The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY CHESLER, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on the appeal of an August
2, 2005 Order issued by the Honorable Tonianne J. Bongiovanni,
U.S.M.J. denying Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended
Complaint.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, Magistrate
Judge Bongiovanni's Order is affirmed.
This case arises out of a child custody dispute litigated in
New Jersey State Court. The Plaintiff filed the original
Complaint in this matter on August 15, 2003 (docket entry # 1).
On or about May 2, 2005, Plaintiff filed a motion with the Court
seeking leave to amend his Complaint to add additional defendants.*fn2
Specifically, Plaintiff sought to add as defendants: (1) Judge
Robert Fall and Judge Anthony Parillo, both Appellate Division
Judges of New Jersey Superior Court; (2) Justice Deborah Poritz,
Justice Virginia Long, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, Justice James
Zazzali, Justice Barry Albin, Justice John Wallace, and Justice
Roberto Rivera-Soto, all New Jersey Supreme Court Justices; (3)
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; (4) Avivith Oppenheim;
(5) Ewa Skwarcynska; (6) the Supreme Court of New Jersey; (7)
United States Congress; and (8) the New Jersey State Legislature.
Defendants filed no opposition to Plaintiff's Motion.
Judge Bongiovanni denied Plaintiff's motion on the ground that
amendment to the Complaint would be futile. Judge Bongiovanni
held: (1) the additions of Judge Fall and Parillo as well as
Justices Poritz, Long, La Vecchia, Zazzali, Albin, Wallace and
Rivera-Soto as defendants futile because each are protected by
the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity; (2) the New Jersey
Supreme Court and State Legislature is protected from suit by
Eleventh Amendment immunity; (3) Plaintiff's proposed claims
against Ewa Skwarcynska and Avivith Oppenheim are barred by the
running of the applicable two-year statute of limitations period;
(4) Plaintiff's proposed claims against Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales and the United States Congress fail to state a claim
upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiff filed the instant
appeal on August 15, 2005. DISCUSSION
The standard of review of a magistrate judge's decision depends
upon whether the issue addressed was dispositive or
non-dispositive. Andrews v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.,
191 F.R.D. 59, 67 (D.N.J. 2000). A district court may reverse a
magistrate judge's determination of a non-dispositive issue only
if it is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law."
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see also Lithuanian Commerce Corp. v. Sara Lee
Hosiery, 177 F.R.D. 205 (D.N.J. 1997).
Motions to amend are treated as non-dispositive matters in this
Court. Gutierrez v. Johnson & Johnson, 227 F.R.D. 255 (D.N.J.
2005). Review of a Magistrate Judge's legal determinations,
however, is plenary. Sidali v. I.N.S., 914 F. Supp. 1104, 1111
(D.N.J. 1996). The decision to deny Plaintiff's Motion for leave
to amend addressed legal issues in the context of what is
essentially a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss determination.
Therefore, this Court will give the August 2, 2005, Order of
Magistrate Judge Bongiovanni plenary review.
Judge Bongiovanni denied Plaintiff's motion to amend his
complaint on the basis of futility. Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(a), leave to amend pleadings is generally freely
given. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). A court,
however, may nonetheless deny a motion to amend if such amendment
would be futile. Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d. Cir.
2000). In determining futility, the court must consider whether the complaint, as amended, would survive a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted. Id. at 121. Plaintiff disputes Judge
Bongiovanni's determination that amendments to the Complaint
would be futile.
I. Plaintiff's Claims Against Judicial Officers
Judge Bongiovanni found Plaintiff's claims against Judges Fall
and Parillo, and Justices Poritz, Long, La Vecchia, Zazzali,
Albin, Wallace and Rivera-Soto futile because as judges and
justices they are protected by judicial immunity. Plaintiff
argues that this determination is incorrect because judicial
immunity does not provide immunity when a judge or justice is
disregarding the law, or when a plaintiff is seeking prospective
It is well settled that judges are "generally afforded absolute
immunity from civil suits for money damages." Figueroa v.
Blackburn, 208 F.3d 435 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Mireles v.
Waco, 502 U.S. 9 (1991)). "The doctrine of judicial immunity is
founded upon the premise that a judge, in performing his or her
judicial duties, should be free to act upon his or her
convictions without threat of suit for damages." Figueroa,
208 F.3d at 400. So sacrosanct is judicial immunity that judges "are
not liable to civil actions for their judicial acts, even when
such acts are . . . alleged to be done maliciously or corruptly."
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). Indeed, a judge
may only be held civilly liable in two circumstances: (1) when
the judge was not operating in his or her judicial capacity, and
(2) when the action was taken in the "complete absence of all
jurisdiction." Id. at 360; see also Figueroa v.
Blackburn, 39 F. Supp. 2d 479, 485-86 (D.N.J. 1999). Plaintiff's complaint, as amended, did not allege
any actions by the judicial defendants taking them outside of the
realm of judicial immunity. Each of the allegations in the
proposed Amended Complaint challenged conduct by the Judges taken
in their roles as adjudicators. For example, the allegations in
Count Eight of the proposed Amended Complaint contend that Judges
Fall and Parillo "in course of adjudicating Plaintiff's appeal . . .
have conspired" violating Plaintiff's right to equal
treatment and due process. Likewise, Plaintiff's proposed claims
against the justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court allege
constitutional violations caused by defendants declining to hear
Despite Plaintiff's argument on appeal, the fact that Plaintiff
was seeking prospective injunctive relief also does not eliminate
the protection afforded by judicial immunity. Traditionally,
although claims for money damages have been barred by judicial
immunity, claims for prospective injunctive relief have been
permitted under § 1983 against judicial officers acting in their
official capacity. See Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 541-42
(1984). In 1996, however, Congress passed the Federal Courts
Improvement Act of 1996 ("FCIA") and legislatively reversed
Pulliam in several respects. Significantly, the FCIA amended §
1983 to provide that "injunctive relief shall not be granted" in
any § 1983 action "against a judicial officer for an ...