United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
July 22, 2004.
Versuslaw JONES, Plaintiff,
KENNETH WRIGHT, JR., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD GUZMAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Lois Jones brings this pro se complaint against
Defendant Judge Kenneth Wright, Jr. under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging violation of her due process and equal protection rights
under the Fourteenth Amendment. Before the Court is Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 12(b)(6).
For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.
On November 21, 2002, Defendant was the trial judge in a
probate matter involving the estate of James Trask, Sr.,
Plaintiff's father. (Compl. at 2.) During the course of the
trial, Defendant allegedly did not allow several particular
witnesses to testify. (Compl. at 2-3.) Plaintiff claims these
witnesses would have shown that her father was not receiving his
medication. (Compl. at 2-3.) In addition, Defendant allegedly
prevented Plaintiff from leaving the courtroom and ordered a
sheriff's deputy to obtain a medical report in Plaintiff's
possession that Defendant wanted. (Compl. at 3-4.) Plaintiff filed this action on October 16, 2003, alleging that
her father had been abused and neglected because Defendant's
behavior, including his "evidentiary rulings, orders, admissions
and omissions," exceeded his judicial authority. (Compl. at 2-3,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss argues that he is immune from
liability for his actions because they were judicial acts
properly within his jurisdiction.
On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6), courts take "all well-pleaded allegations of the
complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff." Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th
Cir. 2000). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests "the
sufficiency of the complaint, not . . . the merits" of the case.
Triad Assocs., Inc. v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586
(7th Cir. 1989). Dismissal is appropriate if "`it appears beyond
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of
his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). A pro se complaint should be
"liberally construed and not held to the stringent standards
expected of pleadings drafted by lawyers." McCormick v. City of
Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). However, this Court
is "not obliged to ignore any facts set forth in the complaint
that undermine the plaintiff's claim or to assign any weight to
unsupported conclusions of law." R.J.R. Servs., Inc. v. Aetna
Cas. & Sur. Co., 895 F.2d 279, 281 (7th Cir. 1989).
The Court need not directly address the substance of
Plaintiff's claims because Defendant has judicial immunity for
his actions. While Plaintiff concedes that judges have immunity
while engaged in their official capacity, Plaintiff asserts that
Defendant's behavior and actions were performed while in his personal capacity. (Compl. at
1.) Plaintiff complains about the following actions of the
Defendant: (1) failing to compel several particular witnesses to
testify; (2) failing to allow Plaintiff to testify; and (3)
retrieving a medical report from Plaintiff's possession.
Defendant has immunity if the acts complained of were judicial
acts performed within his jurisdiction. Stump v. Sparkman,
435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978). The immunity applies even if the judge
allegedly acted in error, id. at 359, or maliciously and
corruptly, Alexander v. Reid, No. 02 C 7059, 2003 WL 1733648,
at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2003) (citing Pierson v. Ray,
386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967)). Furthermore, the immunity fully applies to
actions brought under § 1983. Id.
Defendant's actions must satisfy a two-part test to qualify for
judicial immunity: (1) the acts must be within his jurisdiction;
and (2) the acts must be performed within his judicial capacity.
John v. Barron, 897 F.2d 1387, 1391 (7th Cir. 1990). First, the
acts alleged in the Complaint were within the jurisdiction of the
Illinois state court over which Defendant presided. See Ill.
Const. art. VI, § 9 (specifying that circuit courts "shall have
original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters. . . ."); see
also Stump, 435 U.S. at 356-57 (holding that there must be a
"clear absence of all jurisdiction" for a judge to be exposed to
liability). Moreover, Plaintiff does not even allege that
Defendant acted without jurisdiction.
Second, Defendant's acts were within his judicial capacity. The
factors relevant to determining whether an act is judicial are
whether the act is a function normally performed by a judge and
whether the parties dealt with the judge in his judicial
capacity. Stump, 435 U.S. at 362. Defendant's acts of not
compelling certain witnesses to testify, not allowing Plaintiff
to testify, and retrieving a document from Plaintiff's possession
are all clearly functions normally performed by judges. Furthermore, the alleged acts occurred while
Defendant was presiding over the trial, and thus, Defendant was
acting in a judicial capacity. Finally, the consequences of a
judge's actions or disagreement with a judge's actions are both
irrelevant in determining whether an act is judicial. See id.
at 363. Therefore, Defendant's acts were clearly within his
judicial capacity. Because judicial immunity applies to
Defendant's actions, the Complaint must be dismissed with
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [doc.
no. 8-1] is granted with prejudice. This is a final and
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