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Boettger v. Fairchild

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 13, 2017

ROBERT FAIRCHILD, et al., Defendants.


          Daniel D. Crabtree United States District Judge

         On June 14, 2017, pro se[1] plaintiff Charles T. Boettger filed this action against defendants Judge Robert Fairchild, Judge Peggy Kittle, Judge Phillip Sieve, Judge Richard Smith, Mr. W.C. Delany, Mr. David Melton, Mr. Joshua Seiden, [2] and Mr. James Rumsey under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. He also invokes various Kansas statutes. All defendants but Mr. Seiden have moved to dismiss the claims in their entirety. Each defendant asserted different reasons for dismissal. Judge Fairchild moved for dismissal asserting that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and alternatively, that he has absolute judicial immunity from this suit. Docs. 11 & 12. Judge Kittle, Judge Sieve, Judge Smith, Mr. Delaney, and Mr. Melton also moved for dismissal relying, primarily, on the argument that the Complaint fails to state a claim. These defendants also provided several alternative arguments for dismissal. Docs. 9 & 10. And last, Mr. Rumsey also has moved for dismissal, arguing that the Complaint fails to state a claim. He adopts by reference the Supporting Memorandum filed by Judge Kittel, et al. Doc. 15. For reasons discussed below, the court grants defendants' Motions to Dismiss.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges that Judge Sieve, Mr. Melton, and Mr. Rumsey “conspired and colluded at the [September 24, 2014] hearing to deprive and violate Mr. Boettger of his Civil rights, Constitutional rights, and statutory rights.” Doc. 1 at 8. The Complaint provides a putative recounting of a September 24, 2014 competency hearing held in the District Court of Douglas County, Kansas:

At the hearing on September 24, 2014, the district court[3] began by discussing the outcome of the motion with the State and Mr. Rumsey outside of the presence of Mr. Boettger where the following exchange occurred:
The Court: Boettger, 2014-CR-262. And we're here outside the presence of the defendant, myself and counsel for the State and his court-appointed lawyer, and I just wanted to indicate to you, [an assistant has] been checking, and we really cannot get in line for Larned[4] unless he's in custody. So I am proposing to go ahead and hear the motion, and I'll say something about why he need[s] to be taken into custody.
Mr. Rumsey: Okay.
The Court: And then we'll have to deal with, shall I bring that up - - well, why don't, when we start out, you say, Judge, I think we need to address something, my client's in - - okay?
Mr. Rumsey: Right.
The Court: All right.
Mr. Rumsey: And then we'll go into the competency motion The Court: Yeah, after that.
Mr. Rumsey: Yeah.
The Court: So that's going to be the plan, I just want to let you know, so you guys go back in there a minute and sit so I am not going to go in for about two minutes, okay?

Id. at 7 (footnotes added). The Complaint alleges that Mr. Rumsey only had approximately 10 to 15 minutes to speak with plaintiff before the September 24, 2014 competency hearing. It also alleges that Mr. Rumsey was unable to provide the court with plaintiff's mental health diagnosis as part of the competency motion, but that he asserted in that motion, “[I]t is likely that [plaintiff] suffers from a serious undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, such as Schizophrenia, Paranoia, or both.” Id. (quoting R. I, 58.)

         Plaintiff asserts that his commitment to Larned violated Due Process “because he was not meaningfully represented by counsel resulting in effective abandonment of client at the hearing on September 24, 2014.” Id. at 8. Plaintiff asserts that defendants violated other fundamental rights, namely: (1) procedural and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) “the right to bail under section 9 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights;” and (3) effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, as such, must have a statutory basis to exercise jurisdiction.” Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over all civil actions arising under the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States or where diversity of citizenship exists. 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “A court lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking.” Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974) (citation omitted). Since federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, there is a presumption against jurisdiction, and the party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden to prove it exists. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

         When defendants attack the Complaint's allegations of subject matter jurisdiction, the court “must accept the allegations in the complaint as true.” Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002 (10th Cir. 1995) (citing Ohio Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320, 325 (6th Cir. 1990)). But, conclusory allegations about jurisdiction are not sufficient. Penteco Corp. Ltd. P'ship-1985A v. Union Gas Sys., Inc., 929 F.2d 1519, 1521 (10th Cir. 1991); Matthews v. YMCA, No. 05-4033-SAC, 2005 WL 2663218, at *2 (D. Kan. Oct. 19, 2005).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although this rule “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, '” it demands more than “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'” which, as the Supreme Court explained, “will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Under this standard, ‘the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.'” Carter v. United States, 667 F.Supp.2d 1259, 1262 (D. Kan. 2009) (quoting Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007)).

         Although the court must assume that the factual allegations in the complaint are true, it is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 1263 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to state a ...

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