United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
L. Christensen, Chief Judge
the Court are: Defendant Judge Jeffrey Langton's
("Judge Langton") Motion to Dismiss and Motion for
Summary Judgment (Docs. 20; 23); the Motion for Summary
Judgment by Defendants Shaun Thompson ("Thompson"),
Jon Moog ("Moog"), Mitchell Hill
("Hill"), Heather McGuyer ("McGuyer"),
and Amy Scott Smith ("Smith"), collectively
"the ODC Defendants" (Doc. 25); Magistrate Judge
Lynch's Findings and Recommendation (Doc. 43),
recommending that Judge Langton's Motion to Dismiss be
denied and that the Motions for Summary Judgment be granted;
Plaintiff Robert Myers' ("Myers") Objections to
Findings and Recommendations (Doc. 44) and Defendants'
reply briefs. (Docs. 45; 46). For the following reasons, the
Court adopts the Findings and Recommendation in full.
2013, Myers represented Daniel Cox in a family law matter
over which Judge Langton presided as a district judge. Based
on Myers' conduct during the Cox proceedings,
Judge Langton imposed sanctions on Myers, which the Montana
Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. See In re Marriage of
Cox, 353 P.3d 506 (table), 2015 WL 2447230 (Mont. 2015).
Myers subsequently opposed Judge Langton in his 2016
reelection bid for district court judge in Ravalli County.
Throughout his campaign, Myers launched a series of attacks
on Judge Langton, including a radio advertisement in which
Daniel Cox accused Judge Langton of fraud and corruption, as
well as campaign mailers, statements to newspapers, and radio
jingles accusing Judge Langton of engaging in illegal drug
activities and sexual impropriety. In response, Judge Langton
published a campaign advertisement refuting Myers'
allegations. Judge Langton won reelection.
Myers' conduct in the Cox matter and 2016
judicial campaign, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel
("ODC") prosecuted three separate complaints
against him before the Montana Commission on Practice
("Commission"). The first complaint stemmed from
Myers' professional misconduct in the Cox
matter. The Commission concluded his behavior was
"outrageous, continuous, and display[ed] a disturbing
lack of judgment and disrespect for the judiciary, opposing
counsel, opposing parties, and the rule of law as a whole[,
]" (Doc. 22-7 at 6) and recommended that Myers be
suspended from the practice of law. The second ODC complaint
stemmed from Myers' campaign advertisements criticizing
Judge Langton's judicial conduct in the Cox
matter. The Commission concluded that Myers made statements
"he knew to be false, or were made or caused to be made
with reckless disregard for the truth, concerning the
integrity of a judge[, ]" (Doc. 22-11 at 4) and
recommended suspension once again. In its third and final
complaint, the ODC alleged that Myers violated the Rules of
Professional Conduct and Code of Judicial Conduct by running
advertisements during the judicial campaign accusing Judge
Langton of reprehensible acts such as buying methamphetamine
from a 13-year-old child. (Doc. 22-20 at 1-4.) In relation to
the final complaint, the Commission recommended that Myers be
December 28, 2017, the Montana Supreme Court adopted the
Commissions' findings of facts, conclusions of law, and
recommendations in all three ODC matters. The Court imposed
periods of suspension for the first two complaints, and for
the third complaint, disbarred Myers from the practice of
law. (Doc. 22-9 at 2 (Mont. Sup. Ct, PR 16-0245 (2017)));
(Doc. 22-15 at 2 (Mont. Sup. Ct., PR 16-0411 (2017))); (Doc.
22-22 at 2 (Mont. Sup. Ct, PR 17-0026 (2017))).
filed his First Amended Complaint (the "Complaint")
(Doc. 5) in this matter on February 2, 2018, alleging six
counts. Counts I and II allege that that the ODC
Defendants conspired to deliberately fabricate
evidence to use during the ODC's prosecution of Myers.
According to Myers, Defendants presented the fabricated
evidence to the Commission to establish Myers violated
provisions of the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct and
the Code of Judicial Conduct, resulting in his suspension
from the practice of law.
III alleges that Thompson, Moog, Hill, McGuyer, and Judge
Langton retaliated against Myers for exercising his free
speech rights by publishing advertisements about Judge
Langton, in violation of the First Amendment.
