United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Houston Byrd, Jr., pro se
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
RICHARD NELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) of Magistrate Judge David Schultz
dated May 21, 2018 [Doc. No. 6]. In the R&R, Magistrate
Judge Schultz recommends that: (1) Plaintiff Houston Byrd,
Jr.'s Application for Leave to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis (“IFP Application”) [Doc. No. 3] be
denied; (2) this action be dismissed without prejudice
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)-(iii) because
the only named Defendant, Judge Karen Janisch, is immune from
suit; and (3) Byrd's Motion for Default Judgment [Doc.
No. 5] be denied as moot. On June 1, 2018, the Clerk of Court
received and filed two documents sent by Byrd: (1) a document
titled “Motion for Objections, Findings and Factual
Reconsideration” (“Objection”) [Doc. No.
7]; and (2) a letter again objecting to the R&R
(“Objection Letter”) [Doc. No. 8]. This Court
construes both of these documents collectively as Byrd's
Objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below,
and based on a full, de novo review of the relevant
files and records, this Court overrules Byrd's Objections
and adopts the R&R in its entirety.
April 2, 2018, Byrd filed a Complaint listing Judge Karen A.
Janisch as the sole Defendant. (Compl. [Doc. No. 1] ¶
2.) On the same day, Byrd filed his IFP Application. As
correctly found by the magistrate judge, although it is
difficult to discern the factual basis for Byrd's present
suit, it appears from his filings that he was the plaintiff
in a state court action in which Judge Janisch was the
presiding judge. (See Ex. 1 to Compl. [Doc. No. 1-1]
at 8-14.) That suit appears to have been dismissed,
(see Compl. at 6), and in his present filings, Byrd
takes issue with many aspects of that case. (See,
e.g., id. (“The [state] court has failed
to address numerous Motions before it;” “The
[state] court has failed to comply with the Rules of
Court;” “A judge who deliberately or knowingly
and arbitrarily disregards the legal standards, causing delay
and expense to litigants is considered to have committed
judicial misconduct.”).) In addition to conclusory and
generalized allegations that Judge Janisch acted unfairly or
improperly, Byrd's Complaint is replete with quotes about
the judicial code of conduct and the legal standards for
summary judgment and negligence, among others. (See
Id. at 6-14.) Byrd's requested relief is for this
Court to grant this matter “in its entirety OR Remand
back to the tr[ial] court for proper adjudication due to
fraud and perjury pursuant to the Rules of Court for
Minnesota and their Constitution and the United States
Constitution pursuant to the advice of U.S. Department of
Justice.” (Id. at 5.)
R&R, Magistrate Judge Schultz concluded that although
Byrd qualifies financially for IFP status, “an IFP
applicant's Complaint will be dismissed if the Complaint
fails to state a cause of action on which relief may be
granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from suit.” (R&R at 2 (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)-(iii)).) The magistrate judge
concluded that such dismissal was warranted here, as
“the only named Defendant, Judge Karen Janisch, is
immune from suit under the doctrine of judicial
immunity.” (Id.) The magistrate judge noted
that “[i]t is well-settled that judges are absolutely
immune from civil lawsuits that are based on allegedly
wrongful acts or omissions that occurred while performing
their judicial functions, ” and that neither of the two
potential exceptions to this rule were present in this case.
(Id.) As such, the magistrate judge recommended that
Byrd's IFP Application be denied, that this action be
dismissed in its entirety, and that Byrd's Motion for
Default Judgment be denied as moot. (Id. at 3.) Byrd
filed timely Objections.
district court must undertake an independent, de
novo review of those portions of the R&R to which a
party objects and “may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C);
see also D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3).
Objections, Byrd advances three primary contentions. First,
he seems to allege that Judge Janisch is not actually immune
from suit. (See, e.g., Obj. at 3 (“Ms. Janish
[sic] is a state employee so the numerous references to
federal immunity cases are immaterial and
irrelevant.”).) Second, and relatedly, he argues that
his Complaint should not be dismissed because, in his view,
he has complied with the requirements of notice pleading set
forth by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 12.
(See Obj. Letter at 1.) Finally, he appears to
suggest that because Judge Janisch failed to file an answer,
he is entitled to an entry of default judgment, and that the
magistrate judge impermissibly “argu[ed]” or
advocated for Judge Janisch. (See Id. (“The
Defendant is in Default so why is the Magistrate arguing for
the Defendant? One must question why the Defendant
couldn't respond”); id. at 2
(“Judge Karen A. Janisch is clearly the defendant in
this matter and not the Magistrate.”); see
also Obj. Letter at 1 (reciting Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 55 (default and default judgment)).)
Court rejects each of Byrd's contentions. First, as the
magistrate judge correctly noted, the doctrine of judicial
immunity provides that a judge is absolutely immune from
civil suits if “(1) the judge had jurisdiction over the
subject matter, and (2) the acts complained of were judicial
acts, i.e., performed within the judicial
capacity.” White v. Bloom, 621 F.2d 276, 279
(8th Cir. 1980) (citations omitted). As the Supreme Court has
Although unfairness and injustice to a litigant may result on
occasion, it is a general principle of the highest importance
to the proper administration of justice that a judicial
officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be
free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of
personal consequences to himself.
Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 10 (1991) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Furthermore “[a]bsolute
immunity defeats a suit at the outset, ” Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 419 n.13 (1975), and it
“is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or
malice.” Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11. Here, Byrd
does not claim that Judge Janisch acted without jurisdiction,
and there is absolutely no indication that her alleged
conduct involved nonjudicial acts. See Schottel
v. Young, 687 F.3d 370, 373 (8th Cir. 2012) (“An
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.” (quoting Birch v.
Mazander, 678 F.2d 754, 756 (8th Cir. 1982))).
Accordingly, Judge Janisch is plainly immune from suit.
because Judge Janisch is entitled to absolute judicial
immunity, this suit must be dismissed. See Id.
(affirming district court's dismissal at pleadings stage
based on judicial immunity); 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)-(iii) (providing that in proceedings in
forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case
at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . .
. fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or .
. . seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief.”). Byrd's arguments that he has
met the notice pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure are to no avail; as already described,
absolute immunity defeats a suit at the very start, so Byrd
has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
See Liles v. Reagan, 804 F.2d 493, 495 (8th Cir.
1986) (“Appellants' section 1983 claims were
properly dismissed because Judge Reagan is entitled to
absolute immunity in this action.”).
Byrd's arguments that Judge Janisch is in default fail
for the same reasons. Having determined that this suit is
barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity, any ...