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Moore v. Yardely

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 19, 2019

MAURICE MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
LAURIE YARDELY,[1] County Court Judge; Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint on September 5, 2018. (Filing No. 1.) He has been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 6.) The court now conducts an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff brings this action against Lancaster County Court Judge Laurie Yardley (“Judge Yardley”) in her official and individual capacities. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on or about May 30, 2018, Judge Yardley, while sitting as a member of the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission Disciplinary Board (hereinafter “Commission”), voted to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against Judge Darla S. Ideus, [2] another judge “who practice[d] in the same Hall of Justice and Law Enforcement Center . . . with [Judge Yardley].” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 2, 5.) Plaintiff alleges Judge Yardley's action violated “Canon, Code of Judicial Conduct, ” several provisions of the Nebraska Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and his right to equal protection of the laws. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 2-4.) Based on the documents attached to Plaintiff's Complaint, Plaintiff seems to allege, in conclusory fashion, that Judge Yardley's actions were racially motivated. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 6.)

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $1 million. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 4.) Plaintiff also asks for a declaration that Judge Yardley's action caused him emotional injuries and violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Nebraska Constitution, [3] 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Plaintiff's right to equal protection of the laws. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 3-4.)

         II. APPLICABLE LEGAL 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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Sovereign Immunity

         Plaintiff sued Judge Yardley, a state county court judge, in her official capacity and in her individual capacity. Sovereign immunity prevents the court from exercising jurisdiction over claims for damages against Judge Yardley in her official capacity.

         The Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages by private parties against a state. See, e.g., Egerdahl v. Hibbing Cmty. Coll., 72 F.3d 615, 618-19 (8th Cir. 1995); Dover Elevator Co. v. Arkansas State Univ., 64 F.3d 442, 446-47 (8th Cir. 1995). Any award of retroactive monetary relief payable by the state, including for back pay or damages, is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment absent a waiver of immunity by the state or an override of immunity by Congress. See, e.g., Dover Elevator Co., 64 F.3d at 444; Nevels v. Hanlon, 656 F.2d 372, 377-78 (8th Cir. 1981). A state's sovereign immunity extends to public officials sued in their official capacities as “[a] suit against a public employee in his or her official capacity is merely a suit against the public employer.” Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1999).

         Here, Plaintiff brought suit against Judge Yardley in her official capacity. As a county court judge within the Nebraska Judicial Branch, Judge Yardley is a state official, and Plaintiff's official-capacity claims are claims against the state. See Tyler v. Kimes, No. 8:18CV74, 2018 WL 3057873, at *2 (D. Neb. June 20, 2018) (citing Tisdell v. Crow Wing Cnty., No. CIV. 13-2531 PJS/LIB, 2014 WL 1757929, at *7 (D. Minn. Apr. 30, 2014) (official-capacity claims against state court judge are claims against state)). There is nothing in the record before the court showing that the State of Nebraska waived, or that Congress ...


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