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Spencer v. State

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 31, 2017

DAVID A. SPENCER, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW MEXICO, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          M. CHRISTINA ARMIJO, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Eleventh Judicial District Court and Honorable Sandra Price's Amended Motion to Dismiss, Doc. 32, filed May 12, 2017. For the reasons stated below, the Court will GRANT the Motion.

         Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint names the State of New Mexico, the Eleventh Judicial District Court, and State District Court Judge Sandra Price, individually and in her official capacity, and others as defendants. See Doc. 8. The Amended Complaint asserts claims under federal law for violation of an automatic bankruptcy stay, violations of constitutional rights and conspiracy, and under state law for malicious prosecution, tortious interference with business practices, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         The Eleventh Judicial District Court and the Honorable Sandra Price seek dismissal of the Amended Complaint as against them on jurisdictional and judicial immunity grounds. Plaintiff has not filed a response opposing the motion.

         Plaintiff lists the State of New Mexico as a defendant in the caption of his Amended Complaint, but does not list the State of New Mexico in the section of the Amended Complaint titled “The Parties and Jurisdiction.” Amended Complaint at 2-3. There are very few allegations which mention the “State of New Mexico.” See Amended Complaint at 17 (Plaintiff “prays for Judgment against . . . The State of New Mexico”), ¶ 133 at 19 (stating Defendant Price “was a State of New Mexico . . . employee”). Although the Eleventh Judicial District Court and Honorable Sandra Price's Amended Motion to Dismiss does not seek dismissal of the Amended Complaint as against the State of New Mexico, the Court will address whether it has jurisdiction over the claims against the State of New Mexico because the State of New Mexico is listed as a defendant in the caption of the Amended Complaint. See Oklahoma Turnpike Authority v. Bruner, 259 F.3d 1236, 1241 (10th Cir. 2001) (“[i]f the parties do not raise the question of lack of jurisdiction, it is the duty of the federal court to determine the matter sua sponte”) (quoting Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir.1974)).

         Violation of Bankruptcy Stay Claim

         Plaintiff asserts that:

State of New Mexico San Juan County District Judge Sandra Price blatantly violated the Federal code 11 U.S.C. § 362 Stay of proceedings by incarcerating [Plaintiff] on civil Contempt after the Bankruptcy was filed on March 12, 2015, for not paying a debt listed in his bankruptcy thus violating the Plaintiff's Federal and Constitutional Rights.

Amended Complaint ¶ 112 at 16.

         The District of New Mexico has referred “all cases under Title 11 and all proceedings arising under Title 11 or arising in or related to a case under Title 11 . . . to the bankruptcy judges for the district to the extent permitted by law.” In the Matter of Reference to Bankruptcy Judges and Local Bankruptcy Rules, Admin. Order, Misc. No. 84-0324 (D.N.M. March 19, 1992) (Burciaga, C.J.). The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's violation of bankruptcy stay claim and grant Plaintiff leave to seek relief in the Bankruptcy Court. See Lester v. United States, 208 F.3d 226, *2 (10th Cir. 2000) (dismissal of plaintiff's . . . violation of bankruptcy stay claim [arising under Title 11] with leave to seek relief in the bankruptcy court was not an abuse of the district court's discretion”).

         Jurisdiction

         As the party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court, Plaintiff bears the burden of alleging facts that support jurisdiction. See Dutcher v. Matheson, 733 F.3d 980, 985 (10th Cir. 2013) (“Since federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, we presume no jurisdiction exists absent an adequate showing by the party invoking federal jurisdiction”).

         The Court does not have jurisdiction over this matter with respect to Defendant State of New Mexico. With certain limited exceptions, the Eleventh Amendment prohibits a citizen from filing suit against a state in federal court.” Ruiz v. McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1180 (10th Cir. 2002). States enjoy sovereign immunity ...


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