Martin v. Brehe-Krueger et al
ORDER. The Court grants Defendant Ada Brehe-Krueger's Motion to Dismiss. The Court also dismisses Plaintiff's claims against the Circuit Court of Cole County. To the extent Plaintiff has attempted to bring claims against Cole County, the Court dismisses those claims. Because all of Plaintiff's claims are hereby dismissed, Plaintiffs request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is rendered moot. Signed on 10/26/17 by District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. (Matthes Mitra, Renea)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MATTHEW RAY MARTIN,
ADA BREHE-KRUEGER, and
COLE COUNTY COURT,
Case No. 17-00723-CV-W-ODS
ORDER AND OPINION (1) GRANTING DEFENDANT BREHE-KRUEGER’S
MOTION TO DISMISS, (2) DISMISSING PLAINTIFF’S REMAINING CLAIMS, AND
(3) FINDING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF’S EMERGENCY MOTION FOR
TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
Pending are Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and
Preliminary Injunction (Doc. #6), and Defendant Ada Brehe-Krueger’s Motion to Dismiss
(Doc. #9). For the following reasons, Defendant Ada Brehe-Krueger’s Motion to
Dismiss is granted, and Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Ada Brehe-Krueger are
dismissed. The Court also dismisses Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Cole County
Court (and Cole County, to the extent Plaintiff is attempting to bring claims against the
county). With the Court’s dismissal of all claims, Plaintiff’s request for a temporary
restraining order and preliminary injunction is rendered moot.
Plaintiff, who is pro se, filed this matter against Judge Ada Brehe-Krueger and
the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri, alleging Defendants violated his civil rights
“by refusing to hear any evidence as it relates to the judgement (sic) based on fraud on
the Court and is no[w] threatening jail…to enforce the unconstitutional relief.” Doc. #1,
at 2. Plaintiff asks this Court to enjoin Judge Brehe-Krueger “from executing and acting
on any judgements (sic), orders or mandate issued against [Plaintiff] in Cole [C]ounty.”
Doc. #6, at 2-3. Plaintiff also asks the Court to order the return of property taken from
him as a result of the allegedly fraudulent judgement (sic),” and award him actual and/or
punitive damages. Doc. #1, at 2.
Plaintiff’s claims arise from two state court matters. First, the 2014 state court
matter (Case No. 14AC-FC00740), which was filed in the Circuit Court of Cole County,
pertains to the dissolution of Plaintiff’s marriage to Nicole Lynn Martin. Doc. #12, at 12.1 Plaintiff appealed the circuit court’s entry of contempt against him as well as the
dissolution judgment to the Missouri Court of Appeals. Martin v. Martin, Case No.
WD79044. The Court of Appeals dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal as it related to the
contempt order because that order was never enforced, and affirmed the circuit court’s
dissolution judgment.2 Id. Second, the 2016 state court matter (Case No. 16ACCC00166), which was also filed in the Circuit Court of Cole County, is a defamation
claim brought by Plaintiff against Nicole Lynn Martin. That matter remains open, and
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is pending.
In December 2016, Plaintiff initiated a civil action in the Central Division of this
Court. Case No. 16-4319-NKL. Plaintiff alleged Patricia Joyce, a state court judge in
the Circuit Court of Cole County violated his rights under the Fifth, Seventh, and
Fourteenth Amendments when she issued rulings in state court proceedings. Doc. #1
(Case No. 16-4319). Plaintiff later amended his complaint to include additional
allegations against Judge Joyce related to decisions she made in the 2014 state court
In ruling a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court must accept as true
the complaint=s factual allegations, and view the factual allegations in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Stodghill v. Wellston Sch. Dist., 512 F.3d 472, 476 (8th Cir.
2008). “To 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is facially plausible “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. Generally, the Court is limited to a
review of the complaint. Mattes v. ABC Plastics, Inc., 323 F.3d 695, 698 (8th Cir. 2003).
But the Court may consider exhibits attached to the complaint, materials necessarily
embraced by the complaint, and materials that are part of the public record. Id. at 698;
Levy v. Ohl, 47 F.3d 988, 991 (8th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). Accordingly, the Court
will consider materials that are part of the public court files with regard to cases cited in
Plaintiff’s Complaint and the matter previously filed in this Court.
Disputes pertaining to child support associated with the marriage dissolution remain
pending. Case No. 14AC-FC00740-01.
matter and other matters. Doc. #5, at 5-6 (Case No. 16-4319). He further amended his
complaint to include similar allegations against two more state court judges: Judge
Daniel Richard Green and Judge Robert D. Schollmeyer. Doc. #8 (Case No. 16-4139).
