United States District Court, D. New Mexico
LUKIS J. CRUZ, Plaintiff,
STATE OF NEW MEXICO, SUSANA MARTINEZ, TAOS COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM P. JOHNSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on pro se
Plaintiff's Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, Doc. 1, filed March 2, 2018
(“Complaint”), on his Application to Proceed in
District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs, Doc. 2, filed
March 2, 2018 (“Application”), and on his Motion
for Notice of Judgement [sic] for the Plaintiff, Doc. 4,
filed March 28, 2018. For the reasons stated below, the Court
GRANTS Plaintiff's Application,
DISMISSES the Complaint, and
DENIES the Motion for Notice of Judgment.
Plaintiff may, within 21 days of entry of this Order, file an
amended complaint for those claims that have been dismissed
without prejudice. Failure to timely file an amended
complaint may result in dismissal of this case.
to Proceed in forma pauperis
statute for proceedings in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a), provides that the Court may authorize the
commencement of any suit without prepayment of fees by a
person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of
all assets the person possesses and that the person is unable
to pay such fees.
district court receives an application for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis,
it should examine the papers and determine if the
requirements of [28 U.S.C.] § 1915(a) are satisfied. If
they are, leave should be granted. Thereafter, if the court
finds that the allegations of poverty are untrue or that the
action is frivolous or malicious, it may dismiss the case[.]
Menefee v. Werholtz, 368 Fed.Appx. 879, 884 (10th
Cir. 2010) (citing Ragan v. Cox, 305 F.2d 58, 60
(10th Cir. 1962).). “[A]n application to proceed in
forma pauperis should be evaluated in light of the
applicant's present financial status.” Scherer
v. Kansas, 263 Fed.Appx. 667, 669 (10th Cir. 2008)
(citing Holmes v. Hardy, 852 F.2d 151, 153 (5th
Cir.1988)). “The statute [allowing a litigant to
proceed in forma pauperis ] was intended for the
benefit of those too poor to pay or give security for
costs....” Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours &
Co., 335 U.S. 331, 344 (1948). While a litigant need not
be “absolutely destitute, ” “an affidavit
is sufficient which states that one cannot because of his
poverty pay or give security for the costs and still be able
to provide himself and dependents with the necessities of
life.” Id. at 339.
Court will grant Plaintiff's Application. Plaintiff
signed an affidavit stating he is unable to pay the costs of
these proceedings and provided the following information: (i)
Plaintiff's average monthly income from food stamps
during the past 12 months was $192.00; (ii) Plaintiff is
currently unemployed; (iii) Plaintiff has no cash and no
money in bank accounts; and (iv) Plaintiff's only asset
is a 1994 vehicle valued at “not much” and has a
mechanic's lien on it. The Court finds Plaintiff is
unable to pay the costs of these proceedings because he is
unemployed, and because of his low monthly income.
Against State of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, and the State
difficult to identify the claims Plaintiff is making against
the Defendants because most of the allegations in the
Complaint are vague and conclusory. It appears that Plaintiff
is asserting a claim against the State of New Mexico,
Governor Martinez, and the State Court for violations of his
civil rights. See Complaint at 3-5 (indicating that
the State “covered up” crimes against committed
against him by others, alluding to due process violations,
stating he sought relief from Governor Martinez). “With
certain limited exceptions, the Eleventh Amendment [to the
United States Constitution] prohibits a citizen from filing
suit against a state in federal court.” Ruiz v.
McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1180 (10th Cir. 2002). There
are “two primary circumstances in which a citizen may
sue a state without offending Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Congress may abrogate a state's Eleventh Amendment
immunity . . . [or a] state may . . . waive its Eleventh
Amendment immunity and consent to be sued.”
Id. at 1181. Neither exception applies in this case.
“First, the United States Supreme Court has previously
held that Congress did not abrogate states' Eleventh
Amendment immunity when it enacted 42 U.S.C. §
1983.” Id. (citing Quern v.
Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979)); Hull v. State of
New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department's Motor
Vehicle Division, 179 Fed.Appx. 445, 446 (10th Cir.
2006) (“It is well established that arms of the state,
or state officials acting in their official capacities, are
not ‘persons' within the meaning of § 1983 and
therefore are immune from § 1983 damages suits.”).
Second, Plaintiff does not allege in his complaint that the
State of New Mexico waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in
appears that Plaintiff seeks to have this Court review the
State Court's judgment because Plaintiff requests
“that my record be cleared.” Complaint at 5. The
United States Supreme Court has held that Federal District
Courts do not have jurisdiction to review state court
judgments. See Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460
(2006) (“The Rooker-Feldmandoctrine
prevents the lower federal courts from exercising
jurisdiction over cases brought by ‘state-court
losers' challenging ‘state-court judgments rendered
before the district court proceedings commenced'”).
the Court dismisses the claims against the State of New
Mexico, Susana Martinez, and the State Court without
prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that
it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss
the action”); Brereton v. Bountiful City
Corp., 434 F.3d 1213, 1218 (10th Cir.2006)
(“[D]ismissals for lack of jurisdiction should be
without prejudice because the court, having determined that
it lacks jurisdiction over the action, is incapable
of reaching a disposition on the merits of the underlying
appears Plaintiff may also be asserting a civil rights claim
against the State Court Judge. See Complaint at 2
(stating “Jeff McElroy interfered with the [marriage]
contract;” Jeff McElroy is the Chief Judge for the New
Mexico Eighth District Court). Because Plaintiff is
proceeding in forma pauperis he is subject to the
requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Under §
1915(e)(2)(B)(iii), district courts must dismiss an IFP
complaint if it “seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.”
“[S]tate court judges are absolutely immune from
monetary damages claims for actions taken in their judicial
capacity, unless the actions are taken in the complete
absence of all jurisdiction.” Sawyer v.
Gorman, 317 Fed.Appx. 725, 727 (10th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12
(1991)); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57
(1978) (articulating broad immunity rule that 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”). The Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims
against the State Court Judge with prejudice because the
State Court Judge is immune from monetary damages claims for
actions taken in his judicial capacity.