United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
HARRIS TOLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Special Order 3, this
case was automatically referred to the United States
magistrate judge for case management, including the issuance
of findings and a recommended disposition. For the reasons
that follow, Plaintiff Kemone Rodgers' claims, liberally
construed as civil rights claims arising under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, should be DISMISSED.
August 15, 2019, Rodgers filed a pro se pleading
titled Petition to Remove Cause Number MA16-18372-G from the
State Courts of Texas. Doc. 3. In the header on each page,
however, is the caption, “Petition for Original Federal
Proceeding.” Doc. 3. Attached are two AO 440
forms-“Summons in a Civil Action”-completed by
hand for Defendants “Judge Angela King of Dallas County
Criminal Court Number 6” and “Criminal
Prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Catessa
Malone.” Doc. 3 at 13-15. Rodgers also identifies both
as parties (“Respondent[s]”) to this action.
Petition, Rodgers alleges that Defendants violated
his constitutional rights by failing to set No. M16-18372 for
trial after denying him a dismissal for violation of his
right to a speedy trial, and for “issuing two warrants
for the Petitioner's arrest without probable
cause.” Doc. 3 at 2, 4. He specifically alleges that
Judge Angela King is being sued “in her official and
individual capacities, under Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for
lacking personal jurisdiction to issue warrants for [his]
arrest on 10/10/2018 and 6/04/2019.” Doc. 3 at 9. He
avers that Judge King “breached her judicial duties
owed to [him] by failing to uphold the FOURTH AMENDMENT OF
THE U.S. CONSTITUTION.” Doc. 3 at 9. Rodgers seeks
compensatory and punitive damages “for all the time he
spent in jail due to the unlawful warrants.” Doc. 3 at
8-9. In addition, he seeks to dismiss Cause No. M16-18372,
based on the purported speedy trial violation. Doc. 3 at
Court liberally construes Rodgers' filings with all
possible deference due a pro se litigant.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (noting
pro se pleadings “must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers”); cf. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)
(“Pleadings must be construed so as to do
justice.”). Based on the allegations in the
Petition, and the fact that Rogers' pending
criminal case would be subject to immediate remand if
removed, the Court concludes that his filings should be
interpreted to raise civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Even under the most liberal construction,
however, his claims should be dismissed.
Request to Dismiss Cause No. M16-18372 is Barred by Younger
Court must first examine the threshold question of whether it
has subject matter jurisdiction. It is an issue of paramount
concern that should be addressed, sua sponte if
necessary, at any time throughout the proceedings.
Ruhgras AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583
(1999); McDonal v. Abbott Labs., 408 F.3d 177, 182
n.5 (5th Cir. 2005) (stating that a “federal court may
raise subject matter jurisdiction sua
sponte”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3) (“If the
court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”).
Rodgers seeks to dismiss the state criminal charge presently
pending against him. However, his claim is barred by the
Younger abstention doctrine, which precludes federal
courts from granting injunctive relief based on
constitutional challenges to state criminal prosecutions that
are pending at the time the federal action is instituted.
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 41 (1971).
Younger to apply, three requirements must be
satisfied: (1) the dispute must involve an ongoing state
judicial proceeding; (2) an important state interest in the
subject matter of the proceeding must be implicated; and (3)
the state proceeding must afford an adequate opportunity to
raise constitutional challenges. Wightman v. Tex. Supreme
Court, 84 F.3d 188, 189 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing
Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar
Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)). Those requirements
are met in this case where Rodgers seeks an order of this
Court dismissing his pending state criminal proceeding. What
Rodgers requests this Court to do is “precisely the
crux of what Younger forbids a federal court to
do.” Boyd v. Farrin, 575 Fed.Appx. 517, 519
(5th Cir. 2014) (per curiam); see also Nobby
Lobby, Inc. v. City of Dallas, 970 F.2d 82, 85 (5th Cir.
1992) (“Under Younger and its companion cases,
a federal district court must abstain from exercising
jurisdiction over a suit when state criminal proceedings are
currently pending against the federal plaintiff.”).
Moreover, it is apropos that the state has a vital interest
in prosecuting violations of its criminal laws. DeSpain
v. Johnston, 731 F.2d 1171, 1176 (5th Cir. 1984)
(“The state has a strong interest in enforcing its
criminal laws.”). Also, Rodgers can raise his
claims-including the alleged constitutional challenges-in the
state trial court, where notably the case was re-assigned to
a different judge. Finally, this case does not fall within
the very narrow category of “extraordinary” cases
in which federal injunctive relief against a pending state
prosecution would be warranted. Kugler v. Helfant,
421 U.S. 117, 124-25 (1975).
because Rodgers cannot show that any exception to the
Younger abstention doctrine is warranted, the Court
should abstain from exercising jurisdiction over his
challenge of the State's prosecution of him for DWI in
Dallas County Cause No. M16-18372. See
Boyd, 575 Fed.Appx. at 519 (dismissing under the
Younger abstention doctrine injunctive relief claims
by pretrial detainee relating to his pending criminal
Claim for Monetary Damages Against Judge King is also
also seeks monetary damages against Judge King for alleged
civil rights violations stemming from the pending state
criminal case. But she is entitled to absolute immunity from
the damages claim. Her complained of actions were performed
in her capacity and function as a judge. Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 361-362 (1978). “Judicial
officers are entitled to absolute immunity from claims for
damages arising out of acts performed in the exercise of
their judicial discretion.” Boyd v. Biggers,
31 F.3d 279, 284 (5th Cir. 1994). Thus, Rodgers' claim
for monetary damages against Judge King should be dismissed
with prejudice. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (providing for
summary dismissal if the action “seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief”).