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Rogers v. Allen County Superior Court

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

March 27, 2017

DEXTER ROGERS, Individually and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF CARRIE BELL ROGERS and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF PREMIUS ROGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLEN SUPERIOR COURT, JUDGE NANCY ESHCOFF BOYER, JUDGE STANLEY A. LEVINE, JUDGE WENDY DAVIS, PARKVIEW HOSPITAL INC., MICHAEL J. PACKNETT, CEO OF PARKVIEW HEALTH, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 30], filed by the Defendants Hon. Nancy Eschoff Boyer, Hon. Stanley A. Levine, Hon. Wendy Davis, and the Allen Superior Court (collectively “the Defendants”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The pro se Plaintiff, Dexter Rogers, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Carrie Bell Rogers, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Premius Rogers, filed the Complaint [ECF No. 1] against the Defendants on January 29, 2016, in relation to an ongoing medical malpractice case in the Allen Superior Court pending under 02D03-1401-CT-39 (“the state case”). Also before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [ECF No. 45] and the Plaintiff's Motion for a Hearing [ECF No. 66]. The Court will consider both of these Motions in conjunction with the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         For the reasons stated in this Opinion and Order, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's claims against the Defendants are barred because the Defendants are entitled to immunity and the issues presented by the Plaintiff pose considerations making abstention appropriate. Accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss is granted, and the Plaintiff's pending Motions are termed as moot.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Although pro se complaints are to be liberally construed and are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers, Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013), and a court may also consider facts alleged in a pro se plaintiff's brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss when considering the sufficiency of the complaint (if the facts are “consistent with the allegations in the complaint”), Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 311 (7th Cir. 2015), the factual allegations in the complaint must nevertheless be enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true at the pleading stage, but “allegations in the form of legal conclusions are insufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (internal citations omitted).

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS

         The Complaint stems from an ongoing medical malpractice claim initiated by the Plaintiff on June 23, 2013, in Allen Superior Court. Since the Plaintiff's state complaint was filed, the Plaintiff alleges that various Allen Superior Court judges violated Indiana rules and procedure and discriminated against him because of his race. Accordingly, the Plaintiff filed suit in federal court, invoking Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1962, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., as the grounds for relief. The statute provides that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Id. § 2000d. The Complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief, and attorney's fees.[1]

         The Plaintiff alleges that Judge Levine, who first presided over the state case, engaged in ex parte communications with state defense counsel and allowed state case defense counsel to conduct discovery abuses, including making alleged misrepresentations and failing to abide by Indiana Trial Rule 12(F) by filing a motion to dismiss and then withdrawing it. The Plaintiff claims that these actions demonstrate Judge Levine's “gross and willful disregard for the trial rules” because there was no “admonishment and/or sanction” of state defense counsel. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 12-14.) Furthermore, the Plaintiff alleges that Judge Levine failed to hear the Plaintiff's motion and therefore, denied the Plaintiff access to the court.

         The case was subsequently reassigned to Judge Boyer and the Plaintiff alleges that Judge Boyer similarly “did not admonish and/or sanction” state defense counsel for violating a court order regarding discovery, prevented the Plaintiff's access to the court by denying the Plaintiff's motions (but granting state defense counsel's motion), provided state defense counsel with “legal advice”, admonished the Plaintiff to act civilly during a deposition, and deprived the Plaintiff of his due process rights. (Compl. ¶¶ 45-58, 64, 71, 76-77, 80.) The Plaintiff alleges that his race was the motivating reason behind Judge Boyer's actions.

         The Plaintiff also alleges that he properly requested ex parte communications with then Chief Judge Davis, pursuant to the Indiana Trial Rules, but Chief Judge Davis refused to engage in ex parte communications with him regarding the state case. Finally, the Plaintiff alleges that the Allen Superior Court deprived him of his due process rights. The Plaintiff claims that his race was the reason behind these acts.

         ANALYSIS

         The Defendants assert that they are entitled to dismissal because: (1) they are absolutely immune from suit and (2) the Younger doctrine requires that this Court abstain from deciding the Plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief. If the Court proceeds into an analysis of whether the Plaintiff's allegations state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and/or 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, the Defendants argue that: (1) the Defendants are not “persons” subject to suit under § 1983 and are thus entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and (2) the Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Court has addressed these arguments below.

         A. The Defendants Are Immune From Suit.

         1. ...


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