United States District Court, D. New Jersey
RAYMOND L. BARTEE, JR., Plaintiff,
JOHN C. PORTO, et al., Defendants.
B. KUGLER United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court upon Defendant John C. Porto
(“Defendant”)'s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No.
5). Plaintiff Raymond Bartee claims that Defendants conspired
to deprive him of due process and equal protection in a
criminal proceeding. Plaintiff therefore brings section 1983
claims against Defendants. For the reasons discussed below,
Defendant's motion to dismiss is
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL
complaint appears to stem from a criminal trial that began in
January 2016 in New Jersey Superior Court in Cape May County.
Compl. at 2-3 (Doc. No. 1-3). Plaintiff specifically alleges
that Defendant Porto (the Judge for the criminal trial),
Stephen B. Patrick (Defendant's public defender), and
“Hoernarman, ” whom Plaintiff later clarified to
be “Hoerner” (the prosecutor), conspired to
deprive him of his rights by allowing the trial to go
forward. Id.; Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 6 (Doc. No.
6). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants conspired to deprive
him of his due process and equal protection rights through
use of “racist threats, intimidation, and
coercion.” Compl. at 2. Plaintiff specifically notes
that Defendants allowed the trial to proceed and selected
jurors despite the fact that there was no “injured
party” making a claim against him. Id.
Plaintiff also complains that he was deprived of documents in
filed his complaint in New Jersey Superior Court on or around
January 9, 2017. Compl. Defendant Porto removed the case to
this Court on February 1, 2017. Notice of Removal (Doc. No.
1). Defendant then filed the instant motion to dismiss on
February 22, 2017.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss an
action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. When evaluating a motion to dismiss, “courts
accept all factual allegations as true, construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and
determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the
complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.”
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.
2009) (quoting Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233)). In other
words, a complaint is sufficient if it contains enough
factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). It is not for courts
to decide at this point whether the moving party will succeed
on the merits, but “whether they should be afforded an
opportunity to offer evidence in support of their
claims.” In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc.,
311 F.3d 198, 215 (3d Cir. 2002). Yet, while “detailed
factual allegations” are unnecessary, 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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(alteration in original) (citations omitted).
this determination, a court conducts a three-part analysis.
Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d
Cir. 2010). First, the court must “tak[e] note of the
elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675).
Second, the court should identify allegations that,
“because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). Finally,
“where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). This
plausibility determination is a “context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. A complaint cannot survive where a court can infer
only that a claim is merely possible rather than plausible.
Porto moves to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against him
on the basis of absolute judicial immunity. Def.'s Br. at
3-6 (Doc. No. 5-3). Where, as here, a plaintiff seeks
monetary relief from a judicial officer, the doctrine of
judicial immunity is implicated. Judicial immunity rests on
the principle that “[a] judicial officer in the
performance of his duties has absolute immunity from suit and
will not be liable for judicial acts.” Azubuko v.
Royal, 443 F.3d 302, 303 (3d Cir. 2006). Further,
“[a] judge will not be deprived of immunity because the
action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in
excess of his authority; rather, he will be subject to
liability only when he has acted in the clear absence of all
jurisdiction.” Id. (citing Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978) (citation
argues that Defendant Porto is not entitled to judicial
immunity because he lacked authority and jurisdiction over
Plaintiff. Pl.'s Opp'n Br. at 8. Plaintiff contends
that Defendant lacked jurisdiction because Plaintiff did not
commit a crime. Id. Defendant Porto responds that
“the claimed innocence of the accused is not an
argument against jurisdiction.” Def.'s Reply Br. at
1-2 (Doc. No. 7).
Court agrees with Defendant. All of Plaintiff's
allegations relate to Defendant's actions in his capacity
as a Superior Court Judge. Judge Porto was performing his
duties as a judicial officer when he presided over
Plaintiff's criminal trial. Plaintiff may believe that
Porto was acting without jurisdiction, but Plaintiff's
subjective belief does not override objective reality.
Accordingly, because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted, Defendant Porto will be
dismissed from this action with prejudice.
reasons stated herein, Defendant John C. Porto's motion
to dismiss is GRANTED. John C. Porto ...