that federal judges wrongfully dismissed his civil lawsuit.
Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the dismissal and its subsequent
affirmance violated his Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury and were
conducted in the clear absence of jurisdiction. See Compl. at 4. The
federal-judge defendants include the Honorable Peter J. Messitte, United
States District Judge in the District of Maryland, and the Honorable H.
Emory Widener, Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr., and James Dickson Phillips,
Jr., United States Court of Appeals Judges in the Fourth Circuit. Because
the federal-judge defendants filed a certification pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2679 certifying that they had acted within the scope of
their authority as employees of the United States, the United States
("the defendant") is the only defendant in this matter. See Mot. to Dis.
The defendant moves to dismiss this action under Rule 12(b)(6) on the
ground that the federal-judge defendants are immune from the plaintiffs
FTCA suit. See Mot. to Dis. at 5-7. The plaintiff asserts that judicial
immunity does not cover the judges' alleged violations of his
constitutional rights. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 7. He also pleads a cause of
action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971), which he
moves for leave to include in an amended complaint.*fn1 See id. at
The defendant also moves to dismiss this action under Rule 12(b)(1) on
the ground that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction because the
plaintiff failed to timely file his administrative tort claim. See Mot. to
Dis. at 4-5. The plaintiff counters that he did file within two years of
his injury and moves to amend his complaint to that effect. See Pl.'s
Opp'n to Mot. to Dis. ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 5-7.
The court holds that judicial immunity bars both the plaintiffs Bivens
claims and his FTCA claims. Because the plaintiff has failed to state a
claim for which relief can be granted, the court will grant the
defendant's motion to dismiss.
Mr. Tinsley's complaint centers on a string of lawsuits he has filed
since 1994. In April 1994, he filed a civil lawsuit in the Circuit Court
for Prince George's County, Maryland, against TRW, Incorporated, Equifax
Credit Information Services and Trans Union Corporation for violations of
the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. See Compl.,
Ex. 1 at 7. The defendants removed that case to the United States
District Court in Maryland. After the plaintiff and Trans Union signed a
stipulation of dismissal, the United States District Court in Maryland
granted summary judgment to the remaining defendants, TRW and Equifax.
See id. The court held that Mr. Tinsley "raised no genuine issue of
material fact as to violation of FRCA by Defendants." See Tinsley v.
TRW, 879 F. Supp. 550, 552 (D.Md. 1995). Mr. Tinsley appealed this case
to the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed the district court's judgment in an
unpublished per curiam opinion dated August 15, 1995. See Compl., Ex. 1
at 7. The United States Supreme Court denied Mr. Tinsley's petition for a
writ of certiorari on January 8, 1996. See id. at 7-8.
Later in 1996, Mr. Tinsley filed a second suit in the United States
District Court in
Maryland, raising the same issues against the same parties. See id. at
7; Mot. to Dis. at 2. Once again, the court granted summary judgment for
the defendants, this time holding that yes judicata barred the suit. See
Compl., Ex. 1 at 8. In the case at bar, Mr. Tinsley contends that the
grant of summary judgment by Judge Messitte was a violation of his
Seventh Amendment right to a trial by jury. See Compl. at 4-5. In
December 1996, Mr. Tinsley appealed this Second dismissal to the Fourth
Circuit. A panel of the Fourth Circuit affirmed Judge Messitte's decision
on December 31, 1996. See Mot. to Dis. at 2. Mr. Tinsley also appealed
Judge Messitte's order denying his "motion for entry of final
judgment."*fn2 Judges Widener, Murnaghan, and Phillips affirmed this
order on May 8, 1997. See id. In his present complaint, Mr. Tinsley
claims the appellate judges lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the
district court failed to enter a final judgment in his second suit. See
Compl. at 5-7. On May 13, 1997, Mr. Tinsley filed a petition for rehearing
with the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit denied his petition on July 7,
1997. See Mot. to Dis. at 2.
Meanwhile, on April 25, 1997, Mr. Tinsley filed a third suit in the
United States District Court in Maryland, seeking damages under the FTCA
against the United States for Judge Messitte's grant of summary judgment
in his second suit. See Tinsley v. United States, 1997 WL 580586 (D.Md.
1997). On May 6, 1997, the United States District Court in Maryland
dismissed the action, holding that the United States had not waived its
sovereign immunity. See id. at *1.
Challenging the decisions with respect to his second suit, Mr. Tinsley
filed an administrative tort claim with the Administrative Office of the
United States Courts ("AOUSC") on July 1, 1999. On July 30, 1999, the
AOUSC denied his claim in full. See Compl. at 13; Mot. to Dis. at 3.
Mr. Tinsley filed his complaint in this court on January 28, 2000. On
March 29, 2000, the federal-judge defendants filed a certification
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2679, certifying that they had acted within
the scope of their authority as employees of the United States. See Mot.
to Dis. at 4. Thus, the United States became the sole defendant in this
matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 2679 (d)(2).
In his complaint, Mr. Tinsley claims that the defendant does not have
judicial immunity for its actions under the FTCA. See Compl. at 11. He
claims the federal-judge defendants "knowingly usurped, or took
jurisdiction of Tinsley v. TRW Inc., PJM-96-372, claimed to be acting as
a court, and acted erroneously." See id. at 17. Mr. Tinsley demands
judgment against the defendant in the amount of $2,567,796.00. He claims
he demonstrated these damages during his second suit in the United States
District Court in Maryland. See id. at 19. He also demands interest from
July 7, 1997, the date on which his case "was dismissed in the clear
absence of jurisdiction." See id. The defendant now moves to dismiss. For
the reasons that follow, the court will grant the defendant's motion.
