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PANAYOTIDES v. RABENOLD

January 27, 1999

PANAYOTIDES MICHAEL A., ET. AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RABENOLD RANDY A., ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, District Judge.

    MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are the Motions to Dismiss of all Defendants on various grounds ranging from immunity to lack of jurisdiction to failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff's*fn1 complaint alleges that each of the Defendants violated his constitutional rights by conspiring to interfere with his due process rights and his right to custody of his child. Each Defendant or class of Defendants is alleged to have participated in the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights in a different manner; however, where appropriate, the motions of the defendants will be treated together. For the following reasons the Motions to Dismiss are granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's pro se amended complaint covers eighty-four (84) pages and includes long narratives describing Plaintiff's allegations of the events that have transpired as well as historical and legal quotations and a catalog of various laws and statutes. Plaintiff's complaint revolves around the alleged kidnaping of his son by Julie Panayotides, the child's mother and Plaintiff's wife. Plaintiff alleges a conspiracy to aid in the kidnaping which includes Julie Panayotides as well as her lawyers (both in Pennsylvania and Australia) and two Pennsylvania court judges. Further, Plaintiff alleges that various prosecutors violated his rights by not investigating his kidnaping claims.*fn2

Plaintiff's allegations are broad based and appear to suggest a § 1983 and § 1985(3) civil rights conspiracy claim for violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights including failure to provide due process and depriving Plaintiff of custody of his son. Plaintiff also seeks relief under various Pennsylvania state laws and criminal statutes as well as international treaties.*fn3

DISCUSSION

A. Judicial and Prosecutorial Defendants

1. Judicial Immunity for Claims for Monetary Damages

Plaintiff has brought claims against the Honorable Arthur E. Grim, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and the Honorable Frederick Edenharter, Senior Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County (the "Judicial Defendants"). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief from the Judicial Defendants for acts allegedly taken in furtherance of a conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights. The Judicial Defendants seek immunity from these claims.

Judicial immunity provides broad protection for judges from suits for monetary damages. This immunity is "immunity from suit, not just from an assessment of damages." Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11, 112 S.Ct. 286, 288, 116 L.Ed.2d 9 (1991). Judicial immunity can not be overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice. Id. (citing Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967)). Rather, judicial immunity can only be overcome if the judge is acting outside the scope of the judicial capacity or if the judge is acting in the "complete absence of all jurisdiction." Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11-12, 112 S.Ct. at 288. In order to determine if an act is within the scope of judicial action, a court should look to the "`nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.'" Mireles, 502 U.S. at 12, 112 S.Ct. at 288 (quoting Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 1108, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978)). [T]he relevant inquiry is the "nature" and "function" of the act, not the "act itself." Id. at 13, 112 S.Ct. at 288.

In the instant case, Plaintiff alleges that Judge Edenharter conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights by performing only a cursory review of a defective "Rule to Show Cause" filed by some of the other named Defendants and signing the defective "Rule" with knowledge that it was defective. See (Pl.'s Amended Compl. at ¶ 5.53). Further, Plaintiff alleges that Judge Edenharter passed along to Defendant Randy A. Rabenold a letter which the Plaintiff had written ex parte to Judge Edenharter. Id. at ¶ 5.66.

The nature and function of these acts demonstrate that they were made in Judge Edenharter's judicial capacity, and Plaintiff has not alleged any activity that would take these actions outside the scope of the judicial capacity. Further, Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that Judge Edenharter was acting in the absence of jurisdiction. Therefore, we find that Judge Edenharter is immune from a suit for monetary damages for these alleged actions, and we dismiss the federal claims in Plaintiff's amended complaint seeking monetary damages from Judge Edenharter.

Plaintiff's allegations against Judge Grim are lengthier. See Id. at ¶¶ 5.62, 5.63, 5.64, 5.66, 5.67, 5.71, 5.89, 5.94, 5.97, 5.99, 5.101, 5.103, 5.104, 5.105, 5.106, 5.107, 5.109, 5.110, 5.111, and 5.122. Some of the specific acts taken by Judge Grim in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights are as follows: granting an indefinite stay of the Pennsylvania court proceedings pending resolution of other related issues including a Hague Convention application and the taking of depositions; not setting a specific time limit for the taking of depositions or attempting to enforce his orders that the depositions proceed; denying many of Plaintiff's petitions including his petition for declaratory relief; preventing Plaintiff from presenting evidence at a hearing; refusing Plaintiff's request that the stay be lifted; consolidating Plaintiff's divorce and support proceedings; and ultimately dismissing Plaintiff's original complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Id.

Plaintiff maintains that Judge Grim performed these functions with full knowledge of the part they played in the alleged conspiracy to kidnap his son. A review of the nature and function of the acts taken by Judge Grim demonstrates that the alleged activity stems from Judge Grim's role as a judicial officer and from the parties' involvement with Judge Grim in his judicial capacity. See Mireles, 502 U.S. at 12, 112 S.Ct. at 288 (internal citations omitted). Plaintiff has not made any allegations to demonstrate that Judge Grim was acting outside of his judicial scope.

2. Prosecutorial Immunity for Claims for Monetary Damages

Plaintiff brings claims for monetary damages against Paula Szortyka ("Szortyka"), an Assistant District Attorney at the Berks County District Attorney's office, and Maureen Barden ("Barden"), an Assistant United States Attorney working in the Philadelphia office (the "prosecutorial defendants"), for their failure to investigate his claims that his son was ...


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