United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
se plaintiff filed a complaint against three state judges and
the state governor, complaining that they violated her rights
during divorce and child custody proceedings. Reviewing the
complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court
dismisses the complaint because it seeks federal court review
of state court decisions in violation of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine and because the state
officials are immune from suit for actions in their official
January 7, 2019, Jody Giguere filed a complaint in this
Court, with a jury demand, against three Maine District Court
Judges, Deputy Chief Judge Susan Sparaco, Judge Valerie
Stanfill, and Judge Charles Dow, as well as Governor Janet
Mills, based on her dissatisfaction with state court
proceedings regarding child custody and her divorce.
Compl. (ECF No. 1). On the same day, Ms. Giguere
filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis,
Mot. for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis
(ECF No. 2), which the Magistrate Judge granted on January 8,
2019. Order granting Mot. for Leave to Proceed in Forma
Pauperis (ECF No. 3).
federal in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is
designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts
for persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an action.
When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, however,
“the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the
court determines, ” that the action is “frivolous
or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
“Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua
sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare
prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of
answering such complaints.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).
considering whether a complaint states a claim for which
relief may be granted, the court asks “whether the
well-pleaded factual allegations, viewed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, state a claim for which relief
may be granted.” Small Justice LLC v. Xcentric
Ventures LLC, 873 F.3d 313, 321 (1st Cir. 2017) (quoting
Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d
1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011)). A complaint fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to “less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,
” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972),
this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not
required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a
claim.” Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890
(1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal court,
it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a
defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively
allege facts that identify the manner by which the defendant
subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a
remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,' possessing
‘only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute.'” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251,
256 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). “It is to be
presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction,
and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the
party asserting jurisdiction.” Kokkonen, 511
U.S. at 377 (citation omitted). “A court is duty-bound
to notice, and act upon, defects in its subject matter
jurisdiction sua sponte.” Spooner v. EEN,
Inc., 644 F.3d 62, 67 (1st Cir. 2011).
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the lower federal
courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by
‘state-court losers' challenging ‘state-court
judgments rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced.'” Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S.
459, 460 (2006) (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic
Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)); Walczak v.
Mass. State Retirement Bd., 141 F.3d 1150 (1st Cir.
1998) (unpublished) (citing District of Columbia Court of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476 (1983); Rooker
v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923)).
Here, Plaintiff complains about the decisions of and the
process followed by several state court judges. In other
words, Plaintiff challenges the validity of decisions of the
state court and the consequences of the decisions. To grant
Plaintiff the relief she seeks, the Court would have to
vacate or invalidate a series of state court judgments.
Plaintiff is thus precluded by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine from pursuing such relief in this Court.
event Plaintiff seeks relief against the state court judges
not be governed by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
Plaintiff fails to state an actionable claim because the
judges have absolute immunity from suit. “Judges have
absolute immunity not because of their particular location
within the Government but because of the special nature of
their responsibilities.” Butz v. Economou, 438
U.S. 478, 511 (1978). “[J]udicial 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). Rather, the immunity can
only be overcome in two instances. “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 complete absence of all
jurisdiction.” Id. at 11-12 (citations
case, Plaintiff has not alleged that the judges committed any
acts outside their official capacity and there is nothing in
the Complaint to suggest the state court lacked jurisdiction.
In addition, § 1983 precludes injunctive relief against
a judicial officer “unless a declaratory decree was
violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.” 42
U.S.C. § 1983. In this case, there are no allegations
that either a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory
relief was unavailable. See Peters v. Noonan, 871
F.Supp.2d 218, 226-27 (W.D.N.Y. 2012) (noting that the judge
named as a defendant in that action was sued in his official
capacity and there were no allegations that a declaratory
decree was violated or that declaratory relief was
unavailable). Given that the judges are immune from suit, and
because Plaintiff has alleged no facts that would support a
finding that the immunity is not applicable to the facts
alleged in this case, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
upon which she can recover against the defendant judges.
has also joined the state of Maine and the state's
Governor as Defendants. As Plaintiff alleges a constitutional
violation and seeks to invoke this Court's federal
question jurisdiction, any such claim would ...