United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Russell, III United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Phillip
O'Briant's Complaint (ECF No. 1) and Motion for Leave
to Proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2). The Motion is ripe
for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined
below, the Court will grant O'Briant's Motion but
will dismiss the Complaint.
a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, alleges violation of his
civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (2018). He
seeks compensatory and punitive damages of $400, 000.00 from
Defendant Donna McCabe Schaeffer, an Anne Arundel County,
Maryland Circuit Court Judge, alleging a violation of due
process with regard to Judge Schaeffer's ruling in
O'Briant's action against a previous employer, Atlas
Container Corporation. (Compl., ECF Nos. 1, 1-1).
O'Briant provides no documents related to his state court
Standard of Review
seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(1) (2018), an indigent litigant may commence
an action in federal court without prepaying the filing fee.
To guard against possible abuses of this privilege, the
statute requires a district court to dismiss any claim that
is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). In this context, this court is
mindful of its obligation to liberally construe the pleadings
of pro se litigants. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
evaluating a pro se complaint, a plaintiff's allegations
are assumed to be true. Id. at 93 (citing Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).
Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that a court
can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts
which set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990);
see also Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274,
1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a district court may not
“conjure up questions never squarely
presented.”). In making this determination,
“[t]he district court need not look beyond the
complaint's allegations . . . . It must hold the pro se
complaint to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted
by attorneys and must read the complaint liberally.”
White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir.
courts “may not exercise jurisdiction absent a
statutory basis, ” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah
Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005), and “have
an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter
jurisdiction exists, even when no party challenges it.”
Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010). A
court is to presume that a case lies outside its limited
jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to
be proper. United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274
(4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).
couches his civil rights allegation against Schaeffer as a
due process violation arising under the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution. While this
Court has jurisdiction to hear due process claims, due
process does not furnish a basis for jurisdiction based on
the allegations presented here. Based on O'Briant's
allegations, the Court must dismiss his case under the
doctrine of judicial immunity. Judicial immunity bars suits
based on allegations of judicial error in a judge's
decision. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 226-27
(1988). Here, O'Briant asserts violations of his due
process rights based only on alleged errors in
Schaeffer's ruling in O'Briant's action against
Atlas Container Corporation. Because judicial immunity bars
such suits, the Court must dismiss O'Briant's
foregoing reasons, the Court will grant O'Briant's
Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) but
will dismiss the ...