Easterling v. Lynch
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION1 THAT: (1) DEFENDANTS MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 12) BE GRANTED; AND (2) THIS CASE BE TERMINATED ON THE COURTS DOCKET re 12 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Warren Easterling, r - Objections to R&R due by 6/21/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman on 6/7/17. (pb)(This document has been sent by regular mail to the party(ies) listed in the NEF that did not receive electronic notification.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WESTERN DIVISION AT DAYTON
Case No. 3:16-cv-375
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS,
Attorney General of the United States,
District Judge Thomas M. Rose
Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION1 THAT: (1) DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO
DISMISS (DOC. 12) BE GRANTED; AND (2) THIS CASE BE TERMINATED ON THE
This pro civil case is before the Court on Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Doc. 17. Pro
se Plaintiff Warren Easterling (“Easterling”) filed a memorandum in opposition. Doc. 13.
Defendant’s motion is ripe for decision.
A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) operates to test the
sufficiency of the complaint and permits dismissal for “failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted.” To show grounds for relief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that the complaint
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
While Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations’… it demands more than
an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
Attached hereto is a NOTICE to the parties regarding objections to this Report and
In order “[t]o 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.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678. Pleadings offering mere “‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements
of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In fact, in deciding a
motion to dismiss, “courts ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.’” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106
S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)). Further, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.” Id.
Plausibility exists where “plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678. Plausibility “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not
permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged
-- but has not ‘show[n]’ -- ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Id. at 679.
While pro se parties must satisfy basic pleading requirements, Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d
591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), their pleadings must be liberally construed and are “held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Nevertheless, “even a pro se complaint ‘must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.’” Ogle v. Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC, 513 F. App’x 520, 522 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Easterling is a frequent pro se litigator in the Southern District of Ohio and in Ohio state
courts. See, e.g., Easterling v. Crawford, No. 3:13-CV-430, 2014 WL 428931, at *4 (S.D. Ohio
Feb. 4, 2014) (noting that “Easterling's litigation history in this Court is . . . long and
convoluted”); Easterling v. Crawford, No. 3:13-CV-430, 2014 WL 667638, at *4 (S.D. Ohio
Feb. 20, 2014), (recommending that, because “Easterling has repeatedly abused the privilege of
proceeding in forma pauperis in this Court, he should be barred from doing so without the prior
written authorization of the Chief Judge”); Easterling v. Crawford, No. 3:14-CV-226, 2014 WL
5803029, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 7, 2014) (noting in late 2014 that Easterling had filed “fourteen
cases in the last two years[,]” many of which he had “attempted in one way or another to have
this Court interfere with, enjoin, or reverse a state court judgment”).
This case concerns three particular federal cases Easterling previously filed in this Court,
all of which were dismissed: (1) Easterling v. Attorney General Mike DeWine, Case No. 3:16-cv139 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 13, 2016); (2) Easterling v. Rice, 3:15-cv-257 (S.D. Ohio July 28, 2015);
and (3) Easterling v. Judge Barbara Gorman, 3:14-cv-314 (Sept. 23, 2014). Easterling never
sought a direct appeal from the dismissal of any of these cases. Id. Instead, Easterling has now
filed this case alleging that the judges presiding over the aforementioned cases all allegedly
conspired to deprive him of his Constitutional rights and dismissed his federal civil complaints
based upon flawed legal reasoning. See doc. 1. Easterling purports to assert his claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1985(3).2 Id.
While Easterling makes conclusory allegations of a judicial conspiracy against him, he
does not name any Judges as a party to this case.3 Id. Instead, he brings suit only against the
Attorney General of the United States alleging liability under the doctrine of respondeat
superior. See doc. 1 at PageID 3. Generally, “[u]nder the doctrine of respondeat superior, an
The undersigned notes that Easterling’s sets forth no allegations supporting claims under §
1985(1) or (2).
Of course, any potential claims against judicial officers would be subject to dismissal on the
basis of judicial immunity. See Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997); Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978).
employer is liable, despite having no fault whatsoever, for the acts of its employees taken within
the scope of their employment.” Hamilton v. Carell, 243 F.3d 992, 1001 (6th Cir. 2001).
