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Smith v. Settle

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

March 30, 2018

JOHN GARRETT SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE and DAVID W. CHRISTEL, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND DISMISSING CASE AS FRIVOLOUS AND FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. 4), and on review of the proposed complaint (Dkt. 1). The Court has considered the relevant record and the remainder of the file herein.

         On March 23, 2018, Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Washington, filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), that is, without paying the filing fee for a civil case. Dkt. 4. Plaintiff also filed a proposed civil complaint entitled, “Tort Suit for Damages due to Ultra Vires Criminal Acts, ” naming as defendants: Benjamin H. Settle, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Washington, and David W. Christel, a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Washington. Dkt. 1. Plaintiff's proposed complaint in this case relates to the judges' decisions in another of Plaintiff's cases, which was brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 - Smith v. Haynes, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington case number 17-6019 BHS- DWC. Dkt. 1. On December 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed the habeas corpus petition in Haynes and is challenging his 144 month sentence imposed as a result of convictions for Attempted Second Degree Murder and Second Degree Assault. Smith v. Haynes, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington case number 17-6019 BHS-DWC. Judges Settle and Christel have issued various orders and reports and recommendations in the habeas corpus case (due largely to Plaintiff's multiple motions) but have not yet reached the merits of the petition. Id., Dkts. 2, 4, 14, 33, 34, 40, 48, 52, 53, 55, 56, and 58.

         In determining whether IFP should be granted in this case, the Court will first review the proposed complaint.

         Review of the Proposed Complaint.

         The Court has carefully reviewed the proposed complaint in this matter. Because Plaintiff filed this complaint pro se, the Court has construed the pleadings liberally and has afforded Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir.1988).

         In his proposed complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he “approached this Court and Defendants in good faith with notices of incontrovertible criminal acts and ultra vires hostilities on 12/6/17.” Dkt 1, at 1. He asserts that the “Defendants have responded in bad faith, colluding to the jurisdictionless [sic] acts, and therefore corroborative [sic] with them, breaching the ‘whoever' non-exemptions of both 18 U.S.C. §§ 3 & 4, thereby forfeiting any presumed indemnification.” Id., at 2. Plaintiff maintains that “this court will ignore and abrogate these irrefutable facts in its pattern of RICO collusion to the State of Washington's tyranny, ” and the “most shocking part of this obvious collusion is that the State of Washington's RICO legerdemain in the form of fraudulent conviction truly extorts the U.S. Treasury[, ] one of the assets the Defendants are sworn to protect.” Id. He asserts that the “Defendants' pattern of denial and refusal to even address the . . . probable cause and evidence wreaks [sic] with the stench of either collusion by bribery or complicity by threat.” Id.

         Plaintiff's proposed complaint then discusses several orders issued by Judge Settle and orders and reports and recommendations issued by Judge Christel in his habeas corpus case, Smith v. Haynes, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington case number 17-6019 BHS-DWC. Dkt. 1, at 3-8. He maintains that Judge Settle “issued decrees that are wholly contrary to law . . . because the case under [sic] has absolutely no legal standing . . . there are no relevant state court records to deliberate over while Plaintiff remains obviously illegally detained under absolutely no valid probable cause.” Id., at 3. Plaintiff asserts that “[t]his insoleuce [sic] for germane U.S. law is mirrored in concert by (b) D.W. Christel, who among multiple orders . . . once again places procedural hurdles that do not legally exist in front of the Constitution . . .” Id., at 4. Plaintiff alleges that Judge Christel “evinces corrupt collusion with the State of Washington RICO policies designed to rob the U.S. Treasury and abuse its citizenry.” Id., at 4-5. Plaintiff asserts that Judge Christel's “high-brow fixation on the legally irrelevant is especially belligerent because in the Plaintiff's Good Faith Motion of 2/20/18 (Dkt. No. 46), Plaintiff spends the first 28 pages reinforcing the paramount antecedent failure of the state to establish mandatory jurisdiction. . . .” Id., at 6. “For the incontrovertible collusion by Defendants, ” Plaintiff seeks (1) $360, 000, 000.00, (2) the “deliverance of Plaintiff without any further nonsensical and illegal diversion into lesser minutiae while denying him equal access to redress by law, (3) declaratory relief, and (4) removal of Defendants from any additional pleadings involving Plaintiff. Id., at 8-9.

         Sua Sponte Dismissal.

         A federal court may dismiss a case sua sponte pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(6) when it is clear that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Omar v. Sea-Land Serv., Inc., 813 F.2d 986, 991 (9th Cir.1987) (“A trial court may dismiss a claim sua sponte under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(6). Such a dismissal may be made without notice where the claimant cannot possibly win relief.”); See also Mallard v. United States Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 307-08 (1989) (noting there is little doubt a federal court would have the power to dismiss frivolous complaint sua sponte, even in absence of an express statutory provision). A complaint is frivolous when it has no arguable basis in law or fact. Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228 (9th Cir. 1984).

         “Anglo-American common law has long recognized judicial immunity, a sweeping form of immunity for acts performed by judges that relate to the judicial process.” In re Castillo, 297 F.3d 940, 947 (9th Cir. 2002)(internal quotations omitted). “Absolute immunity fails to attach to judicial officers only when they act clearly and completely outside the scope of their jurisdiction.” Demoran v. Witt, 781 F.2d 155, 158 (9th Cir. 1985)(internal citations omitted).

         All of Judges Settle's and Christel's acts complained of here relate to the judicial process. They have absolute judicial immunity from this suit. See Olson v. Idaho State Board of Medicine, 363 F.3d 916 (9th Cir. 2004) (noting that judges are entitled to absolute immunity for actions taken within their jurisdiction). There is no reasonable basis to conclude that the judges do not have jurisdiction to act in Plaintiff's habeas corpus case. Plaintiff is being held in Aberdeen, Washington, which is within the federal judicial district of the Western District of Washington. Plaintiff asserts, in his proposed complaint, that the Defendants “will most likely endeavor to claim unlimited indemnity [sic] of the judges, ” but “no such immunity is available for criminal acts, collusion or complicity.” Dkt. 1, at 9-10. Plaintiff fails to allege any facts that support his conclusion that the Defendants have engaged in criminal acts, have colluded improperly, or have acted complacently. “Allegations of malice or bad faith in the execution of the officer's duties are insufficient to sustain the complaint when the officer possesses absolute judicial immunity.” Demoran, at 158. This case has no arguable basis in law or fact. The complaint should be dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim.

         Leave to Amend.

         Unless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect, a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action. See ...


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