United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
STEVEN B. AUBREY, et al., Plaintiffs,
D MAGAZINE PARTNERS, L.P., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
the Court is Judge Eric Vaughn Moyé's Motion to
Dismiss. Doc. 63. For the reasons stated, the Court
GRANTS the motion.
case against Judge Eric Vaughn Moyé (Judge
Moyé) arises out of a statement Judge Moyé made
on May 18, 2016, concerning his recusal as presiding judge
over a defamation case involving Plaintiff Steven B. Aubrey
(Aubrey) and now-deceased attorney Ira Tobolowsky
(Tobolowsky). Doc. 54, Second Am. Compl. (SAC), ¶¶
63-66. Aubrey filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and a Texas state law claim of intentional
infliction of emotional distress against Judge Moyé
based on allegations that Judge Moyé accused Aubrey of
murder when he recused himself in the case between Plaintiffs
and the now-deceased Tobolowsky. Doc. 80, Pls.' Resp., 2.
Aubrey asserts that Judge Moyé was acting outside his
judicial capacity when he made the following statement in
court regarding his recusal:
with the allegations which have been made related to Mr.
Aubrey and his implication in the death of Mr. Tobolowsky and
related issues, I don't think that it is unreasonable for
a judge other than myself to hear this case.
Doc. 54, SAC, ¶ 206. Aubrey argues that Judge
Moyé's in-court statement concerning his recusal
allegedly denied Aubrey of his right to the presumption of
innocence and violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment,
made actionable under § 1983. Id. at ¶
333; Doc. 63, Mot., 3. Additionally, it is alleged that Judge
Moyé intended to cause Aubrey emotional distress when
he made his recusal statement with the media present in the
courtroom. Doc. 54, SAC, ¶¶ 404-06. Aubrey seeks
monetary damages, exemplary damages, and an injunction
preventing all defendants-including Judge Moyé- from
making any defamatory statements against Plaintiffs.
Id. at 101.
Moyé moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) claiming
that his statement is protected by judicial immunity because
his authority to recuse himself is judicial in nature and was
not made in the absence of all jurisdiction. Doc. 63, Mot.,
20 (citing, inter alia, Pledger v. Russell,
702 Fed.Appx. 683, 684-85 (10th Cir. 2017)). Additionally,
Judge Moyé argues that Aubrey's claim for
injunctive relief should be dismissed because he is immune
from claims for injunctive relief unless a declaratory decree
is violated or unavailable. Id. at 24 (citing,
inter alia, ODonnell v. Harris County, 251
F.Supp.3d 1052, 1155-56 (S.D. Tex. 2017), aff'd as
modified, 882 F.3d 528 (5th Cir. 2018)).
and Brian E. Vodicka (Vodicka) filed their complaint (Doc. 3)
on January 8, 2019, and amended their complaint for the
second time on April 29, 2019 (Doc. 54). Judge Moyé
then filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. 63) on May 9, 2019,
raising several grounds for dismissal under Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). See generally
Doc. 63, Mot. Aubrey and Vodicka submitted a response to the
motion to dismiss (Doc. 80) on May 29, 2019. On June 11,
2019, Judge Moyé submitted his reply. (Doc. 87). The
Court now considers that Motion.
The Rule 12(b)(6), Motion-to-Dismiss Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint
must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to
dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Id. 12(b)(6). To
survive a 12(b)(6) motion, “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face” must be
pled. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
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. At this stage, a court
“must accept all well-pleaded facts alleged in the
complaint as true and must construe the allegations in the
light that is most favorable to the plaintiff.”
J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Live Oak Cnty. Post No.
6119 Veterans of Foreign Wars, 2009 WL 483157, at *3
(S.D. Tex. Feb. 24, 2009) (quoting Cent. Laborers'
Pension Fund v. Integrated Elec. Servs., 497 F.3d 546,
550 (5th Cir. 2007)). The Fifth Circuit has held that
dismissal is appropriate “if the complaint lacks an
allegation regarding a required element necessary to obtain
relief.” Blackburn v. City of Marshall, 42
F.3d 925, 931 (5th Cir. 1995) (internal citation omitted).
Essentially, “the complaint must contain either direct
allegations on every ...