United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
VALLEY BAIL BONDS, a Montana Partnership; SCOTT RESTVEDT; and DAVID CROW, Plaintiffs,
LINDA BUDESKI, individually and as Justice of the Peace of PARK COUNTY, MONTANA; and PARK COUNTY, MONTANA, a Political Subdivision of the State of Montana, Defendants.
SUSAN P. WATTERS, District Judge.
Before the Court are the Findings and Recommendations by United States Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby issued on July 25, 2014. In the Findings and Recommendations, Judge Ostby recommends that this Court grant Defendants Justice of the Peace Linda Budeski ("Budeski") and Park County's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs Valley Bail Bonds, Scott Restvedt, and David Crow (collectively "Plaintiffs") timely objected. After conducting a de nova review, this Court adopts the Findings and Recommendations in full.
For context, this Court will summarize the Plaintiffs' factual allegations. As this matter appears before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss, these factual allegations are presumed true. Maya v. Centex Corp., 658 F.3d 1060, 1068 (9th Cir. 2011).
Park County criminal defendant Michael Shane Ransom appeared before the Park County Justice Court on July 22, 2013, and the Justice Court set bail at $75, 000. (Doc. 1 at 3). After discussions, the Plaintiffs agreed to provide a $75, 000 surety bond in exchange for a fee of $7, 500. ( Id. ). However, before the Plaintiffs closed the transaction, Ransom's attorney filed a motion before Budeski to allow Ransom to instead post 10% of his bail with the Court as opposed to paying that 10% to a bail bondsman. ( Id. ). Budeski granted the motion and allowed Ransom's release after posting $7, 500. ( Id. ). Without providing specific examples, the Plaintiffs allege that sometime prior to July 22, 2013, Budeski began allowing defendants' release after posting 10% of their bond amount instead of requiring full payment. ( Id. at 2-3).
Based on these allegations, the Plaintiffs filed this action and assert the following five counts:
(1) Count One - that under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Budeski, acting in her individual capacity, deprived them of their property interest in writing bail bonds without providing due process and in violation of MCA§ 46-9-401;
(2) Count Two - that under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Park County violated their property and liberty interests by failing to train and supervise Budeski in connection with her bail bonds practices just described;
(3) Count Three - that under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs are entitled to a permanent injunction prohibiting Budeski and other Park County judges from allowing forms of bail not specifically authorized by MCA§ 46-9-401;
(4) Count Four - that Budeski and Park County have wrongfully interfered with Plaintiffs' business operations by acting as a surety and by competing with Plaintiffs' business; and
(5) Count Five - that Plaintiffs are entitled to a declaratory judgment that Budeski's and Park County's "practice of accepting 10% of bail amounts is contrary [to] the forms of bail allowed by [MCA] § 46-9-401 (2013)[ ]".
Budeski and Park County appeared and filed a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
II. Judge Ostby's Findings and Recommendations
Judge Ostby recommends that Counts One through Four be dismissed with prejudice, and Count Five should be dismissed without prejudice for refiling in state court. As to Count One, Judge Ostby determined that Budeski is entitled to judicial immunity. Judicial officers cannot be held liable in civil actions, "even when such acts are in excess of their jurisdiction, and are alleged to have been done maliciously or corruptly." Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356 (1978) (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 351 (1871)). Judicial immunity has only two recognized exceptions: (1) actions not taken in a judicial capacity, and (2) actions taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991).
Judge Ostby found that pursuant to MCA§ 46-9-201, Budeski had jurisdiction to not only set bail, but to "increase, reduce, or substitute" previously-set bail. Therefore, Judge Ostby concluded that Budeski acted within her jurisdiction. Judge Ostby further concluded that Budeski acted in a judicial capacity when she agreed to accept only $7, 500 of the $75, 000 bail. Even assuming the Plaintiffs' alleged facts as true, Judge Ostby found that neither of the exceptions to judicial immunity applies.
As for Count Two, Judge Ostby concluded that Park County could not be found liable for violating the Plaintiffs' property and liberty interests. The alleged violation did not constitute the deprivation of a constitutional right. Alternatively, Judge Ostby found that the Plaintiffs have not alleged the requisite "policy or custom" for Park County to be found liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
On Count Three, Judge Ostby noted that judicial immunity does not apply to prospective relief. However, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, injunctive relief cannot be granted against a judicial officer "unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable." Judge Ostby found that the Plaintiffs did not allege that Budeski has violated a declaratory decree nor that declaratory relief was unavailable.
On Count Four, Judge Ostby determined that Montana and federal law provide the same judicial immunity analysis. Therefore, she concluded that Count Four as to Budeski should be dismissed for the same reasons as Count One. As to the claim against Park County, Montana law immunizes governmental units for judicial acts. ...