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Agrawal v. Pallmeyer

February 15, 2008

SHREE MOHAN AGRAWAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
REBECCA R. PALLMEYER, ANDREW LAMBERTSON, RONALD S. SAFER, NEIL LLOYD, KRISTEN L. MERCADO, AND BROOKE D. ANTHONY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James T. Moody United States District Court

OPINION AND ORDER

Shree Agrawal, a prisoner confined at the Menard Correctional Center, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and as a Bivins action, asserting violation of his federally protected rights. Agrawal names as defendants Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Assistant Illinois Attorney General Andrew Lambertson, and attorneys Ronald Safer, Neil Lloyd, Kristen Mercado, and Brooke Anthony of Schiff Hardin, LLP. He seeksdamages from defendants Lambertson, Safer, Lloyd, Mercado, and Anthony in their individual capacities and damages from Judge Pallmeyer in her individual and official capacities. He also seeks injunctive and declaratory relief on his claims against Judge Pallmeyer.

Agrawal'scomplaint presents two claims. In his first claim, he alleges that "violation of plaintiff's right for access to court and breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy for these defendants." (Complaint at p. 2). In claim two, he asserts that "judicial immensity is unconstitutional." (Complaint at p. 2).

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the court must review the merits of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, or any portion of a complaint, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Courts apply the same standard under § 1915A as when addressing a motion under RULE 12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. , , 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007).

Erickson v. Pardus, 550 U.S. , ; 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (parallel citations omitted).

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitlement to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ___, ___; 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (quotation marks, ellipsis, citations and footnote omitted).

While, for most types of cases, the Federal Rules eliminated the cumbersome requirement that a claimant set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim, Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a "showing," rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only "fair notice" of the nature of the claim, but also "grounds" on which the claim rests.

Id. at n.3(quotation marks and citation omitted). Nevertheless,

A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Cf. Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(f) ("All pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice").

Erickson v. Pardus, 550 U.S. __, __; 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2000 (2007) (quotation marks and citations omitted). However, "on a motion to dismiss, courts are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Bell v. Twombley, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (quotation marks omitted).

I. Claims against Judge Pallmeyer

Agrawal asserts in his complaint that Judge Pallmeyer presided over a case he filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Agrawal v. Briley, et al., No. 1:02CV6807.*fn1 He further alleges that her denial of a pro se motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint in that case violated his federally protected rights. In his complaint, Agrawal acknowledges the doctrine of judicial immunity, but argues that this court should rule it unconstitutional, and not apply it in this case. He seeks damages against Judge Pallmeyer, injunctive relief removing her from presiding over Agrawal v. Briley, and declaratory relief declaring the doctrine of judicial immunity to be unconstitutional.

The doctrine of judicial immunity dates back at least to the Supreme Court's opinion in Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335 (1871). Under this doctrine, judges are not liable in civil actions for their judicial acts unless they have acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978); John v. Barron, 897 F.2d 1387, 1391 (7th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 821 (1990); Dellenbach v. Letsinger, 889 F.2d 755, 758 (7th Cir.1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1085 (1990); Eades v. Sterlinske, 810 F.2d 723, 725 (7th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 847 (1987). "A judge will not be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather, he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the 'clear absence of all jurisdiction.'" Stump, 435 U.S. at 356-57, (quoting Bradley, 80 U.S. at 351). Furthermore, "[a] judge is absolutely immune for his judicial acts even if his exercise of authority is flawed by the commission of grave procedural errors." Id. at 359. Judge Pallmeyer is ...


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