The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSE LINARES, District Judge
OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
This matter comes before the Court on the objections of
Plaintiff Steven C. Thompson (hereinafter "Plaintiff") to the
July 19, 2005 Report and Recommendation of United States
Magistrate Judge Ronald D. Hedges regarding the Defendant Debra
Irwin's (hereinafter "Defendant") motion to dismiss the Complaint
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 72.1(c)(2), this Court has conducted
a de novo review of Magistrate Judge Hedges' July 19 Report
and Recommendation to which Plaintiff has objected. For the
reasons set forth below, the objections of Plaintiff will be
overruled, and the Court grants Defendant's motion to dismiss.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
A detailed factual background of this case is set forth in the
July 19, 2005 Report and Recommendation, and will not be repeated
here, except where necessary to provide context for the de novo review of Magistrate Judge Hedges' Report and
Recommendation. Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendant
on December 30, 2004, alleging violations of state and federal
law, specifically, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination,
N.J.S.A. § 10:5-1 et seq.; the Americans with Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,
42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.; and Criminal Conspiracy to Interfere
with Civil Rights, 18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2)(B).
On February 18, 2005, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss,
which was opposed by Plaintiff. The matter was referred to
Magistrate Judge Hedges, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B),
Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule
72.1(a)(2) of the Local Civil Rules, and on July 19, 2005 a
Report and Recommendation was issued. In his July 19 Report and
Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Hedges considered the
Defendant's motion to dismiss, solely on judicial immunity
grounds, and concluded that Defendant was entitled to judicial
immunity because her "decision regarding the accommodations was a
judicial act. . . ." (July 19, 2005 Report and Recommendation, at
4). Hence, Magistrate Judge Hedges recommended that this Court
grant Defendant's motion to dismiss.
Pursuant to L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2), Plaintiff filed objections
to Magistrate Judge Hedges' Report and Recommendation within ten
days of service. The substance of Plaintiff's objections are the
same as the arguments he made in his opposition to the motion to
dismiss. Plaintiff also argues that the Report and Recommendation
should be completely disregarded because "Judge Hedges does not
have the power to be fair and impartial and he does what Judge
Martini instructs him to do. . . ."*fn1 (Plaintiff's Letter
dated July 28, 2005, at 2). As explained below, this Court must
review the Defendant's motion de novo and owes no deference to Magistrate
Judge Hedges' Report and Recommendation. In doing so, this Court
has reviewed all of the submissions, the cases cited by the
parties and in the Report and Recommendation, and conducted its
own research on the issues raised in the Defendant's motion to
dismiss and in Plaintiff's objections.
When the magistrate judge addresses motions that are considered
"dispositive," such as to grant or deny a motion to dismiss, a
magistrate judge will submit a Report and Recommendation to the
district court. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72; L.
Civ. R. 72.1(a)(2). The district court may then "accept, reject
or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate [magistrate judge]. The judge may also
receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate
[magistrate judge] with instructions." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C);
see also L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2). Unlike an Opinion and Order
issued by a Magistrate Judge, a Report and Recommendation does
not have force of law unless and until the district court enters
an order accepting or rejecting it. United Steelworkers of Am.
v. N.J. Zinc Co., Inc., 828 F.2d 1001, 1005 (3d Cir. 1987).
The standard of review of a Magistrate Judge's determination
depends upon whether the motion is dispositive or
non-dispositive. With respect to dispositive motions, the
district court must make a de novo determination of those
portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which a litigant has
filed an objection. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(a); L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2); see also State Farm Indem. v.
Fornaro, 227 F. Supp. 2d 229, 231 (D.N.J. 2002); Zinberg v. Washington Bancorp, Inc., 138 F.R.D. 397, 401 (D.N.J. 1990)
(concluding that the court makes a de novo review of the
parts of the report to which the parties object). Here, Plaintiff
objects to the entire Report and Recommendation that dismissed
his case on judicial immunity grounds. Therefore, this Court will
examine the present motion to dismiss under a de novo
standard of review. In conducting this review, the Court "owes no
deference to the Magistrate Judge's findings and conclusions."
Taberer v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 954 F.2d 888, 904 (3d
B. Standards Governing Judicial Immunity
Generally, "judges are absolutely immune from liability for
damages for acts committed within their judicial discretion."
Johnson v. State of N.J., 869 F. Supp. 289, 293 (D.N.J. 1994)
(citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978)). A judge
will not be deprived of this immunity even when the action was
taken in error, done maliciously or was in excess of his or her
authority. Id. This immunity performs a vital role in our
democracy in preserving the independence of judicial decision
making. The immunity is not designed for the personal benefit of
judges, but rather for the benefit of the public at large. It
assures that judges decide cases independently and without fear
of lawsuits, retaliation or other reprisals. See Hawkins v.
Harris, 661 A.2d 284, 288 (N.J. 1995); see also Pierson v.
Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967).
Judicial immunity applies where (1) the conduct complained of
was a judicial act, (i.e., an act that a judge would normally
perform in his or her judicial capacity) and (2) the judge had
subject matter jurisdiction at the time of his or her action
(i.e., the parties were properly before the judge in the
judge's judicial capacity). Stump, 435 U.S. at 360; K.D. v.
Bozarth, 713 A.2d 546, 549 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1968);
see also Barrett v. Harrington, 130 F.3d 246, 255 (6th Cir.
1997) (relied on by Plaintiff Thompson). C. Objections to Magistrate Judge Hedges' Report and
Plaintiff objects to the Report and Recommendation by first
arguing that Defendant is not entitled to judicial immunity
because she was acting in an administrative capacity when she
denied his request for a reasonable accommodation and when she
disclosed his disability to his adversary. Plaintiff cites
Gregory v. Thompson, 500 F.2d 59 (9th Cir. 1974), in support of
his argument that judges do not have judicial immunity in every
situation in which they exercise their authority to control the
courtroom. Gregory, however, is distinguishable in that the
judge physically assaulted Gregory after he refused to leave the
courtroom, pushed him, threw him on the floor, jumped on him, and
beat him. Id. at 61. Faced with these facts, the Ninth Circuit
reasonably held that "[t]he decision to personally evict someone
from a courtroom by the use of physical force is simply not an
act of a judicial nature, and is not such as to require
insulation in order that the decision be deliberately reached."
Id. at 64. Here, the facts and the Plaintiff's allegations are
substantially different. Gregory is thus inapplicable.
The allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint center on a letter to
the municipal court dated December 1, 2004 which was not copied
to Plaintiff's adversary. In said letter, the Plaintiff set forth
that he suffers from exertion angina and exertion dyspnea and
requested that the trial be adjourned for sixty days, and that
accommodation be made for his disability. Defendant, the
municipal court judge presiding over Plaintiff's case, granted an
adjournment and postponed the trial. However, Defendant did not
rule on the Plaintiff's accommodations request at that time.
Instead, Plaintiff alleges, on the first day of trial, in ruling
on the accommodations request, Defendant disclosed Plaintiff's
disability to opposing counsel, over Plaintiff's objections.
Attached to Plaintiff's opposition to the motion to dismiss were
portions of the transcript of the aforesaid proceeding. Pages six ...