this, or any, defense when he filed his original answer constituted a default. See 7 C.F.R. § 1.136(c). His concession, in his response to the proposed decision, that there was nothing for him to deny, "as all the allegations are correct," underscores his failure to raise any defenses in a timely manner. Mr. Daul presents no evidence supporting his allegation that defendants breached their legal duties by curtailing his procedural due process rights. Rather, the record points to the opposite conclusion, namely, that each defendant acted pursuant to statute and regulation and that Mr. Daul was given proper notice at each stage and an opportunity to present his defenses and arguments. He has either failed to take advantage of his procedural rights or has sought to do so in an untimely fashion.
Indeed, Mr. Daul admits that he has exhausted his administrative relief, as he has challenged the outcome of almost every step of the agency process. He fails to allege any specific facts to show that defendants' treatment of the case strayed from agency procedures or purposely skewed the outcome to his detriment. Even assunting the applicability of Bivens to the claims asserted here, Mr. Daul's conclusory allegations of unconstitutional motive, devoid of factual support, must be found lacking, and the case must be dismissed. See Martin v. Malhoyt, 265 U.S. App. D.C. 89, 830 F.2d 237, 257 (D.C. Cir. 1987); Herbage v. Meese, 747 F. Supp. 60, 63-64 (D.D.C. 1990).
A. Absolute Immunity
Plaintiff's claims as to ALJ John Campbell and Mr. Donald Campbell must be dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim upon which relief may be granted because these USDA officials are absolutely immune from suit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A long line of Supreme Court precedent establishes the principle that generally a judge is immune from suit for money damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 116 L. Ed. 2d 9, 112 S. Ct. 286 (1991); Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 88 L. Ed. 2d 507, 106 S. Ct. 496 (1985); Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 57 L. Ed. 2d 895, 98 S. Ct. 2894 (1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 18 L. Ed. 2d 288, 87 S. Ct. 1213 (1967). Absolute judicial immunity provides immunity from suit as well as from the ultimate imposition of damages; it therefore may not be overcome even by allegations of bad faith or malice. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. at 11. Because administrative law judges exercise independent judgment in performing adjudicatory functions and because of their functional similarities to federal and state trial and appellate judges, administrative law judges and judicial review officers are entitled to absolute immunity from suit for their judicial acts. Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. at 513-14.
Relying upon Ex Parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 25 L. Ed. 676 (1879), and Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 98 L. Ed. 2d 555, 108 S. Ct. 538 (1988), plaintiff argues that judicial officers may be liable for certain actions they take within the context of their judicial offices. In Ex Parte Virginia, the Supreme Court held that a judge who was criminally charged for depriving African-Americans of their civil rights to participate as jurors under the Fourteenth Amendment could not invoke the doctrine of judicial immunity. Even today, a judge may be criminally liable for willful deprivations of constitutional rights pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 242, but the same judge is absolutely immune from suit for civil liability for the same alleged unconstitutional deprivation. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. at 10 n.1; Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 429, 47 L. Ed. 2d 128, 96 S. Ct. 984 (1976); O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 503, 38 L. Ed. 2d 674, 94 S. Ct. 669 (1974). In Forrester v. White, the Court held that a judge is absolutely immune from liability for judicial actions but not for non-judicial actions that judges also may perform. In that case, the judge had fired a court employee, a probation officer. The court concluded that the nature of the act, rather than the identity of the individual, determines the applicability of absolute judicial immunity, and that Judge White was not immune from suit for this administrative decision to fire the employee. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. at 227-29. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. at 12 (citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362, 55 L. Ed. 2d 331, 98 S. Ct. 1099 (1978)).
The actions of ALJ John Campbell and Mr. Donald Campbell were judicial in nature and involved functions typically performed by judges and judicial officers. ALJ Campbell was the judicial officer who initially adjudicated the claim, and Mr. Donald Campbell was the Judicial Officer who reviewed the findings of the ALJ. There are no allegations that either of them was acting outside his judicial role or that either engaged in criminal conduct. Ex parte Virginia and Forrester v. White do not apply.
Plaintiff's claims against Mr. Kevin Meckus also must be dismissed on grounds of absolute immunity. Because of their intimate association with the judicial function in initiating and prosecuting suits, prosecutors are afforded absolute immunity from civil suits for damages arising from the performance of their official duties. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. at 424. The Supreme Court in Butz extended this immunity to administrative officials performing certain functions analogous to those of a prosecutor. Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. at 515. Mr. Meckus was the USDA agency attorney who initiated and prosecuted Mr. Daul's AWA violation, and his activities were limited to these acts. The reasons for absolute immunity therefore apply with full force to Mr. Meckus. Id. at 515-17; Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. at 430. Like ALJ Campbell and Mr. Donald Campbell, Mr. Meckus is entitled to absolute immunity under Butz so that he may perform his duties without fear of retaliatory counter-attacks by individuals targeted by administrative proceedings. Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. at 517.
B. Qualified Immunity
Government officials performing discretionary functions are "generally shielded from civil liability so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982). The availability of qualified immunity typically turns on the "objective legal reasonableness" of the official's action assessed in light of the legal rules that were "clearly established" at the time it was taken. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523, 107 S. Ct. 3034 (1987) (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. at 818). The boundaries of the established right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that his or her action violates that right; "in the light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be apparent." Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. at 640.
On summary judgment, the Court appropriately may determine not only the currently applicable law, but whether that law was clearly established at the time an action occurred. Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 231, 114 L. Ed. 2d 277, 111 S. Ct. 1789 (1991). In order to survive summary judgment, the plaintiff must set forth non-conclusory evidence of a violation of a clearly established right and show a prima facie case of the defendant's knowledge of impropriety, actual or constructive. Krohn v. United States, 742 F.2d 24, 31-32 (1st Cir. 1984); see Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 86 L. Ed. 2d 411, 105 S. Ct. 2806 (1985).
Even construing plaintiff's allegations in the light most favorable to him, Mr. Daul appears merely to allege without proof that each of these defendants exceeded the scope of his authority, that each breached his lawful duty by failing to account for Mr. Daul's alleged status as a non-dealer, and that each defendant somehow interfered with plaintiff's right to procedural due process in prosecuting and adjudicating his case. These conclusory allegations fail to show that any defendant violated any clearly established constitutional or statutory right. There is no evidence that any defendant performed his official duties with actual or constructive knowledge of impropriety or in a manner that would be objectively unreasonable for his position. Plaintiff cites no evidence that defendants overreached or that the procedure followed was faulty or violated any established right. Rather, so far as the record shows, each defendant acted properly pursuant to statute and regulation and took appropriate steps to assure that plaintiff received the procedural due process to which he was entitled.
The claims against defendants Kevin Meckus, John Campbell, and Donald Campbell are dismissed because each is insulated from suit by absolute immunity. Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to set forth facts sufficient to demonstrate that any of the defendants violated his clearly established constitutional rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment. Defendants William Struck and Robert Ertman therefore are entitled to qualified immunity and thus to summary judgment, as each of the other three defendants would be if he were not absolutely immune from suit. An Order consistent with this Opinion is entered this same day.
PAUL L. FRIEDMAN
United States District Judge
This case comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff's response thereto, all other filings made by Plaintiff, and the entire record in this case, and for the reasons stated in the accompanying Opinion, it is hereby
ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment is GRANTED; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's claims as to Defendants Kevin Meckus, John Campbell and Donald Campbell are DISMISSED with prejudice; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that judgment is entered in favor of Defendants Robert Ertman and William Struck; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that this case shall be removed from the docket of the Court.
PAUL L. FRIEDMAN
United States District Judge