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Lewis v. Duplantier

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 20, 2019

LATICIA W. LEWIS
v.
JUDGE THOMAS R. DUPLANTIER

         SECTION “F” (3)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DANA M. DOUGLAS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Laticia W. Lewis filed the above-captioned matter in this District Court against Judge Thomas R. Duplantier of the 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette, Louisiana. Lewis alleges that Judge Duplantier did not provide her with a fair trial in a legal dispute involving her children.

         On May 2, 2019, this Court ordered Lewis to show cause why her claims should not be summarily dismissed for failure to state an actionable claim in this federal court. [Doc. #3]. Lewis has complied with that order and filed a response. [Doc. #4].

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) provides for summary dismissal sua sponte, should the Court determine that a case is frivolous. Section 1915(e)(2)(B) provides in pertinent part as follows:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -
(B) the action or appeal -
(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (emphasis added). In plain language, Section 1915 requires dismissal if the Court is satisfied that the case fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.[1]

         The Court has permitted the plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis in the instant proceeding under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1915(a). However, summons has not issued in order to allow the Court to review plaintiff's complaint to determine whether it satisfies the requirements of the federal in forma pauperis statute. On its face, plaintiff's complaint fails to meet the requirements of the statute. There exists no absolute right to proceed in forma pauperis in federal civil matters; instead, it is a privilege extended to those unable to pay filing fees when it is apparent that the claims do not lack merit on their face.[2]

         With regard to Judge Duplantier, the only defendant in this lawsuit, it is well settled that judges are protected by absolute immunity for actions taken in their judicial capacity. See In re Foust, 310 F.3d 849, 855 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Mays v. Sudderth, 97 F.3d 107, 109-113 (5th Cir. 1996)). Essential policy considerations support this grant of absolute judicial immunity. A judge's role in the judicial system requires that he enjoy the "freedom to determine the law unfettered by the threat of collateral attacks" against him personally. Mays, 97 F.3d at 111. "The independence of the judiciary must not be sacrificed one microscopic portion of a millimeter, lest the fears of section 1983 intrusions cow the judge from his duty." McAlester v. Brown, 469 F.2d 1280, 1283 (5th Cir.1972). Absolute immunity applies to judicial acts within a judge's jurisdiction in suits brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Mays, 97 F.3d at 111. Moreover, a judge does not lose immunity even if he was in error, took action maliciously, or acted in excess of his authority. Id. Rather, he loses immunity only if his act was not a "judicial act" or was "performed in the clear absence of jurisdiction." Id.

         The allegations in Lewis's complaint challenge Judge Duplantier's actions taken in his official capacity as judge when he presided over her trial. In her response to this Court's rule to show cause, Lewis complains that Judge Duplantier told her to “shut up” and refused to allow her to speak in the courtroom during the legal dispute involving her children. [Doc. #4 at p. 1]. She claims that Judge Duplantier violated her parental rights by allowing her children to remain with the “so called predator” and refused to use any evidence at the hearing that she presented to the court. [Id. at p. 2]. She maintains ...


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