United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
H. Rice District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION  THAT: (1) PRO
SE PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT BE DISMISSED; AND (2) THIS CASE
BE TERMINATED ON THE COURT'S DOCKET
MICHAEL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
pro se civil case is before the Court for a sua
sponte review -- pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)
-- of the complaint filed by pro se Plaintiff Lamont
Washington (“Washington”). Washington filed a
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis
(“IFP”) on August 25, 2017 (doc. 1), which the
Court granted. Doc. 2. The Court, however, held service of
the complaint pending a review under § 1915(e)(2). Doc.
3. It is appropriate for the Court to conduct this review
sua sponte prior to issuance of process “so as
to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense
of answering such complaints.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).
accordance with 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2), this Court must
perform an initial review of the instant action. McGore
v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604-05 (6th Cir. 1997).
Upon review, the Court must dismiss any case it determines is
“frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
complaint should be dismissed as frivolous if it lacks an
arguable basis in law or fact. Denton v. Hernandez,
504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. A
plaintiff sets forth no arguable factual basis where the
allegations asserted are “fantastic or
delusional”; and presents no arguable legal basis when
advancing “indisputably meritless” legal
theories, i.e., when the defendant is immune from
suit, or when the plaintiff claims a violation of a legal
interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490
U.S. at 327-28; Brown v. Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 866
(6th Cir. 2000). Courts may also dismiss a complaint sua
sponte for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
conducting this initial review under § 1915, the Court
accepts pro se Plaintiff's allegations as true
and construes them liberally in his favor. See Donald v.
Marshall, No. 84-3231, 1985 WL 13183, at *1 (6th Cir.
Apr. 5, 1985) (stating that, “[w]hen considering a
pro se action for dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(d), the complaint should be liberally construed
and the allegations of the complaint must be taken as true
and construed in favor of the plaintiff”). However,
while pro se pleadings are “to be liberally
construed” and are “held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per
curiam), pro se plaintiffs must still satisfy
basic pleading requirements. Wells v. Brown, 891
F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989).
purports to assert federal claims arising out of an
obligation to pay child support in the Montgomery County,
Ohio Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division
(hereinafter “the Domestic Relations Court”).
Doc. 1-3 at PageID 11-17. It appears that Washington is in
arrears in his child support payments in the amount of at
least $22, 643.71. Id. at PageID 17. On September
12, 2017, a summons was issued to Washington to appear in the
Domestic Relations Court to show cause as to why he should
not be held in contempt as a result of his failure to pay
child support obligations. See id at PageID 11-17.
case, Washington alleges that Defendants have violated
certain federal statutes --namely, the Social Security Act,
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”),
and the Federal Reserve Act -- in their attempt to collect
child support obligations. Doc. 4 at PageID 56. Defendants
named in this complaint are: the Domestic Relations Court;
the Montgomery County, Ohio Clerk of Court Gregory Brush;
Judge Timothy D. Wood of the Domestic Relations Court;
Magistrate Elaine M. Stoermer of the Domestic Relations
Court; attorney Erin M. Otis of the Montgomery County Child
Support Enforcement Agency (“CSEA”); attorney
Travis E. Tinkham of the CSEA; and Angela D. Washington
(Redd) -- Washington's former spouse -- to whom the
support obligations were owed. Doc. 1-3 at PageID 11-17.
the undersigned notes that Washington, in his complaint, sets
forth no factual allegations and, instead, pleads only legal
conclusions. Doc. 4 at PageID 56. As a result, he fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted and,
therefore, his complaint should be dismissed on this basis
alone. In addition, the attachments to his complaint evidence
a pending child support enforcement proceedings in the state
court and, in light of such pending case, abstention is
appropriate. See Jancuk v. Donofrio, 181 F.3d 101
(6th Cir. 1999).
addition to the foregoing, the undersigned further notes that
all Defendants, except for Ms. Washington, are either
officials of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas or
attorneys representing the CSEA, entities that are arms of
the State of Ohio. See Mumford v. Basinski, 105 F.3d
264, 270 (6th Cir. 1997); Williams v. Leslie, 28 F.
App'x 387, 389 (6th Cir. 2002). Claims against these
individual Defendants in their official capacities is
essentially a claim against the State of Ohio itself, see
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985), and the
State is generally entitled to immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment for claims seeking damages. See Mumford,
105 F.3d at 270; see also Johnson v. Rogers, No.
1:15-CV-638, 2015 WL 9471606, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 4, 2015).
insofar as Washington may seek to assert individual capacity
claims against Defendants, the undersigned notes that both
Judge Wood and Magistrate Stoermer are entitled to absolute
judicial immunity. See Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d
1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997); Stump v. Sparkman, 435
U.S. 349, 356 (1978); Merchant v. Montgomery Cnty. Child
Support Enf't Agency, No. 3:06-CV-347, 2006 WL
3545452, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 8, 2006) (extending absolute
judicial immunity to state court magistrates). In addition,
child support enforcement attorneys Otis and Tinkham are
entitled to prosecutorial immunity. Davis v. Self,
547 F. App'x 927, 932 (11th Cir. 2013); Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs. for City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d
387, 397 n.11 (4th Cir. 1990); Pierre v. Cristello,
No. CV 17-30105-KAR, 2017 WL 4768006, at *3 (D. Mass. Oct. 3,
2017); Woodford v. Robillard, No. 2:11-CV-370 CW,
2012 WL 1156400, at ...