pauperis. Pilot then paid the filing fee, but he objected
to the conversion of his habeas petition to a civil complaint. Before the
matter was resolved, Pilot filed this action.1
Pilot’s attempt to hold Judge Goldsmith liable for his rulings in
case numbers 16-13682 and 16-14382 is frivolous because judges
traditionally enjoy immunity from a suit for money damages. Mireles v.
Judge Goldsmith ultimately reclassified Pilot’s pleading from a civil rights action
back to a habeas action and ordered the Clerk’s Office to refund the filing fee that
Pilot had paid. In the same order, Judge Goldsmith dismissed the habeas petition
with prejudice because Pilot was not in custody. See Pilot, No. 16-cv-14382 (E.D.
Mich. Aug. 18, 2017).
Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9 (1991). “[J]udicial immunity is an immunity from
suit, not just from ultimate assessment of damages,” id. at 11, and it
is overcome in only two sets of circumstances. 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.
Id. at 11-12 (internal and end citations omitted).
Judge Goldsmith obviously made his rulings in case numbers 1613682 and 16-14382 in his judicial capacity, and he did not act in the
complete absence of all jurisdiction when he adjudicated the cases.
Consequently, Judge Goldsmith is immune from suit, including Pilot’s
request for injunctive relief. See Kipen v. Lawson, 57 F. App’x 691, 691
(6th Cir. 2003) (stating that “[a]bsolute immunity in Bivens actions
against federal judges has . . . been extended to requests for injunctive
relief”) (citing Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1240-42 (11th Cir. 2000)).
B. The United States District Court and Trump
Pilot has sued the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan, but courts are not “persons” for purposes of civil
rights actions. See Mumford v. Zieba, 4 F.3d 429, 435 (6th Cir. 1993)
(noting that a state court is not a “person,” as that term is used in 42
U.S.C. § 1983). Thus, the District Court is not a proper party to this
Pilot attempts to hold the President of the United States liable on
the ground that the President can remove Judge Goldsmith from the
federal bench. But Pilot’s assumption that the President can remove
Judge Goldsmith from office is incorrect.
Federal judges can be
removed from office only by impeachment by Congress. United States v.
Claiborne, 727 F.2d 842, 846 (9th Cir. 1984). Consequently, Donald J.
Trump is dismissed from this action.
C. Defendants Sessions, Phillips, and Wall
The remaining defendants (United States Attorney General Jeff
Sessions, United States Attorney Channing D. Phillips, and Solicitor
General Jeffrey B. Wall) are members of the Executive Branch of
Government. They had no involvement in Pilot’s prior cases, and they
have not intervened in this case.
The Court therefore dismisses
Attorney General Sessions, United States Attorney Phillips, and
Solicitor General Wall from this action.
Pilot has failed to show that the defendants deprived him of a
constitutional right. Additionally, the United States District Court is
not a “person,” and Judge Goldsmith enjoys immunity from suit.
Therefore, Plaintiff has not stated a plausible claim for which relief may
It is further ordered that an appeal from this order
would be frivolous and could not be taken in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: October 27, 2017
Ann Arbor, Michigan
s/Judith E. Levy
JUDITH E. LEVY
United States District Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served
upon counsel of record and any unrepresented parties via the Court’s
ECF System to their respective email or First Class U.S. mail addresses
disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on October 27, 2017.
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