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Erickson v. Bradley

United States District Court, D. Utah

December 3, 2019

JOSHUA DEL ERICKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN W. BRADLEY, T.R. MORGAN, DAVID J. WILLIAMS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          TED STEWART DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Joshua Del Erickson's (“Erickson”) Motion for Official Service of Process and Motion for Appointment of Counsel. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny both motions and dismiss this case.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Erickson, a pro se Plaintiff, filed his Complaint on October 8, 2019, after receiving permission to proceed in forma pauperis.[1] In his Complaint, Plaintiff names Assistant Attorney General John W. Bradley, District Court Commissioner T.R. Morgan, and Judge David J. Williams of the Second District Court of Utah as Defendants in this case.[2]

         Plaintiff alleges that these individuals violated his Constitutional rights as provided by the Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments and also claims that Defendants have violated Article Six of the Constitution.[3] In essence, the allegations found in Plaintiff's Complaint assert that Plaintiff is being falsely punished for failure to pay child support and that this punishment has caused mental, physical, and financial injury.[4] Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief in addition to compensatory and punitive damages as a result of these claims.[5]

         II. MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

         Plaintiff has no constitutional right to counsel.[6] However, “the court may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel.”[7] When appointing counsel, the district court should consider a variety of factors, “including ‘the merits of the litigant's claims, the nature of the factual issues raised in the claims, the litigant's ability to present his claims, and the complexity of the legal issues raised by the claims.'”[8]

         Considering these factors, the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel. First, as is further discussed below, Plaintiff's claims are not meritorious. Second, Plaintiff appears to have the ability to present his claims. Finally, the legal and factual issues presented are not complex. Therefore, the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel.

         III. MOTION FOR OFFICIAL SERVICE OF PROCESS

         28 U.S.C. § 1915 provides that “a court shall dismiss a case [brought in forma pauperis] at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.”[9]If it does, the Court “is obligated to dismiss his complaint sua sponte under § 1915(e)(2)'s screening mechanism.”[10]

         A. PROSECUTORIAL IMMUNITY

         “[S]tate attorneys and agency officials who perform functions analogous to those of a prosecutor in initiating and pursuing civil and administrative enforcement proceedings are absolutely immune from suit under § 1983.”[11] This absolute immunity “allows prosecutors and those performing equivalent functions to perform their quasi-judicial tasks absent the threat of retaliatory . . . litigation.”[12] The determinative factor when considering whether absolute immunity will apply is advocacy for the state “because that is the prosecutor's main function.”[13]

         In applying this standard, this Court per the Honorable Clark Waddoups, found that Assistant Utah Attorneys General that represented the Office of Recovery Services were entitled to absolute immunity. In explanation, Judge Waddoups concluded that “Plaintiff's allegations . . . all relate[d] directly to actions taken while advocating for the State of Utah in child support enforcement proceedings.”[14] As a result, they were entitled to immunity.

         The same is true here. As stated in Plaintiff's Complaint, Assistant Attorney General Bradley “represented the State”[15] in his position as an advocate for the Office of Recovery Services.[16] As such, the Court will dismiss the claims against Bradley because he is entitled to prosecutorial immunity.

         B. JUDICIAL IMMUNITY

         The Supreme Court has long recognized “that, generally, a judge is immune from a suit for money damages”[17] Additionally, the Tenth Circuit has recognized that this “absolute immunity available to judges has been extended, under the rubric of quasi-judicial immunity, to other officials who perform functions closely associated with the judicial process, ”[18] including commissioners.[19] Absolute judicial immunity “is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice.”[20] This principle allows “a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, [to] be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”[21]

         Following this standard, both Commissioner Morgan and Judge Williams are entitled to absolute immunity. According to Plaintiff's Complaint, both Morgan and Williams were acting in judicial functions as they were present at the State Courthouse “in robes, representing the County.”[22] As there is no further contention asserted by Plaintiff concerning the nature of Defendants' actions, the Court finds that Defendants Morgan and Williams are entitled to absolute judicial immunity, and the claims against them will be dismissed.

         C. ROOKER-FELDMAN DOCTRINE

         The Rooker-Feldman[23] doctrine “prevents the lower federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by state-court losers challenging state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced.”[24] “This doctrine has a narrow scope, however, and applies only when a state court judgment is final.”[25] Although Plaintiff's Complaint only attaches an Order for a Bench Warrant, Plaintiff's claims go beyond this single order. Plaintiff lists facts of previous orders relating to other encounters with the Office of Recovery Services and Assistant Attorney ...


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