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Wallace v. State

United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division

April 8, 2019

TERRY WALLACE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF MONTANA, ED McLEAN and LESLIE HALLIGAN, in their individual capacities, and the MONTANA SUPREME COURT, in their individual capacities, DOES 1-5, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' FED. R. CIV. P. 12 (B)(6) MOTION TO DISMISS

          ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 16. The Court has considered the pleadings filed regarding the motion, the remaining file, and telephonic oral argument heard on 3 April 2019.

         On 8 November 2018, the Plaintiff filed this case, asserting that the individual Defendants Ed McLean and Leslie Halligan, judges in Montana state courts, the State of Montana, and the Montana Supreme Court violated his federal constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Dkts. 1 and 3. The Plaintiff also makes state law claims. Dkt. 3. The Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, damages, costs, and attorneys' fees. Id.

         The Defendants now move to dismiss the case under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b), arguing, in part, that they are entitled to immunity. For the reasons provided below, the motion to dismiss (Dkt. 16) should be granted and the case dismissed.

         I. FACTS

         According to the Amended Complaint, in July of 2012, while licensed as a lawyer in Montana, the Plaintiff filed a lawsuit on behalf of a client against two defendants in the Montana Fourth Judicial District Court. Dkt. 3, at 3. The case was assigned to Defendant Judge McLean, who is being sued in his individual capacity for “acts and omission[s] occurring within the course and scope of [his] employment.” Id., at 2.

         The Plaintiff maintains that Judge McLean “harbored a deep and long standing prejudice against Plaintiff which completely disqualified and barred him from assuming jurisdiction as a judge in the case.” Dkt. 3, at 3. The Plaintiff alleges that Judge McLean did not recuse himself as he should have, and routinely violated Rules of the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct. Id. He asserts that Judge McLean “issued orders and judgments personally attacking Plaintiff, ma[de] derisive and false public statements about Plaintiff, personally, and about Plaintiff's professional conduct.” Id., at 4. The Plaintiff maintains that Judge McLean acted with “malicious intent” to drive the Plaintiff out of the practice of law and/or with complete disregard for the Plaintiff's rights. Id.

         The Plaintiff asserts that in December of 2013 and January of 2014, Judge McLean ordered the Plaintiff pay Fed R. Civ. P. 11 sanctions in excess of $80, 000, without affording the Plaintiff due process. Dkt. 3, at 4. He alleges that Judge McLean ordered the Plaintiff to pay $10, 000 for “lack of candor” sanctions, relating to conduct which was never charged and for which no hearing was held. Id. The Plaintiff maintains that Judge McLean also ordered sanctions against the Plaintiff for discovery violations without a hearing. Id.

         The Plaintiff alleges that on January 2, 2018, the Justices of the Montana Supreme Court, acting in their “individual capacities within the course and scope of their employment, ” despite being aware of Judge McLean's “disqualifying prejudice, ” “adopted and ratified” Judge McLean's conduct, and “by so doing, were themselves disqualified from rendering any judgments against Plaintiff.” Dkt. 3, at 2, 4-5. He alleges that they “issued orders, based on [Judge] McLean's orders and judgments, ratifying, adopting and enforcing reinstated sanctions against the Plaintiff.” Id. The Plaintiff asserts that on October 30, 2018, the Montana State Supreme Court seized his license to practice law “without due process.” Id.

         The Plaintiff alleges that after Judge McLean retired, Judge Leslie Halligan “fully adopted a [sic] ratified [Judge] McLean's orders and judgments and being therefor disqualified for prejudice against the Plaintiff, reinstated sanctions against Plaintiff without a hearing.” Dkt. 3, at 5. He asserts that she acted “with malice.” Id. Judge Halligan is also being sued in her individual capacity for “acts and omission[s] occurring within the course and scope of [her] employment.” Id., at 2.

         The Plaintiff maintains that the State of Montana, aware of Judge McLean's illegal conduct, was “deliberately indifferent to and acted in conscious disregard, for the need to investigate, control supervise and discipline [Judge] McLean regarding bias, prejudice, judicial ethics and conduct.” Dkt. 3, at 5. He asserts that it “endorsed and encouraged the misconduct” of Judge McLean. Id.

         The Plaintiff makes claims under federal law for violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Dkt. 3, at 6. He also makes a claim for “Unconstitutional Informal Custom and Policy” and for “Acting in Concert, ” in addition to asserting claims under state law for violations of the Montana Constitution, for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and for deceit. Id., at 7-9. The Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief “barring all of the Defendants' actions against Plaintiff until the judgment of this Court.” Id., at 11. He also seeks damages, attorneys' fees, and costs. Id.

         At oral argument, the Plaintiff acknowledged that all of his claims in this case arose from judicial acts of Defendants McLean, Halligan, and the Montana Supreme Court in the following exchange with the Court:

THE COURT: Thank you, Mr. Wallace. Let me ask you a question here. I have read everything you have submitted. In your complaint, there are some things that directly stem from judicial acts. Other things that are a little more cloudy. Are all of your claims referred to as counts in your complaint, do they all stem from judges acting ostensibly within ...

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