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Tyler v. Vicki

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 20, 2016

BILLY TYLER, Plaintiff,
v.
VICKI, ETTA GRAVES, and LESLIE DOUGLAS, Clerks of Douglas County Court, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         I. APPLICABLE STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

         The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to "nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, " or "their complaint must be dismissed." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("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").

         "The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'" Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, "[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties." Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         II. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff, a nonprisoner, has filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against three clerks of the Douglas County Court in their official and individual capacities, requesting an injunction requiring the clerks to "file our notices of appeal in criminal traffic cases CR16-8023 etc. take appeal to judge." (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that the clerks "have destroyed" his appeals and have failed to take his "NRS 29-2412 motions to judge for his . . . order."[1] Plaintiff seeks $1 million in damages.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Access to the Courts

         Liberally construing Plaintiff's limited allegations, Plaintiff seems to be claiming that the county clerks' actions have deprived him of his constitutional right to access the courts. While the constitutional basis for this right has been recognized as "unsettled, " Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 & n.12 (2002), [2] an access-to-the-courts claim (whatever its constitutional basis) requires a plaintiff to have a nonfrivolous, arguable, underlying claim, id., and the plaintiff must show that the county clerks' actions caused the plaintiff to suffer actual injury or prejudice. Maness v. Dist. Court of Logan Cty., 495 F.3d 943, 944 (8th Cir. 2007). The right of access to the courts "applies not only to the actual denial of access to the courts, but also to situations in which the plaintiff has been denied meaningful access by some impediment put up by the defendant." Scheeler v. City of St. Cloud, Minn., 402 F.3d 826, 830 (8th Cir. 2005).

         In this case, Plaintiff alleges nothing about the case the Defendants have prevented him from appealing or about the claims at issue in that case such that the court can analyze whether Plaintiff has a nonfrivolous, arguable, underlying claim and whether the Defendants' actions caused Plaintiff to suffer actual injury or prejudice. Plaintiff will be given leave to file an amended complaint in order to make such allegations.

         B. Quasi-Judicial Immunity

         Court clerks are absolutely immune for "discretionary" acts, which are those taken at a judge's direction or pursuant to court rule. Geitz v. Overall, 62 Fed.App'x 744, 2003 WL 1860542, at *1 (8th Cir. 2003) (unpublished) (citing Antoine v. Byers & Anderson, Inc.,508 U.S. 429, 436 (1993)). "Court clerks have absolute quasi-judicial immunity from damages for civil rights violations when they perform tasks that are an integral part of the judicial process, unless the clerks acted in the clear absence of all ...


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