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Easterling v. Sessions

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

June 7, 2017

WARREN EASTERLING, Plaintiffs,
v.
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, Attorney General of the United States, Defendant.

          Thomas M. Rose District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [1] THAT: (1) DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 12) BE GRANTED; AND (2) THIS CASE BE TERMINATED ON THE COURT'S DOCKET

          Michael J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge.

         This pro civil case is before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss. Doc. 17. Pro se Plaintiff Warren Easterling ("Easterling") filed a memorandum in opposition. Doc. 13. Defendant's motion is ripe for decision.

         I.

         A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) operates to test the sufficiency of the complaint and permits dismissal for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." To show grounds for relief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) requires that the complaint contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." While Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 "does not require 'detailed factual allegations'... it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         In order "[t]o 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.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Pleadings offering mere '"labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In fact, in deciding a motion to dismiss, "courts 'are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)). Further, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

         Plausibility exists where "plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Plausibility "is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but has not 'show[n]' - 'that the pleader is entitled to relief" Id. at 679.

         While pro se parties must satisfy basic pleading requirements, Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), their pleadings must be liberally construed and are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Nevertheless, "even a pro se complaint 'must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ogle v. Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC, 513 F.App'x 520, 522 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         II.

         Easterling is a frequent pro se litigator in the Southern District of Ohio and in Ohio state courts. See, e.g., Easterling v. Crawford, No. 3:13-CV-430, 2014 WL 428931, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 4, 2014) (noting that "Easterling's litigation history in this Court is . . . long and convoluted"); Easterling v. Crawford, No. 3:13-CV-430, 2014 WL 667638, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 20, 2014), (recommending that, because "Easterling has repeatedly abused the privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis in this Court, he should be barred from doing so without the prior written authorization of the Chief Judge"); Easterling v. Crawford, No. 3:14-CV-226, 2014 WL 5803029, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 7, 2014) (noting in late 2014 that Easterling had filed "fourteen cases in the last two years[, ]" many of which he had "attempted in one way or another to have this Court interfere with, enjoin, or reverse a state court judgment").

         This case concerns three particular federal cases Easterling previously filed in this Court, all of which were dismissed: (1) Easterling v. Attorney General Mike DeWine, Case No. 3:16-cv-139 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 13, 2016); (2) Easterling v. Rice, 3:15-cv-257 (S.D. Ohio July 28, 2015); and (3) Easterling v. Judge Barbara Gorman, 3:14-cv-314 (Sept. 23, 2014). Easterling never sought a direct appeal from the dismissal of any of these cases. Id. Instead, Easterling has now filed this case alleging that the judges presiding over the aforementioned cases all allegedly conspired to deprive him of his Constitutional rights and dismissed his federal civil complaints based upon flawed legal reasoning. See doc. 1. Easterling purports to assert his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).[2] Id.

         While Easterling makes conclusory allegations of a judicial conspiracy against him, he does not name any Judges as a party to this case.[3] Id. Instead, he brings suit only against the Attorney General of the United States alleging liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. See doc. 1 at PagelD 3. Generally, "[u]nder the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is liable, despite having no fault whatsoever, for the acts of its employees taken within the scope of their employment." Hamilton v. Carell, 243 F.3d 992, 1001 (6th Cir. 2001).

         Easterling's theory of liability against the Attorney General is flawed for a number of reasons - most significantly, Easterling's erroneous contention that federal judges are "subordinates" of the Attorney General. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 501, 503; U.S. Const, art. II and III. The Attorney General of the United States is the head of the United States Department of Justice, an agency within the executive branch. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 501, 503. The judicial branch is a wholly separate, independent, and co-equal branch of the United States government. See Const, art. II and III. Easterling's contention that federal judges are "subordinates" of the Attorney General - and that the Attorney General is, therefore, vicariously liable for the conduct of federal judges - is frivolous. Dismissal of this case is warranted on this basis alone.

         Nevertheless, the Court further notes that, insofar as Easterling asserts official capacity claims against the Attorney General, such claims are barred by sovereign immunity. Cf ...


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