The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge
Plaintiff Raymond D. Bey, representing himself, submitted a Complaint which he seeks to file in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) without prepayment of fees.
The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and Affidavit (Docket Item 1-1), which was received on March 13, 2009. Because the Affidavit discloses that Plaintiff is indigent, the Court will permit the Complaint to be filed without prepayment of fees.
The Court is also required by Section 1915 to preliminarily review each Complaint filed in forma pauperis and to "dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that...the action... (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B).
In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).
A complaint must plead facts sufficient at least to "suggest" a basis for liability. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 n.12 (3d Cir. 2004). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). While a complaint ... does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation"). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level ....
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). See also Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d at 906 (a court need not credit a pro se plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions").
A complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting the predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former § 1915(d)). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint is "frivolous" is an objective one. Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995).
With these principles in mind, the Court turns to its analysis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), above.
I. FACTUAL AND LEGAL ALLEGATIONS
The Complaint names three persons in their official capacities as employees of the Clerk's Office of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, namely, Deputy Clerks David Bruey and Marcy Barratt and the Clerk of Court William T. Walsh. Plaintiff's claims arise out of another civil action filed in this Court, Bey v. Daimler Chrysler, Civil Action No. 04-6186 (RBK). Plaintiff named eleven defendants, plus Jane and John Doe defendants, in connection with Plaintiff's purchase of a $51,000 Mercedes Benz automobile, which was apparently later repossessed; Plaintiff made various statutory and common law claims related to those defendants. (See Complaint, Civil NO. 04-6186 (RBK)). Plaintiff alleges that he filed a request for entry of default with respect to one of the defendants named in that action, a defendant tow-truck driver named "Ray," on September 7, 2005. He alleges that the Clerk's Office did not enter default as requested and that he inquired of David Bruey and Marcy Barratt on September 29, 2005, who both told him that the default had not been entered because the defendant was not personally served. [See Complaint herein, General Factual Allegations]. Plaintiff alleges he wrote to William T. Walsh, Clerk of the Court, on November 29, 2005, citing the refusal of the Clerk's Office to file the default, and he received no response. [Id.] He alleges he thereafter continued to litigate that case. [Id.]
The Complaint contains four counts. Count 1 alleges violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of his right to entry of default contrary to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Count 2 alleges conspiracy violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleging that all defendants conspired to deprive him of the default. Count 3 alleges that the defendants violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act by defrauding him of the default. Count 4 alleges that defendants were negligent because they failed to adhere to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in denying his request for default. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
In the underlying case of Bey v. Daimler Chrysler, Civil Action No. 04-6186 (RBK), the docket reflects that Judge Kugler entered an Opinion and Order [Docket Items 49, 50] dismissing the claims against defendant "Ray" under Rule 4(m), Fed. R. Civ. P., for failure to serve process upon Ray.*fn1 The dismissal order was entered on May 16, 2006, [Docket Item 50]. Plaintiff did not appeal, and Judge Kugler's determinations that defendant Ray was not properly personally served with process as required by Rule 4(e), Fed. R. Civ. P., and that plaintiff failed to comply with Rule 4(m), Fed. R. Civ. P., remains the final decision. In other words, Judge Kugler found that defendant "Ray" had not been properly or timely served with process. Thus, indirectly, Judge Kugler also determined that it would have been improper to grant Plaintiff's request for default against "Ray."
II. QUASI-JUDICIAL IMMUNITY REQUIRES DISMISSAL
As a general rule, judges acting in their judicial capacity are absolutely immune (in both their individual and official capacities) from suit for monetary damages under the doctrine of judicial immunity. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9 (1991). Judicial immunity can be overcome only for actions not taken in a judicial capacity, id., or for actions taken in a complete absence of all jurisdiction, id. at 11-12. Allegations that actions were undertaken with an improper motive diminishes neither their character as judicial actions nor the judge's immunity. See Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227 (1988).
Judicial immunity may extend to professionals who assist courts in their judicial function. See Hughes v. Long, 242 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2001). It long has been the rule that "[c]court clerks have absolute quasi-judicial immunity from damages for civil rights violations when they perform tasks that are an integral part of the judicial process." Mullis v. United States Bankruptcy Court, 828 F.2d at 1390, cited with approval in Akins v. Deptford Twp, 813 F.Supp. 1098, 1102-03 (D.N.J.), ...