Easterling’s theory of liability against the Attorney General is flawed for a number of
reasons -- most significantly, Easterling’s erroneous contention that federal judges are
“subordinates” of the Attorney General. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 501, 503; U.S. Const. art. II and III.
The Attorney General of the United States is the head of the United States Department of Justice,
an agency within the executive branch. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 501, 503. The judicial branch is a
wholly separate, independent, and co-equal branch of the United States government. See Const.
art. II and III. Easterling’s contention that federal judges are “subordinates” of the Attorney
General -- and that the Attorney General is, therefore, vicariously liable for the conduct of
federal judges -- is frivolous. Dismissal of this case is warranted on this basis alone.
Nevertheless, the Court further notes that, insofar as Easterling asserts official capacity
claims against the Attorney General, such claims are barred by sovereign immunity. Cf. United
States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 399 (1976).
Further, even assuming Easterling alleged unconstitutional conduct by an actual
subordinate of the Attorney General, the undersigned notes that there exists no vicarious liability
under a respondeat superior theory for § 1985 claims. See Owens v. Haas, 601 F.2d 1242, 1247
(2d Cir. 1979); Bouquett v. Clemmer, 626 F. Supp. 46, 48 (S.D. Ohio 1985); Edmonds v. Dillin,
485 F. Supp. 722, 725 (N.D. Ohio 1980).
In addition to the foregoing, Easterling’s “allegations of conspiracy under § 1985(3) are
meritless because [he] has not alleged that the defendants were motivated by a racial or ethnic
animus.” Elrod v. Hawry, 53 F. App’x 770, 772 (6th Cir. 2002); see also Vakilian v. Shaw, 335
F.3d 509, 518 (6th Cir. 2003) (stating that claims under § 1985(3) require that “[t]he acts which
are alleged to have deprived the plaintiff of equal protection must be the result of class-based
Finally, insofar as the Easterling’s complaint could be liberally construed to assert
individual capacity claims for the individual conduct of the Attorney General, such claims must
be dismissed for failure to allege any facts regarding the Attorney General’s personal
involvement in any conspiracy to deprive Easterling of any Constitutional right. Cf. Marcilis v.
Twp. of Redford, 693 F.3d 589, 596 (6th Cir. 2012) (stating that, “[a]bsent vicarious liability,
each Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own
Based upon all of the foregoing, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that: (1) Defendant’s
motion to dismiss (doc. 17) be GRANTED; and (2) that this case be TERMINATED on the
June 7, 2017
s/ Michael J. Newman
Michael J. Newman
United States Magistrate Judge
NOTICE REGARDING OBJECTIONS
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), any party may serve and file specific, written
objections to the proposed findings and recommendations within FOURTEEN days after being
served with this Report and Recommendation. This period is not extended by virtue of Fed. R.
Civ. P. 6(d) if served on you by electronic means, such as via the Court’s CM/ECF filing system.
If, however, this Report and Recommendation was served upon you by mail, this deadline is
extended to SEVENTEEN DAYS by application of Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d). Parties may seek an
extension of the deadline to file objections by filing a motion for extension, which the Court may
grant upon a showing of good cause.
Any objections filed shall specify the portions of the Report and Recommendation
objected to, and shall be accompanied by a memorandum of law in support of the objections. If
the Report and Recommendation is based, in whole or in part, upon matters occurring of record
at an oral hearing, the objecting party shall promptly arrange for the transcription of the record,
or such portions of it as all parties may agree upon or the Magistrate Judge deems sufficient,
unless the assigned District Judge otherwise directs.
A party may respond to another party’s objections within FOURTEEN days after being
served with a copy thereof. As noted above, this period is not extended by virtue of Fed. R. Civ.
P. 6(d) if served on you by electronic means, such as via the Court’s CM/ECF filing system. If,
however, this Report and Recommendation was served upon you by mail, this deadline is
extended to SEVENTEEN DAYS by application of Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d).
Failure to make objections in accordance with this procedure may forfeit rights on appeal.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 153-55 (1985); United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947, 949-50
(6th Cir. 1981).
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