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GinA v. Saufley

United States District Court, D. Maine

May 24, 2016

GinA, Plaintiff
v.
LEIGH SAUFLEY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS AND AFTER SCREENING PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 1915 AND COK WARNING

          Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff GinA (f/k/a Gina Turcotte) alleges that Defendants Leigh Saufley, Joseph Jabar, Robert Mullen, Michaela Murphy, and Valerie Stanfill, all members of the Maine state judiciary, acted in “complete absence of all jurisdiction” and deprived Plaintiff of federal rights as part of an “ongoing criminal conspiracy” involving housing-related litigation to which Plaintiff has been a party. Amended Complaint at 15, 30, 71 (ECF No. 12). Plaintiff has also filed a motion for the appointment of stand-by counsel (ECF No. 19), and a motion to transfer a matter currently pending in state court (ECF No. 9).

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in this case in forma pauperis, her pleadings are subject to screening prior to service. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Following a review of Plaintiff’s amended complaint, because Plaintiff seeks monetary relief against defendants who are immune from such relief and otherwise requests relief that is unavailable from this Court, Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to dismissal without service on Defendants. Accordingly, the Court denies Plaintiff’s motion for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 19), denies Plaintiff’s motion to transfer (ECF No. 9), and dismisses Plaintiff’s amended complaint.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed her complaint on February 16, 2016, and was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis on February 17, 2016. On March 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed her motion to transfer, through which motion to transfer she seeks to transfer a state court forcible entry and detainer proceeding (FED) regarding an apartment that previously existed at 32 Court Street in Augusta. On March 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend her complaint in this case, which motion the Court granted. (ECF No. 11.)

         CASE SUMMARY

         Plaintiff’s action is based on the Defendants’ alleged involvement in proceedings related to certain property on which the Capital Judicial Center and its parking facilities were constructed. According to Plaintiff, as part of the construction project, the State of Maine acquired the apartment building in which Plaintiff resided. Before the State acquired the property, Plaintiff resisted efforts to evict her from her tenancy, but her landlord, Gregory Roy, secured Plaintiff’s eviction through FED proceedings in state court. Plaintiff asserts that the proceedings in state court were unfair and predetermined because Defendants wanted to ensure that the Capital Judicial Center project was completed on time. Plaintiff also alleges (1) that Defendants’ interest in the development of the Capital Judicial Center took precedence over her right to remain at the 32 Court Street address, (2) that Defendants were biased Defendants against her in court proceedings, and (3) that “Defendants and their co-conspirators’ thinking was not about serving low income disabled homeless tenants or about fulfilling their legal duty as state judges who all have a legal duty under [the Fair Housing Act] inter alia.” Am. Compl. at 73, ¶ 17 (emphasis in original).

         Plaintiff characterizes the alleged conduct as “non-judicial.” See e.g., Am. Compl. at 15 & ¶ 131.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants should have recused from her proceedings, and that they erroneously considered “extrajudicial information” in the course of rendering their judgments, were “absent all jurisdiction, ” and were “fatally biased” because they considered extrajudicial information. See e.g., Am. Compl. ¶¶ 139, 141, 142, 145.) Plaintiff further asserts that as the result of a long-standing bias against her, Defendants have erroneously and unfairly ruled against her in other matters, including a FED proceeding brought against Plaintiff in connection with a dwelling in Sidney, Maine.[1]

         PLAINTIFF’S CLAIMS

         In 13 counts, Plaintiff asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(2), and 1986, and alleges her case involves rights secured by the First Amendment, the Seventh Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff also cites, and asserts claims under, Title II of the ADA, the Fair Housing Act (three counts), and 28 U.S.C. § 1746. In addition to an award of compensatory and punitive damages, Plaintiff requests declaratory and injunctive relief regarding the legitimacy and future course of state proceedings. She also requests an investigation into all prior state court proceedings in which she has been a party. Plaintiff would also like this Court to “remov[e] all Defendants from the bench” and “forever bar[] Defendants from holding any government or public office.” Am. Compl. at 96.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff’s Motion for Appointment of Counsel

         Plaintiff has requested the appointment of a “Stand-by Attorney.” (ECF No. 17 (emphasis in original).) Plaintiff seeks the appointment pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3613(b), which provides that “[u]pon application by a person alleging a discriminatory housing practice …, the court may appoint an attorney for such person.” Courts considering such motions generally rely on the legal standard applied to applications for appointment of counsel under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). See, e.g., Hicks v. Makaha Valley Plantation Homeowners Ass’n, No. CIV. 1:14-cv-00254, 2015 WL 1608454, at *3 (D. Haw. Apr. 9, 2015) (collecting cases).

         In this Circuit, a court considering a request for counsel in a Title VII case must weigh three factors: (1) the merits of the plaintiff’s case; (2) the efforts by the plaintiff to obtain legal representation; and (3) the plaintiff’s financial ability. Any one of these factors may be determinative. Gadson v. Concord Hosp., 966 F.2d 32, 35 (1st Cir. 1992). As explained below, Plaintiff has not alleged an actionable claim against Defendants. Because Plaintiff’s allegations lack merit, her motion for appointment is denied.

         II. Screening Analysis

         Under the federal in forma pauperis statute, federal courts are authorized to waive the filing fees ordinarily required to commence a civil action in order to “lower judicial access barriers to the indigent.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). “[H]owever, Congress recognized that ‘a litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing’” cases without merit, resulting in substantial burdens on both the courts and prospective defendants. Id. (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)). Indeed, in 1996 Congress amended the in forma pauperis statute to authorize[2] district courts to screen and dismiss a case proceeding in forma pauperis not only upon a finding that the case is frivolous or malicious, but also upon a finding that the Plaintiff’s allegations fail to state a claim or seek monetary relief against a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat 1321 (April 26, 1996).

         A. Judicial Immunity

         “Judges have absolute immunity … because of the special nature of their responsibilities.” Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 511 (1978). The “absolute” nature of judicial immunity is reflected in the Supreme Court’s explanation that judicial immunity is “not overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice, the existence of which ordinarily cannot be resolved without engaging in discovery and eventual trial.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991). Even ...


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