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Johnson v. Marsiglia

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 15, 2019


         SECTION: “H”



         Before the Court are unopposed Motions to Dismiss by Defendants June Darensberg (Doc. 16), Jefferson Parish (Doc. 19), Jon Gegenheimer (Doc. 23), and Jennifer Marsiglia (Doc. 24). For the following reasons, the Motions by Defendants Darensberg, Jefferson Parish, and Gegenheimer are GRANTED, and Defendant Marsiglia's Motion is DENIED.


         Pro se Plaintiff Heather Johnson, an attorney licensed in Louisiana, filed her initial Complaint in this matter on March 16, 2018. The initial Complaint named Jennifer Marsiglia as the only Defendant “in as much as she is an attorney and legal fiduciary of co-owned property . . . where extreme and unlawful inflictions of emotional distress was (sic) incurred as a direct result of general civil negligence concerning health care decision making incentives.”[1]The nature of Plaintiff's claims were not clear from her Complaint, but she described them as follows: “This suit is proper before this Honorable Court as there is general, civil tort liability concerning asbestos and related personal and other medical injury involving real estate belonging to an Incorporated Business in Louisiana and Florida.”[2]

         Over the next year, this Court on several occasions ordered Plaintiff to submit proof of service upon Defendant Marsiglia. The final order, issued on February 27, 2019 in response to a request by Plaintiff Johnson to again extend her deadline to effect service, read in pertinent part as follows:

IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff shall no later than March 11, 2019 (1) submit proof of service upon Defendant Marsiglia and (2) amend her Complaint to properly allege facts supporting federal jurisdiction. If Plaintiff fails to timely submit proof of service upon Marsiglia, Plaintiff's claims will be dismissed pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. If Plaintiff fails to timely file an amended Complaint properly alleging facts to support federal jurisdiction, Plaintiff's case will be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[3]

         Plaintiff did not submit proof of service of her original Complaint upon Marsiglia by the Court's March 11, 2019 deadline. She did, however, file an Amended Complaint on March 8, 2019. Plaintiff's theory of recovery-and the allegations underlying that theory-shifted dramatically from her Complaint to her Amended Complaint. Although the caption of the Amended Complaint still identifies Marsiglia as a defendant, she is no longer the main target-if a target at all-in the suit. Instead, Plaintiff's primary claims are directed at Judge June Darensberg of Louisiana's 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish.

         Much like with Plaintiff's original Complaint, it is unclear from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint exactly what claims she is asserting and against whom she is asserting them. The named Defendants include: (1) Marsiglia; (2) Judge Darensberg; (3) Jon Gegenheimer, Clerk of Court for the 24th Judicial District Court for Jefferson Parish; (4) the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court; and (5) the Jefferson Parish Code Enforcement.[4] Plaintiff describes the relief she seeks as follows:

[S]crutiny and an Order for preemptory and continuing Writ of Mandamus and other civil injunctive and general tort relief afforded under the Equal Protection Clause, Due Process Clause, Supremacy Clause, Privileges and Immunities Clause (sic) to vacate illegal Domestic Court Orders and quash and enjoin from maintaining or enforcing said Orders wherein as an incompetent forum, acting under color of state law.[5]

         Plaintiff specifies the “primary relief” she seeks as a “Mandamus Order Vacating 102 Divorce Judgments based upon fraud.”[6]

         Defendants Darensberg, Gegenheimer, and Jefferson Parish now move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims on two grounds: (1) failure to properly serve them with process and (2) failure to state a claim against them upon which relief could be granted. Defendant Marsiglia similarly argues that she was not timely served with process. She also argues that the claims against her should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b) because of Plaintiff's repeated inability to comply with this Court's orders over the past year.

         Defendant Darensberg's Motion came under submission on April 24, 2019. Defendant Jefferson Parish's Motion came under submission on May 22, 2019. Finally, the Motions by Defendants Marsiglia and Gegenheimer came under submission on June 5, 2019. As of the date of this Order and Reasons, Plaintiff has not responded to any of the Motions.

         The Fifth Circuit approaches the automatic grant of dispositive motions with considerable aversion.[7] Accordingly, this Court has considered the merits of Defendants' unopposed Motions.


         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead enough facts to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.”[8] A claim is “plausible on its face” when the pleaded facts allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[9]A court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and must “draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.”[10] The Court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[11] To be legally sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claims are true.[12] If it is apparent from the face of the complaint that an insurmountable bar to relief exists and the plaintiff is not entitled to relief, the court must dismiss the claim.[13]


         I. Defendant Darensberg

         a. Claim seeking a mandamus

         Plaintiff alleges that the “primary relief” she seeks in this suit is a mandamus ordering Judge Darensberg to vacate a previously issued judgment of divorce and re-open the case for renewed litigation.[14] Federal courts, however, lack the power to issue writs of mandamus directing state courts or their officers in the performance of their duties.[15] Because Plaintiff seeks exactly that-an order from this Court directing a state court judge in the performance of her duties-Plaintiff in this regard has failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted.

         b. Other claims against Judge Darensberg

         Plaintiff further alleges that Judge Darensberg violated “Due Process of Law granting removal of child custody sans proper evidence of Service and denying pursuit of domestic happiness protected under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment.”[16] As an initial matter, the Fifth Amendment does not provide a right to the “pursuit of domestic happiness.”[17] Instead, the Fifth Amendment provides in relevant part that “[n]o person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”[18] Here, Plaintiff seeks both monetary damages and injunctive relief based on Judge Darensberg's alleged Due Process violations.

         i. Claims seeking monetary damages from Judge Darensberg in her individual capacity

         “Judicial officers are entitled to absolute immunity from claims for damages arising out of acts performed in the exercise of their judicial functions.”[19] Here, all of Plaintiff's allegations against Judge Darensberg involve acts that the judge allegedly performed in the exercise of her judicial functions. Accordingly, Judge Darensberg is absolutely immune from claims seeking monetary damages from her in her individual capacity based on alleged Due Process violations arising from her duties as a judge.

         ii. Claims seeking injunctive relief from Judge Darensberg

         42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides that “in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.” Plaintiff does not allege that a declaratory decree was violated or that declaratory relief was unavailable. Nor is there any indication that either of those situations was the case here. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to state a § 1983 claim for injunctive relief against Judge Darensberg.

         iii. Claims seeking monetary damages from Judge Darensberg in ...

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