IV, mislabeled "Count III," alleges Judge Langton
is liable for defamation and defamation per se for publishing
"false and unprivileged statements" about Myers in
his own judicial campaign advertisements, damaging Myers'
Count V, mislabeled "Count IV," Myers alleges Judge
Langton filed a criminal defamation complaint against Myers
to prevent Myers from further investigating Judge
Langton's misconduct. Myers alleges this conduct
constitutes an abuse of process.
VI, mislabeled "Count V," alleges Moog conspired
with Judge Langton, McGuyer, and Smith to deceive the Montana
Commission on Practice by presenting fabricated evidence or
testimony during the ODC's prosecution of Myers.
requests relief in the form of compensatory and punitive
damages. He also seeks treble damages for his claim of
"attorney deceit" set forth in Count VI.
Langton filed a Motion to Dismiss on April 3, 2018 and a
Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting brief (Docs. 20;
23) the following day. Defendants Hill, McGuyer, Moog, Smith,
and Thompson, collectively "ODC Defendants," filed
a Motion for Summary Judgement (Doc. 25) on April 5, 2018.
The record reflects that Myers twice requested an extension
to file his response to Defendants' pending motions.
Judge Lynch granted both of Myers' requests, and both
times, Myers failed to respond. Thereafter, on July 18, 2018,
Judge Lynch entered his Findings and Recommendation (Doc.
43), recommending that Defendants' Motions for Summary
Judgment be granted. Judge Lynch also recommended that Judge
Langton's Motion to Dismiss be denied. Myers filed his
Objections to Findings and Recommendations (Doc. 44) on
August 1, 2018. Judge Langton filed his reply (Doc. 45) on
August 13, 2018, and ODC Defendants filed their reply (Doc.
46) the following day.
Court must review de novo those findings and recommendations
to which Myers has specifically objected. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C). Absent objection, this Court reviews findings
and recommendations for clear error. United States v.
Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en
banc); Thomas v. Am, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). Clear
error exists if the Court is left with a "definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed."
United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir.
2000) (citations omitted).
Judge Langton's Motion to Dismiss
Motion to Dismiss, Judge Langton argued that this Court lacks
jurisdiction over Counts I, II, III, and VI based on the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. That doctrine stands for
the principle that federal district courts lack jurisdiction
over de facto appeals from state court judgments. Carmona
v. Carmona, 603 F.3d 1041, 1050 (9th Cir. 2010). A de
facto appeal exists where a "federal plaintiff asserts
as a legal wrong an allegedly erroneous decision by a state
court, and seeks relief from a state court judgment based on
that decision." Id. (internal quotations and
citation omitted.) In other words, for
Rooker-Feldman to apply, the harm alleged must
result from the state court proceeding; it does not bar an
action to redress harm caused by an adverse party.
any response by Myers, Judge Lynch entered his Findings and
Recommendations on July 18, 2018, concluding the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine is inapplicable because
Myers attributes his legal injuries to Judge Langton-not the
Montana Supreme Court or its disciplinary decisions-and
recommended that Judge Langton's Motion to Dismiss be
did not object to Judge Lynch's Findings and
Recommendation on Judge Langton's Motion to Dismiss.
Therefore, the Court reviews those findings and
recommendations for clear error. Finding none, the Court
agrees with Judge Lynch that Judge Langton's Motion to
Dismiss should be denied.
Judge Langton's Motion for Summary Judgment
Langton moved for summary judgment on all six counts of the
Complaint, arguing that Counts I and II (conspiracy to
fabricate evidence), III (First Amendment retaliation), and
VI (attorney deceit), are barred by the doctrine of
collateral estoppel. Judge Langton further asserted that he
is entitled to summary judgment on Counts IV (defamation and
defamation per se) and V (abuse of process) as a matter of
failed to file a response brief, and Judge Lynch entered his
Findings and Recommendation, concluding that the doctrine of
collateral estoppel bars Counts I, II, III, and VI. As to
Counts IV and V, Judge Lynch determine that Myers failed to
present any evidence raising a genuine dispute of material
fact, entitling Judge Langton to summary judgment as a matter