Defendants sought to dismiss that matter. In granting Defendants’ motion to
dismiss, Judge Laughrey of this Court found Defendants were entitled to absolute
judicial immunity, and the Rooker-Feldman and Younger doctrines applied, and
therefore, the matter was dismissed. Doc. #22 (Case No. 16-4319). In her decision,
Judge Laughrey noted Judges Joyce and Schollmeyer recused from the 2014 state
court matter. Id. at 4. But it was then assigned to Judge Brehe-Krueger, a defendant in
this matter. Id. After Judge Schollmeyer recused from the 2016 state court matter,
Judge Brehe-Krueger was assigned to preside over that matter. Judge Brehe-Krueger,
as of the date of this Order, still presides over both matters.
Judge Brehe-Krueger seeks to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims in this matter. Doc. #9.
Plaintiff opposes Judge Brehe-Krueger’s motion. Doc. #12. The motion is now ripe for
consideration. In addition to Judge Brehe-Krueger’s motion, the Court also considers
Plaintiff’s claims against the Circuit Court of Cole County.
A. Plaintiff’s Claims Against Judge Brehe-Krueger
Judge Brehe-Krueger makes several arguments for dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims
against her. Among other grounds, Judge Brehe-Krueger argues the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine applies, and she is protected from suit by judicial immunity.
(1) Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Judge Brehe-Krueger argues the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes the Court
from exercising jurisdiction (that is, legal authority) over Plaintiff’s claims. A lower
federal court is generally without jurisdiction to hear “challenges to state court decisions
in particular cases arising out of judicial proceedings even if those challenges allege
that that state court’s action was unconstitutional.” Dist. of Columbia Court of Appeals
v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983). Federal courts, with the exception of the United
States Supreme Court, do not have jurisdiction over an appeal of a state appellate court
decision. Id.; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1257; Keene Corp. v. Cass, 908 F.2d 293, 296 (8th
Cir. 1990). The Eighth Circuit holds the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes jurisdiction
over “cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court
judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting
district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Edwards v. City of Jonesboro,
645 F.3d 1014, 1018 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus.
Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)).3
Plaintiff seeks redress with this Court because Judge Brehe-Krueger allegedly
“refus[ed] to hear any evidence” in a state court proceeding, and “refused to…explain
why [she] ruled” the way she did in a state court proceeding. Doc. #1, at 2-3. Plaintiff
also argues the judgment entered by Judge Brehe-Krueger in a state court proceeding
was “fraudulent.” Id. at 2. He asks the Court to “[g]rant an immediate injunction before
the unconstitutional orders issued by [Judge Brehe-Krueger] perm[an]ently take the
property of the Plaintiff and put him in jail.” Id. at 2.
Even when liberally construing Plaintiff’s allegations, as the Court must do, it is
clear Plaintiff seeks redress in this Court to reverse judgments entered by Judge BreheKrueger and/or prevent Judge Brehe-Krueger from issuing further decisions in the two
state court actions referenced above. This Court does not have jurisdiction to hear
challenges to state court decisions even if a party maintains the decision was
unconstitutional. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 486 (1983); Edwards, 645 F.3d at 1018.
Accordingly, the Court grants Judge Brehe-Krueger’s motion to dismiss.4
Plaintiff argues his claims should not be dismissed because “[a]n independent action
is available” under Rule 60(d) “to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.” Doc. #12, at
4. Plaintiff’s reliance on Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is misplaced.
Rule 60 is a federal rule, and governs procedures in civil actions before the United
States district courts. Fed. R. Civ. P. 1. Rule 60 does not pertain to state court actions.
Plaintiff’s request for relief from a judgment or order remains with the state court. See
e.g., Mo. R. Civ. P. 74.06(b).
In opposing Judge Brehe-Krueger’s motion to dismiss, Plaintiff argues his Fifth
Amendment rights have been or will be violated in that the state court is attempting to
enforce orders that would result in double jeopardy. Doc. #12, at 5. Plaintiff also
argues the state court judges violated their jurisdiction when they entered and/or
enforced orders. Id. at 5-6. Because this Court does not have jurisdiction to hear
Plaintiff’s challenges to the state court proceedings, these arguments fail.
(2) Judicial Immunity
Even if the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not apply, Judge Brehe-Krueger argues
Plaintiff’s claims against her should be dismissed because she is immune from suit due
to judicial immunity. It is well-settled that judges are entitled to absolute immunity from
suit for their judicial conduct. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991) (citations
omitted). “A judge is absolutely immune from liability for his judicial acts even if his
exercise of authority is flawed by the commission of grave procedural errors.” Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978). “[T]he factors determining whether an act by a
judge is a ‘judicial’ one relate to 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.” Id. at 362.
There are only two instances where judicial immunity is overcome. Mireles, 502
at 11. First, judges are “not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not
taken in the judge’s judicial capacity.” Id. (citations omitted). Second, judges are “not
immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in the complete absence of all
jurisdiction.” Id. at 12 (citations omitted).
