United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
ANTONIO D. McCASTER, Plaintiff,
STATE OF INDIANA, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. McCaster, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a complaint
against the State of Indiana and Judge Steven P. Meyer.
“A document filed pro se is to be liberally
construed, and a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers . . .”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, this court
must review the complaint and dismiss it if the action is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. “In order to state a claim under [42 U.S.C.]
§ 1983 a plaintiff must allege: (1) that defendants
deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that
the defendants acted under color of state law.”
Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
complaint, McCaster alleges that, on November 14, 2016, he
filed a civil case in Tippecanoe County Superior Court
against various State officials in connection with his State
criminal conviction. Judge Meyer presided over the case and
had also presided over the underlying criminal case, which,
McCaster alleges, presented a conflict of interest. On
February 26, 2018, despite McCaster's demand for a jury
trial, Judge Meyer granted summary judgment against McCaster
and dismissed his case. McCaster asserts that Judge Meyer
violated his Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial and
seeks money damages.
names the State of Indiana as a defendant. The
Constitution's Eleventh Amendment provides: “The
Judicial Power of the United States shall not be construed to
extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted
against one of the United States by Citizens of another
State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign
State.” The Eleventh Amendment bars “a suit by a
citizen against the citizen's own State in Federal
Court.” Johns v. Stewart, 57 F.3d 1544, 1552
(7th Cir. 1995). The Eleventh Amendment's jurisdictional
bar extends to state agencies, such as the Department of
Correction, as well as to the State itself. See Kashani
v. Purdue University, 813 F.2d 843 (7th Cir. 1987). A
State may elect to waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity, but
the State of Indiana has not. Meadows v. State of
Indiana, 854 F.2d 1068, 1069 (7th Cir. 1988). Therefore,
McCaster may not proceed against the State of Indiana.
also names Judge Meyer as a defendant. “A judge has
absolute immunity for any judicial actions unless the judge
acted in absence of all jurisdiction.” Polzin v.
Gage, 636 F.3d 834, 838 (7th Cir. 2011). “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.”
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978). Because
McCaster asserts a claim against Judge Meyer in connection
with his judicial duties, judicial immunity applies, and
McCaster cannot proceed against Judge Meyer.
even setting aside judicial immunity, McCaster does not
describe a constitutional violation. “When there are no
disputes of material fact, the court may enter summary
judgment without transgressing the Constitution.”
BMG Music v. Gonzalez, 430 F.3d 888, 892 (7th Cir.
2005). “The Seventh Amendment does not entitle parties
to a jury trial when there are no factual issues for a jury
to resolve.” Burks v. Wisconsin Dep't of
Transp., 464 F.3d 744, 759 (7th Cir. 2006). “The
Due Process Clause guarantees litigants an impartial judge,
reflecting the principle that no man is permitted to try
cases where he has an interest in the outcome.”
Franklin v. McCaughtry, 398 F.3d 955, 959 (7th Cir.
2005). “To prove disqualifying bias, a petitioner must
offer either direct evidence or a possible temptation so
severe that we might presume an actual, substantial incentive
to be biased.” Id. at 960. In the complaint,
McCaster does not suggest that Judge Meyer overlooked any
material factual dispute, nor does he suggest that Judge
Meyer had any personal interest in the outcome of his civil
it is usually necessary “to give pro se litigants one
opportunity to amend after dismissing a complaint[, ]
that's unnecessary where, as here, it is certain from the
face of the complaint that any amendment would be futile or
otherwise unwarranted.” Carpenter v. PNC Bank, Nat.
Ass'n, 633 Fed.Appx. 346, 348 (7th Cir. 2016);
Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013);
Hukic v. Aurora Loan Servs., 588 F.3d 420, 432 (7th
Cir. 2009) (“[C]ourts have broad discretion to deny
leave to amend where . . . the amendment would be
these reasons, the court DISMISSES this case pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A ...