ROSE v. WEINSTEIN et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/16/2014. (nz, )n.m.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 14-5269 (JBS/KMW)
JEREMY S. WEINSTEIN, et al.,
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, pro se Plaintiff Wayne
Rose, generally alleges that various judicial officers
retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right
to petition in connection with civil cases in the Supreme Court
of New York, Queens County.
Plaintiff specifically alleges that
Defendants Jeffrey D. Lebowitz (hereinafter, “Judge Lebowitz”)
and Jeremy S. Weinstein (hereinafter, “Judge Weinstein” and,
together with Judge Lebowitz, the “judicial Defendants”), both
identified by Plaintiff’s Complaint as Judges of the New York
state court who presided over Plaintiff’s various civil actions,
disparately treated him on account of his HIV status,
subsequently dismissed all of his cases, and restricted
Plaintiff’s access to all court records, retaining same under
lock and key in the clerk of the court’s office.
(Compl. at ¶¶
Plaintiff alleges that Judge Lebowitz’s “retaliatory”
conduct has further extended into Plaintiff’s criminal
prosecution, because the Assistant District Attorney, Defendant
Sean Murphy (hereinafter, “ADA Murphy”), purportedly acts as
“‘Lebowitz[’s] puppet’” and remains in “constant
communication” with Judge Lebowitz concerning Plaintiff’s
(Id. at ¶¶ 84-85.)
ADA Murphy has also
purportedly retained, in accordance with the alleged conspiracy
against Plaintiff, “a certain video tape/dvd” of Plaintiff’s
interview at the time of his arrest.
(Id. at ¶¶ 85-86.)
Plaintiff’s Complaint identifies three causes of action:
(1) a cause of action for an order directing Judge Weinstein to
release the files concerning Plaintiff’s actions, to reinstate
Plaintiff’s civil cases to the state court’s active docket, and
to compel ADA Murphy to release the video tape (id. at ¶¶ 8792); (2) a cause of action against Judge Weinstein, in his
individual capacity, as a result of Judge Weinstein’s dismissal
of Plaintiff’s actions and purported sealing of certain court
records (id. at ¶¶ 93-115); and (3) a cause of action for
conspiracy against Judge Lebowitz and ADA Murphy arising out of
their allegedly collusive efforts in connection with the
Plaintiff’s criminal prosecution.
(Id. at ¶¶ 116-128.)
Because Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma
pauperis, the Court has an obligation to screen the Complaint
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court finds as follows:
Because Plaintiff’s application discloses that he is
indigent, the Court will, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, permit
the Complaint to be filed without prepayment of fees, and will
direct the Clerk of Court to file the Complaint.
Section 1915(e)(2)(B) requires the Court to screen the
Plaintiff’s Complaint and to dismiss any claim that is frivolous
or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).
A complaint “is frivolous
where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting
1915(e)(2)’s predecessor, the former § 1915(d)).
court must accept as true all factual allegations in a
complaint, that tenet is “inapplicable to legal conclusions” and
“[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted).
Plaintiff’s Complaint, on its face, solely concerns
the acts of judicial officers and a state prosecutor in
connection with Plaintiff’s civil and criminal actions in New
York state court.
These claims will be dismissed with prejudice
because judges and prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity
for their actions in furtherance of their judicial and
Judicial immunity extends immunity to
judges from all suits, “not just from ultimate assessment of
damages.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991).
mere allegations of “bad faith or malice” do not suffice to
overcome the absolute nature of the immunity.
immunity is only overcome in two narrow sets of circumstances.
See id. “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 (citations omitted). In determining
whether judicial immunity applies, “the relevant inquiry is the
‘nature’ and ‘function’ of the act . . . .” Id. at 13 (citation
Here, as stated above, Plaintiff, in essence, alleges
that the judicial Defendants retaliated against him and exceeded
their judicial authority by dismissing his civil actions and by
purportedly sealing certain court records.
judicial Defendants made these assessments while acting in their
capacity as state court judges, and there are no allegations
that either wholly lacked jurisdiction. (Compl. at ¶¶ 87-115.)
Nor does Plaintiff plausibly allege that Judge Lebowitz engaged
in nonjudicial acts in purportedly colluding with ADA Murphy in
connection with Plaintiff’s criminal prosecution.
(Id. at ¶¶
Rather, Plaintiff expressly acknowledges that such
acts purportedly occurred in Judge Lebowitz’s exercise of his
(See, e.g., id. at ¶ 117.)
immunity therefore applies in this instance, and the claims
against the judicial Defendants will be dismissed with
ADA Murphy, a state prosecutor, is also entitled to
immunity because “a prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity from §
1983 suits for damages when he acts within the scope of his
prosecutorial duties.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 420
State prosecutors therefore have absolute immunity with
respect to acts “‘and other conduct intimately associated with
the judicial phases of litigation’” and/or undertaken “‘in
preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for
Light v. Haws, 472 F.3d 74, 77-78 (3d Cir. 2007)
Indeed, the decision to initiate a
prosecution and how best to proceed thereafter rests “at the
core of a prosecutor's judicial role” and therefore constitute
decisions to which absolute immunity attaches.
Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1463-64 (3d Cir. 1992) (citations
omitted); see also Radocesky v. Munley, 247 F. App'x 363, 365
(3d Cir. 2007) (“[t]he decision whether or not to initiate or
prosecute a case is completely discretionary with prosecutors
and also is absolutely immunized from a suit for damages”).
Here, Plaintiff’s claim against ADA Murphy exclusively hinges
upon the manner in which ADA Murphy prosecuted Plaintiff’s
various criminal proceedings. (Compl. at ¶¶ 116-28.)
immunity applies to these actions, and Plaintiff’s claims
against ADA Murphy will also be dismissed with prejudice.
In sum, because Defendants are entitled to absolute
judicial and prosecutorial immunity with respect to Plaintiff’s
claims, these claims will be dismissed with prejudice.
Defendants are therefore dismissed with prejudice, and the case
will be closed on the docket. An accompanying Order will be
October 16, 2014
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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