Based upon Plaintiff’s filings in this matter and the public state court files, there is
nothing establishing Judge Brehe-Krueger’s actions were nonjudicial. And there is
nothing showing her orders or decisions were taken in complete absence of all
jurisdiction. The Court finds Judge Brehe-Krueger’s orders and decisions in the 2014
and 2016 state court matters constitute judicial conduct. Accordingly, judicial immunity
applies, and Plaintiff’s claims against Judge Brehe-Krueger are dismissed for this
Because the Court decides Judge Brehe-Krueger’s motion to dismiss on the
grounds of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and judicial immunity, it is unnecessary for the
Court to discuss her other arguments for dismissal. Additionally, because Plaintiff’s
Additionally, to the extent Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief against Judge Brehe-Krueger
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, such relief is not available because Plaintiff failed to
plead a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (stating “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 was unavailable.”)
claims against Judge Brehe-Krueger are dismissed, Judge Brehe-Krueger’s request for
change of venue is denied as moot.
B. Plaintiff’s Claims Against Cole County and the Circuit Court of Cole County
The Court now turns to whether Plaintiff’s claims against the Circuit Court of Cole
County (and Cole County, to the extent Plaintiff is bringing claims against the county)
should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure requires a complaint contain “a short and plain statement” of the grounds for
the court’s jurisdiction, claim showing the plaintiff is entitled to relief, and a demand for
the relief sought. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3). “Each allegation must be simple, concise,
and direct.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d). To state a claim for relief, a claim must be plausible
on its face. “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows for the dismissal of lawsuits that fail to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). While a pro se
complaint should be given liberal construction, the essence of an allegation must be
discernible and the complaint should state a claim as a matter of law. See Solomon v.
Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted); Guy v. Swift & Co., 612
F.2d 383, 385 (8th Cir. 1980) (citation omitted).
“Without question, a district court has the power to dismiss a complaint sua
sponte, but only where plaintiff cannot possibly prevail and amendment would be futile.”
Bucklew v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1120, 1127 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). The
dismissal does not require prior notice under Rule 12(b)(6), which allows for dismissal of
matters that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “when it is patently
obvious the plaintiff could not prevail based on the facts alleged in the complaint.”
Murphy v. Lancaster, 960 F.2d 746, 748 (8th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted); see also
Porter v. Fox, 99 F.3d 271, 273-74 (8th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted) (finding a district
court may dismiss a case sua sponte).
As set forth supra, section I, Plaintiff alleges the Circuit Court of Cole County
violated his civil rights. Doc. #1. In his response to Judge Brehe-Krueger’s motion to
dismiss, Plaintiff states “it may be revealed…Cole County is liable as policy and custom
of this municipality is the moving force behind the many constitutional violations/civil
rights of Plaintiff.” Doc. #12, at 7. Plaintiff then cites to district court matters discussing
municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. It is unclear whether Plaintiff is suing
Cole County or the Circuit Court of Cole County. Regardless of what entity he is suing,
as set forth below, Plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim for relief against either
(1) Circuit Court of Cole County
“Section 1983…does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy
against a State for alleged deprivations of civil liberties.” Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). “The Eleventh Amendment bars such suits unless the
State has waived its immunity…or unless Congress has exercised its undoubted power
under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to override that immunity.” Id. (citations
omitted). The Circuit Court of Cole County is a state entity. As such, it is not a person
under section 1983. Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under section 1983 against the
Circuit Court of Cole County. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims against the Circuit Court of
Cole County are dismissed.
(2) Cole County
Although Plaintiff did not list Cole County as a defendant in his Complaint, the
Court must liberally construe his pleadings. In doing so, the Court will consider whether
Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim against Cole County for violations of section 1983.
Local governing bodies may be sued directly under section 1983 when “the action that
is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance,
regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body’s officers.”
Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978) (stating “it is
when execution of a government’s policy or custom…inflicts the injury that the
government” is responsible under section 1983). While he alleged his constitutional
rights were violated, Plaintiff failed to allege any Cole County policy or custom that was
implemented or executed that resulted in injury to him. Rather, Plaintiff’s allegations
stem from decisions issued by state court judges, who are not employees of Cole
County. There is no policy or custom at issue. And Plaintiff does not allege any
employee or agent of Cole County in any way injured him. The Court finds Plaintiff
cannot possibly prevail on section 1983 claims against Cole County (to the extent
Plaintiff is attempting to allege such claims), and amendment of his complaint would be
futile. For these reasons, the Court dismisses Plaintiff’s claims against Cole County.
For the above reasons, the Court grants Defendant Ada Brehe-Krueger’s Motion
to Dismiss. The Court also dismisses Plaintiff’s claims against the Circuit Court of Cole
County. To the extent Plaintiff has attempted to bring claims against Cole County, the
Court dismisses those claims. Because all of Plaintiff’s claims are hereby dismissed,
Plaintiff’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Ortrie D. Smith
ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DATE: October 26, 2017
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