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Ashford v. Bowie

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 8, 2016

TIMOTHY L. ASHFORD, TIMOTHY L. ASHFORD, P.C.L.L.O., Plaintiffs,
v.
W. RUSSELL BOWIE, CRAIG MCDERMOTT, THOMAS RILEY, JAMES GLEASON, TIMOTHY BURNS, and DERICK VAUGHN, Individually, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LYLE E. STROM, SENIOR JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of defendants, W. Russell Bowie, Craig McDermott, Thomas Riley, James Gleason, Timothy Burns, and Derick Vaughn (collectively the “defendants”) to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Filing No. 54). The matter has been fully briefed. See Filing Nos. 55, 59, and 60. After review of the motion, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable law, the Court finds as follows.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs filed suit on January 12, 2015 (Filing No. 1). On September 1, 2015, the Court granted plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint for a second time (Filing No. 32). The Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) alleges violations of the Nebraska Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-901 to 13-928, civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, Title VII violations, as well as violations of the Nebraska and United States Constitutions. See generally Filing No. 31. Specifically plaintiffs allege defendants denial of his application to be “placed on the list by the panel to receive court appointment in murder cases” is racially based and in violation of the law. (Id. at 7).

         On January 11, 2016, the Court denied plaintiffs’ request for an extension of time to serve some of the named defendants and dismissed the SAC as to all defendants. The Court reasoned plaintiffs “failed to serve any of the defendants . . . ha[d] not executed service to the defendants to which summons had[d] been issued . . . [and] [s]ummons ha[d] not been issued for three defendants.” (Filing No. 36 at 2). The Court also found that plaintiffs “failed to show good cause for the failure to timely serve.” (Id.)

         However, on May 9, 2016, the Court altered and amended in part, the January 11, 2016, dismissal. See Filing No. 52. In the Court’s May 9, 2016 order, the Court stated: “[a]s of January 11, 2016, the Court was not aware that any defendants were served because plaintiffs failed to provide proof of service to the Court as required by Rule 4.” (Id. at 4). The Court then recognized that “[o]n January 15, 2016, the plaintiffs filed returned executed summons for some of the named defendants.” (Id. at 5). The Court then amended the part of the January 11, 2016 order that dismissed defendants McDermott, Vaughn, Gleason, Riley, Burns, and Bowie.[1] (Id.)

         On May 19, 2016, the now reinstated defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) claiming the applicability of judicial and quasi-judicial immunity bars plaintiffs’ claims.

         LAW

         A. Judicial Immunity

         “[J]udicial immunity is an immunity from suit, not just from ultimate assessment of damages.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11, 112 S.Ct. 286, 116 L.Ed.2d 9 (1991) (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985)). The United States Supreme Court has determined that judicial immunity “is overcome in only two sets of circumstances. 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.” Mireless, 502 U.S. at 11 (citing Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227-29, 108 S.Ct. 538, 98 L.Ed.2d 555 (1988); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 360, 356-57, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978); Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 351, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1872)).

         In order to determine whether the act is judicial, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has provided: “[a]n act is a judicial act if it is one normally performed by a judge and if the complaining party is dealing with the judge in his judicial capacity.” Schottel v. Young, 687 F.3d 370, 373 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Birch v. Mazander, 678 F.2d 754, 756 (8th Cir. 1982) (internal citations omitted)).

         B. Quasi-Judicial Immunity

         “When judicial immunity is extended to officials other than judges, it is because their judgments are functionally comparable to those of judges -- that is, because they, too, exercise a discretionary judgment as a part of their function.” Robinson v. Freeze, 15 F.3d 107, 108 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting Antoine v. Byers & Anderson, Inc., 508 U.S. 429, 436, 113 S.Ct. 2167, 124 L.Ed.2d 391 (1993) (internal citations and quotations omitted)). Extension of this quasi-judicial immunity turns on ...


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