Dennison v. State of Montana et al
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 10 in full. Any appeal of this decision would not be taken in good faith Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 8/30/2017. Mailed to Dennison. (TAG)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
STATE OF MONTANA JUDICIAL
STATE OF MONTANA SUPREME
United States Magistrate Judge John Johnston entered his Findings and
· Recommendations on May 19, 2017, recommending dismissal of Plaintiff Randy
Dennison's ("Dennison") Amended Complaint. Dennison timely filed objections
and is therefore entitled to de novo review of those findings and recommendations
to which he specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b )(1 )(C). This Court reviews
for clear error those findings and recommendations to which no party objects. See
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313
(9th Cir. 1981); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). "Clear error exists if
the Court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed." United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000). Because
the parties are familiar with the factual background of this case, it will not be
In his objections, Dennison argues that Judge Johnston erred by finding that:
(1) Judge Eddy is immune from suit; (2) his claims against the members and
workers of the Montana Judicial Standards Commission should be dismissed; and
(3) his third and fourth causes of action should be dismissed. It should be first
noted that Dennison's objections request that "this Court dismiss all claims for
money against any Defendant named in this Proceeding thereby eliminating any
ground stated by [Judge] Johnston for Dismissal that is based on or related to
liability damages." (Doc. 11 at 1.) Instead, Dennison requests "Declaratory relief'
against Judge Eddy and all other Defendants. (Id.)
Turning to Dennison's first objection, despite his request to dismiss all
claims for monetary damages, Judge Eddy is nevertheless also immune from claims
requesting declaratory relief. As discussed by Judge Johnston, judicial immunity
extends to claims seeking declaratory and other equitable relief, as well as claims
for monetary relief. Moore v. Brewster, 96 F.3d 1240, 1243 (9th Cir. 1996)
(superseded by statute on other grounds). Consequently, Dennison's first objection
Next, Dennison argues that Judge Johnston misconstrued his second cause of
action as an appeal and not, as he states, as a claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 which alleges that the Montana Judicial Standards Commission violated his
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights. However, upon review of Dennison's
Amended Complaint, his second cause of action requests that this Court "Reverse
and Remand" the Montana Judicial Standards Commission's decision to dismiss
his complaint against Judge Eddy. (Doc. 9 at 9.) Although Dennison argues that
his second cause of action should not be construed as an appeal, the Court cannot
ignore his requested relief under this claim. As such, the Court agrees with Judge
Johnston and finds that it lacks the power review the decisions of the Montana
Judicial Standards Commission. See Branson v. Nott, 62 F.3d 287, 291 (9th Cir.
1995) (federal district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to review the final
determinations of state proceedings) (overruled on other grounds). Dennison's
second objection is thus overruled.
Finally, Dennison argues that Judge Johnston erred by dismissing his third
and fourth causes of action brought against Judge Blair Jones, a member of the
Montana Judicial Standards Commission, and Justice Mike McGrath of the
Montana Supreme Court, respectively. Dennison contends that Judge Johnston
failed to address these claims. However, upon close inspection of the Findings and
Recommendations, it appears Judge Johnston viewed these claims as an attempt by
. Dennison to appeal the decision of the Montana Judicial Standards Commission
·dismissing his complaint against Judge Eddy. As discussed above, the Court
agrees with Judge Johnston that this Court lacks jurisdiction to review this
decision. Nevertheless, to the extent that Dennison argues that Judge Blair and
Justice McGrath violated his constitutional rights by either adopting a rule which
bestows immunity upon members of the Montana Judicial Standards Commission
or enforcing such a rule, the Court finds that these claims are barred by the
Eleventh Amendment. See Snoeck v. Bruss a, 153 F .3d 984 (9th Cir. 1998) (claims
brought pursuant to § 1983 against members and executive director of state judicial
discipline commission were barred by the Eleventh Amendment); see also
Dobronski v. Arizona, 128 Fed. Appx. 608, 609 (9th Cir. 2005) (same)
(unpublished). 1 As such, Dennison's third objection is overruled.
Accordingly, there being no clear error in the remaining Findings and
Recommendations, IT IS ORDERED that:
(1) Judge Johnston's Findings and Recommendations (Doc. 10) are
ADOPTED IN FULL.
(2) This matter is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The Clerk of
The Court also notes that Justice McGrath is also immune from suit under the doctrine
of judicial immunity. Moore, 96 F.3d at 1243.
Court is directed to close this matter and enter judgment in favor of
Defendants pursuant to Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
(3) The Clerk of Court is directed to have the docket reflect that the
Court certifies pursuant to Rule 24(a)(3)(A) of the Federal Rules of Appellate
Procedure that any appeal of this decision would not be taken in good faith. No
reasonable person could suppose an appeal would have merit. The record makes
• plain the instant Complaint lacks arguable substance in law or fact.
~O ~day of August, 20
Dana L. Christensen, Chief Judge
United States District Court
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