A. Legal Standard
For a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, it need
only provide a short and plain statement of the
claim and the grounds on which it rests. See FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2);
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). A
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests not whether the plaintiff
will prevail on the merits, but instead whether the plaintiff has
properly stated a claim. See FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6); Scheuer v. Rhodes,
416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974), overruled on
other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73
L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). Thus, the court may dismiss a complaint for failure
to state a claim only if it is clear that no relief could be granted
under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the
allegations. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104
S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984). In deciding such a motion, the court
must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of fact, excluding those
that are overbroad and unsupported by specific factual averments. See
Pitney Bowes v. United States Postal Serv., 27 F. Supp.2d 15, 19 (D.D.C.
1998). Moreover, the court should draw all reasonable inferences in the
nonmovant's favor. See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Clinton, 880 F. Supp. 1, 7
B. Judicial Immunity
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 grants absolute immunity to state and local
judges for their judicial acts. Federal judges possess identical section
1983 immunity. See Harlow, 457 U.S. at 809, 102 S.Ct. 2727; Butz v.
Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 57 L.Ed.2d 895 (1978). The
United States retains section 1983 immunity when sued under the FTCA if
that defense is available to the judicial officer whose act is the basis
for the suit. See 28 U.S.C. § 2674. The principle of judicial
immunity is well-established. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 98
S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 87
S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967); Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335,
80 U.S. 335, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1871); Randall v. Brigham, 7 Wall. 523,
74 U.S. 523, 19 L.Ed. 285 (1868). Absolute immunity is necessary for
judicial functions because judges must "act upon [their] convictions,
without apprehension of personal consequences to [themselves]." See
Bradley, 80 U.S. at. 347, 13 Wall. 335.
Judicial immunity is limited when judges act in the "clear absence of
all jurisdiction." See Stump, 435 U.S. at 357, 98 S.Ct. 1099. This
limitation, however, is narrowly construed. In Stump, a state-court judge
was sued for issuing an order to sterilize a 15-year-old girl. No case
was ever filed with the court, no docket number was assigned, and the
whole matter was approved ex parte. See id. at 360 98 S.Ct. 1099.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court held that the judge had not acted in the
clear absence of all jurisdiction. See id. at 358, 98 S.Ct. 1099. A judge
will not be deprived of immunity even when the action taken "was in
error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority." See id.
at 356, 98 S.Ct. 1099.
C. Judicial Immunity and Bivens
In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, the Supreme Court held that a cause of action for money
damages against individual federal officers could he directly inferred
from the Fourth Amendment. See Bivens, 403 U.S. at 389, 91 S.Ct. 1999.
Subsequent cases have extended the Bivens doctrine to cover causes of
action against federal officers for a variety of constitutional
violations. See, e.g., Bush v. Lucas, 462 U.S. 367, 103 S.Ct. 2404, 76
L.Ed.2d 648 (1983) (recognizing First Amendment cause of action); Carlson
v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980) (recognizing
Amendment cause of action); Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 99 S.Ct.
2264, 60 L.Ed.2d 846 (1979) (recognizing Fifth Amendment cause of
In the case at bar, the plaintiff improperly relies on Bivens. A grant
of summary judgment and the affirmance of a grant of summary judgment do
not give rise to causes of action for violation of the Seventh
Amendment. On the contrary. these rulings clearly qualify as judicial
actions that are entitled to absolute immunity. Additionally, the
plaintiff has failed to properly plead a clear absence of all
jurisdiction. He himself chose the forum for his second suit. See Compl.
at 2. Finally, suit cannot be brought against both an individual federal
employee under a Bivens cause of action and against the United States
under the FTCA. See 28 U.S.C. § 2676; Carr v. United States,
422 F.2d 1007, 1009-10 (4th Cir. 1970).
D. Sovereign and Judicial Immunity and the FTCA
The FTCA effects a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for certain
torts committed by federal employees in the course of their federal
employment. See 28 U.S.C. § 2674. Under the FTCA, the United States
is liable for the negligent acts of its employees. The FTCA does not
extend this waiver of sovereign immunity to constitutional tort claims,
however. See Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 477-78,
114 S.Ct. 996, 127 L.Ed.2d 308 (1994) (constitutional tort claim not
cognizable under FTCA); Meyer v. Federal Bureau of Prisons,
929 F. Supp. 10, 13-14 (D.D.C. 1996) (FTCA does not provide waiver of
sovereign immunity with respect to constitutional torts).
Judicial immunity also protects the United States from the plaintiffs
FTCA suit. The United States possesses section 1983 immunity when sued
under the FTCA because the defense is available to the judicial officer
whose act is the basis for the suit.*fn3
E. Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss
Because the court holds that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim
for which relief can be granted, it need not address the defendant's
motion to dismiss for failure to file a timely administrative tort
claim. Moreover, because the court grants the defendant's motion to
dismiss, the court denies the plaintiffs motion for summary judgment as
F. Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint
As the defendant notes in its opposition to the plaintiffs motion to
amend, any Bivens claim the plaintiff seeks to make in this case would
necessarily be invalid. See Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. to Amend at 3-4. As noted
above, the court agrees. The plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint so he
can base his Bivens claim on the actions of the federal-judge
defendants. The court has already held that the doctrine of judicial
immunity covers these actions. Accordingly, the court denies the
plaintiff s motion for leave to amend the complaint as moot.
For all these reasons, the court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss
in its entirety with prejudice. An Order directing
the parties in a fashion consistent with this Memorandum Opinion is
separately and contemporaneously issued this 19 day of March, 2001.
GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
For the reasons stated in the court's Memorandum Opinion issued
separately and contemporaneously this 19th day of March, 2001, it is
ORDERED that the defendant's motion to dismiss shall be and hereby is
GRANTED; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that all other motions are DENIED as moot.
THIS IS A FINAL AND APPEALABLE ORDER.