United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.
Alan Sanders (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and
in forma pauperis, filed this complaint against United States
District Judge Julianna Michelle Childs (“Judge
Childs”), United States Magistrate Judge Paige Jones
Gossett (“Judge Gossett”), Jane Doe, and John Doe
(collectively “Defendants”), alleging violations
of his civil rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e)
(D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such
complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations
to the district judge. For the following reasons, the
undersigned recommends the district judge dismiss the
complaint with prejudice and without issuance and service of
Factual and Procedural Background
filed a complaint on September 6, 2019, generally alleging
Defendants conspired to violate his Constitutional rights
under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments and his
statutory rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a), 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-5(f), and 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a). [ECF No. 1
at 5]. He claimed Judge Childs and Judge Gossett, who
presided over his employment discrimination claims in C/A
Nos. 1:14-3509-JMC-PJG, 0:15-586-JMC-PJG, and
0:15-2313-JMC-PJG, violated his Constitutional and statutory
rights by recommending and ordering summary judgment in favor
of the defendants he had sued.
Standard of Review
filed his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal
court without prepaying the administrative costs of
proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous
or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d
1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with
liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant
to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In
evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's
allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of
N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated
liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that
if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a
valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should
do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction
does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in
the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently
cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir.
well established that judges have absolute immunity from
claims arising out of their judicial actions. Mireless v.
Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 12 (1991); Chu v. Griffith,
771 F.2d 79, 81 (4th Cir. 1985). Judicial immunity is a
protection from suit, not just from ultimate assessment of
damages, and such immunity is not pierced by allegations of
corruption or bad faith. See Mireless, 502 U.S. at
11; see also Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57
(1978) (“A judge will not be deprived of immunity
because the action he took was in error, was done
maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather, he
will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the
‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.'”)
(citation omitted). In Stump, the court clarified
that “whether an act by a judge is a
‘judicial' one relate[s] to the nature of the act
itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by
a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e.,
whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial
capacity.” 435 U.S. at 362.
allegations in Plaintiff's complaint address actions
taken by Judge Childs and Judge Gossett in Plaintiff's
three prior civil cases against his former employers. [ECF
No. 1 at 5]. He maintains the judges violated his rights by
granting the defendants' motions for summary judgment
instead of permitting him to proceed with his claims.
Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff indicates he interacted with
Judge Childs and Judge Gossett in their official capacities
and describes their actions as falling within the scope of
those normally performed by judges. Therefore, Judge Childs
and Judge Gossett are entitled to absolute judicial immunity.
Failure to State a Claim
the liberal pleading requirement of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)
requires only a short and plain statement of the claim, a
plaintiff must “offer more detail . . . than the bald
statement that he has a valid claim of some type against the
defendant.” Trulock v. Freeh, 275 F.3d 391,
405 (4th Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted). The
court's requirement to liberally construe pro se
complaints does not necessitate the court accept a conclusory
statement as a valid statement of a claim. See
Weller at 399 (upholding district court's dismissal
of claims ...