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Lemon v. Hong

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 2, 2016

ARRON FREDERICK LEMON Plaintiff,
v.
JEANNIE JINKUNG HONG, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         On May 27, 2016, the self-represented plaintiff, Arron Frederick Lemon, filed a Motion For Reconsideration (ECF 7, "Motion"), pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1), (4) and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking reconsideration of this Court’s Order of May 3, 2016. ECF 4. In that Order, this Court dismissed Lemon’s suit because his Complaint (ECF 1) failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Lemon’s Motion was accompanied by a proposed Amended Complaint. ECF 7-1. Also on May 27, 2016, Lemon filed a notice of appeal to the Fourth Circuit from the Order dismissing the case. ECF 5.[1]

         I. Factual Background

         The factual and procedural background pertinent to this case may be found in the Memorandum issued on May 3, 2016. ECF 3. I incorporate the Memorandum here by reference, and shall repeat facts only as necessary to resolve Lemon’s pending Motion.

         On January 16, 2014, Judge Hong presided in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City over Lemon’s criminal proceeding for marijuana possession. As a result of what occurred during the hearing, Judge Hong expressed concern about Lemon’s mental health status.

         During the course of the hearing, Lemon complained to Judge Hong that his case was "over four hundred something days old" (ECF 1, ¶ 30), and in violation of the State’s 180-day "Hick’s Rule." Id. ¶¶ 30, 38. He also accused the judge of bias. Id. Judge Hong initially called for a jury (Id. ¶ 33) and Lemon did not want a lawyer. Id. ¶¶ 34-36. Moreover, he demanded to confront his accuser, the State of Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 40-44. A jury trial was not convened, however. Ultimately, Judge Hong found Lemon in contempt of court and sentenced him to 120 days’ incarceration. ECF 1-10 (Order of Direct Criminal Contempt); ECF 1 at 18 ¶ 79.

         On March 6, 2014, Lemon entered a plea of guilty before Judge Hong in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on a charge of marijuana possession in criminal case 813032017. Judge Hong imposed a two-day sentence of time served. See https://ecf.mdd.circ4.dcn/cgi-bin/DktRpt.pl?847608536591934-L10-1.

         On March 23, 2016, Lemon filed suit in federal court against Judge Hong, based on his State criminal proceedings. In that case, Lemon also sued the State prosecutor and a defense attorney. See ECF 1 in Case JKB-16-872. By Memorandum and Order of March 30, 2016, the Honorable James K. Bredar dismissed Lemon’s suit, without prejudice, for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. See Lemon v. Hong, et al., JKB-16-872, ECF 3, ECF 4.

         Days later, on April 4, 2016, Lemon again filed suit against Judge Hong, which is the case sub judice. He alleged that she acted without jurisdiction in his criminal proceeding and in disregard of his right to a speedy trial and due process. ECF 2-3, ECF 6. Lemon also claimed that Judge Hong’s conduct was "QUASI-JUDICIAL" (ECF 1, ¶ 3), and that her conduct was in disregard of his right to a speedy trial and due process. ECF 1 at 3, 6. And, Lemon claimed that he pleaded guilty under duress (ECF 1 ¶ 1), because of his earlier sentence for contempt of court. Lemon claimed Judge Hong acted with "evil motive, intent to injure, ill will and fraud under color of law" to deny him a speedy trial, deny him due process, use the Maryland Courts for her own personal gain, and cause him physical and emotional harm. ECF 1 at 8-9; see also Lemon v. Hong, et al., JKB-16-872. ECF 1 at 2-5.

         As relief, Lemon sought $12 million dollars in damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. ECF 1 at 21. Additionally, he sought declaratory relief, stating his constitutional rights were violated. Id. at 22. As injunctive relief, he asked to enjoin the State of Maryland from attempting "to impart the Defendant with any immunity" and to stop defendant from "engaging in Unconstitutional and Unlawful acts [sic]." Id. at 23-24.

         By Memorandum and Oder of May 3, 2016, I dismissed Lemon’s Complaint because his claims against Judge Hong were based on determinations she rendered during the course of pretrial proceedings. See ECF 3; ECF 4. I concluded that these determinations were clearly within the scope of her judicial responsibilities and constituted functions typically performed by a judge. As explained to Lemon by Judge Bredar, and again in my Memorandum (ECF 3 at 5), a judge is "absolutely immune from liability for his [or her] judicial acts." Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978). Lemon’s bald assertions that Judge Hong’s decisions were made in the absence of jurisdiction were unsubstantiated and bordered on the frivolous. ECF 3 at 5. On this ground, I dismissed this case for failure to state a claim.

         I also noted that, to the extent Lemon’s Complaint represented an attempt to appeal his State conviction in federal court, abstention was warranted under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923). Insofar as Lemon sought damages under 28 U.S.C. §1983 for allegedly unlawful criminal proceedings against him, a cause of action for damages attributable to an unconstitutional conviction or sentence does not accrue until the conviction or sentence has been invalidated. Heck v. Humphrey. 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 and nn. 6-8 (1994). Lemon did not demonstrate invalidation of his conviction or sentence, and his claims for damages were dismissed on this basis as well.

         II. Discussion

         A. Rules 59 (e) and 60(b) of the Federal Rules ...


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