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Muntjan v. Creighton

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 28, 2014

PETER J. MUNTJAN, Plaintiff,
v.
AUDREY CREIGHTON, ROBERT GREENBERG, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Peter J. Muntjan is suing the Honorable Audrey Creighton, formerly Associate Judge on the District Court for the Montgomery County, and the Honorable Robert Greenberg, Associate Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland.[1] Muntjan brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his rights under the First, Fifth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, common law, and the Maryland Declaration of Rights and the Maryland Constitution. Muntjan is eligible to proceed as an indigent and his Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis will be granted.

I. Background

Muntjan's claims are premised on state court proceedings concerning his June 14, 2004, vehicular accident in Montgomery County, Maryland.[2] In Muntjan v. Maradiaga, Case Number XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, Muntjan brought tort claims against the other party involved in the accident. Following a bench trial, Judge Creighton ruled against Muntjan.

Muntjan's claim on appeal that the trial judge improperly favored defendant on the basis of Hispanic ethnicity was rejected by Judge Greenberg. Muntjan's Petition for Writ of Certiorari was denied by the Court of Appeals of Maryland on April 2, 2012. Muntjan faults Defendants for failing to recuse themselves from ruling in his case. As relief, Muntjan is requesting $30, 0000 in compensatory damages and punitive and other damages of $90, 000.

I. Discussion

This Complaint seeks to hold two state court judges liable for decisions arising out of the performance of their judicial duties. It is well-settled law that judges are entitled to immunity to suit in the performance of their judicial functions. See Mireless v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 13 (1991). "The doctrine of judicial immunity is founded upon the premise that a judge, in performing his or her judicial duties, should be free to act upon his or her convictions without threat of suit for damages." Id. (citations omitted). Therefore, "[a] judge is absolutely immune from liability for his [or her] judicial acts even if his [or her] exercise of authority is flawed by the commission of grave procedural errors." Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978). Further, judicial immunity is a shield from suit, not just from assessment of damages. Mireless, 502 U.S. at 11.

Judicial immunity can be overcome in two circumstances. First, a judge is not immune from liability for his or her non-judicial acts. Stump, 435 U.S. at 360. Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, that were taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction. Id. at 356-57. In determining whether an act is judicial, a court examines whether the act in contention is a function normally performed by a judge. Id. at 362. Neither circumstance applies here.

Muntjan does not dispute that Defendants' decisions were rendered in the performance of their judicial duties nor does he question their exercise of jurisdiction. Instead, these claims are premised on his disappointment with the outcome of the proceedings. Dismissal of this case is compelled by the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity as well as under federal statute at 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) (directing courts to dismiss cases of litigants proceeding in forma pauperis where defendants are immune from suit for damages).

II. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, this matter will be dismissed by separate Order to follow.


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