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Moment v. Jackson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 15, 2017

MICHAEL MOMENT, #16-02335, Plaintiff,
v.
DWIGHT DAVE JACKSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         On December 21, 2016, Michael Moment filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 91983, naming the Honorable Dwight David Jackson as the sole defendant. Moment presents claims arising from his August 8, 2011 conviction in State v. Moment, Criminal Case No. 117643C (Cir. Ct. Montgomery Cty.)[1] Judge Jackson, Associate Judge for the Circuit Court of Maryland for Prince George's County, presided over the case. On August 2, 2016, Judge Jackson held a violation of probation hearing and found Moment m violation of his probation. Id. Docket No. 278. Moment's sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for February 13, 2017. Id. Docket No. 303.[2]

         The crux of Moments claim is that Judge Jackson violated his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution because he lacked legal authority to preside over Moments case in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County.[3] This claim is similar to the one he raised in Moment v. Malagari, Civil Actions No. PWG-16-2535 and PWG-16-2536 (D. Md.), which I dismissed without prejudice on August 25, 2016. In Moment v. Malagari, Civil Action No. PWG-16-2535, Moment filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, asserting Judge Jackson had illegally issued a bench warrant for his detention for violating his probation in case 117643C. He argued that Judge Jackson, as a member of the bench of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, had no legal authority issue a warrant in Montgomery County. I dismissed that case without prejudice for failure to demonstrate exhaustion of state court remedies. In the second case, Moment v. Malagari, Civil Action No. PWG-16-2536, which was filed as a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Moment raised the same claims and sought monetary damages. I dismissed the §1983 claims without prejudice based on Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

         In the instant matter, Moment seeks a hearing and $5, 000, 000 in damages for what he considers an "illegal court proceeding, illegal prosecution, and . . . illegal imprisonment." Compl. 5, ECF No. 1 5.[4] Moment also filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis which will be granted. ECF No. 2. The in forma pauperis statutes permits an indigent litigant to initiate an action in federal court without paying the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). To protect against possible abuses of tins privilege, the statute requires a court to dismiss any claim that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 1915A(b)(1) Although I recognize that Moment is a self-represented litigant and accord the Complaint liberal construction, dismissal is warranted under this standard.

         First, Judge Jackson's rulings are entitled to judiciary immunity. The doctrine of judicial immunity shields judges from monetary claims against them in both their official and individual capacities. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10 (1991) (per curiam). Judicial immunity is an absolute immunity: it does not merely protect a defendant from assessment of damages, but also protects a judge from damages suits entirely. Id. at 11. An act is still judicial, and immunity applies, even if the judge commits "grave procedural errors." Id. (quoting Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359(1978)). "[J]udges of courts of superior or general jurisdiction are not liable to civil actions for their judicial acts, even when such acts are m excess of their jurisdiction, and are alleged to have been done maliciously or corruptly." Id. at 355-56; see also Dean v. Shirer, 547 F.2d 227, 231 (4th Cir. 1976) (a judge may not be attacked for exercising judicial authority even if done improperly).

         In Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967), the United States Supreme Court explained the rationale for judicial immunity:

Few doctrines were more solidly established at common law than the immunity of judges from liability for damages for acts committed within their judicial Jurisdiction This immunity applies even when the judge is accused of acting maliciously and corruptly, and it "is not for the protection or benefit of a malicious or corrupt judge, but for the benefit of the public, whose interest it is that the judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions with independence and without fear of consequences." It is a judge's duty to decide all cases within his jurisdiction that are brought before him, including controversial cases that arouse the most intense feelings in the litigants. His errors may be corrected on appeal, but he should not have to fear that unsatisfied litigants may hound him with litigation charging malice or corruption. Imposing such a burden on judges would contribute not to principled and fearless decision-making but to intimidation.

Id. at 553-54 (citations omitted).

         Further, in a case such as this "[w]here success in a prisoner's 9 1983 damages action would implicitly question the validity of conviction or duration of sentence, the litigant must first achieve favorable termination of his available state, or federal habeas, opportunities to challenge the underlying conviction or sentence." Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 751. (2004) (citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)). "In order to recover damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment or for other harm whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 9 2254." Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. Moment provides no evidence that his conviction, sentence, or violation of probation was invalidated. Consequently, this claim must be dismissed without prejudice.

         The in forma pauperis statute at 28 U.S.C. 9 1915(g) provides that a prisoner may not bring a civil action without complete prepayment of the appropriate filing fee if the prisoner has brought, on three or more occasions, an action or appeal in a federal court that was dismissed as frivolous, as malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is in imminent danger of serious physical injury. As Moment was incarcerated at the time he initiated this Complaint and for the reasons stated above, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. I assigned Moment a first "strike" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 9 1915(g) in Moment v. Martel, Civil Action No. PWG-16-3966. (D. Md.), and a second strike in Moment v. Danai, Civil Action No. PWG-16-3976. (D. Md.). I will assign him a third "strike" in this case.

         Conclusion

         For these reasons, I will dismiss this case with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and assign Moment a third "strike" by separate order to follow. For the remainder of Moment's time in custody, he is barred, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 1915(g), from filing claims under the in forma pauperis statute unless he "is under imminent danger or serious physical injury." Id.

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