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Digon v. Johnston

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 4, 2016

JOSEPH JOHNSTON, individually in his personal capacity and in his professional capacity of Suffolk County Juvenile Court Judge, Defendant.



         For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 2) is ALLOWED, the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 6) is ALLOWED, this action is DISMISSED in its entirety with prejudice, and the Court CERTIFIES that any appeal would not be taken in good faith.

         I. Background

         On June 8, 2016, plaintiff Kaeleigh Digon (“Digon”), a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, filed a self-prepared Complaint along with a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. While the Complaint is not entirely coherent it appears the matter stems from Digon’s dissatisfaction with various rulings and orders issued by Suffolk County Juvenile Court Judge, Joseph Johnston (“Judge Johnston”), in connection with child custody matters. Digon alleges that Judge Johnston plotted to harm her by abusing his judicial authority in the juvenile court. She further contends that, because she had reported his conduct to the Department of Justice and the Commissioner’s Office of Judicial Conduct, Judge Johnston retaliated to defame her and sabotage her court case, without cause, in order to keep her child away from her and make it difficult for her to get back her child. She also alleges that his actions caused her to have a break-down from her known anxiety. She claims that he prolonged her case as long as possible and deflected attention away from his own misconduct. Additionally, Digon contends that throughout the court proceedings in the juvenile court, Judge Johnston expressed bias and contempt for her.

         With respect to the delay, Digon claims that Judge Johnston failed to follow the laws of a “rolling trial” and, instead, held the trial sporadically over a four-month period and then took sixteen (16) months to complete, allegedly four months over the required legal time. Moreover, Digon alleges that Judge Johnston failed to issue timely his Findings of Fact and did not do so until after she petitioned the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for a Writ of Mandamus.

         With respect to the trial proceedings, Digon claims Judge Johnston refused to rule on any evidence except hers, refused to permit her to rebut points and accusations made by the other parties, allowed unlawful questioning, admitted evidence of other parties, permitted witness tampering, and refused to permit her to call the social worker in the case or any of her witnesses or rebuttal witnesses. As a result, she alleges her due process rights were violated. Additionally, Digon contends that Judge Johnston violated her rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1320d et. seq. by distributing and sharing her privileged and sealed medical and mental health records.

         Next, Digon takes issue with a number of findings made by Judge Johnston, including, inter alia, the findings that Digon had held her husband against his will at their apartment, shook her child so as to cause fractures, made false domestic violence allegations against her ex-husband, was dishonest with the court, was unfit due to mental illness, and was abusing substances. She further claims Judge Johnston intentionally misquoted evidence and testimony, altered evidence, relied on evidence not admitted, and created his own version of events throughout the proceedings.

         Finally, Digon claims that Judge Johnston’s actions were not within the scope of his authority and that he: 1) deliberately did not follow state and federal laws; 2) acted arbitrarily due to personal bias and prejudice against her; 3) deliberately violated judicial canons; 4) falsified court documents to satisfy his own personal agenda, and; 5) abused his governmental position to cause her harm while disregarding the best interests of the child to suit his personal agenda. She lists her counts in the Complaint as fraud upon the court, intentional tort liability, public nuisance, intentional infliction of mental and emotional distress, defamation, intentional violation of due process rights, intentional violation of civil rights, intentional violation of parental rights, intentional violation of HIPPA and privacy laws, and harassment (by abusing his authority as juvenile court judge).

         As relief, Digon seeks $5, 000, 000 in compensatory damages, $5, 000, 000 in punitive damages, and $14, 000, 000 in special damages. She states she intends to use 75% of the proceeds from this lawsuit to expand “Families Together MA, ” a nonprofit program she founded. She also seeks injunctive and equitable relief in the form of an Order requiring Judge Johnston to recuse himself from any court proceedings in which she is involved, requiring him to destroy and remove from the record any and all privileged documents, compelling him to withdraw, amend, void, and/or expunge his findings, conclusions and other orders in the juvenile court case, and report the findings in this case to the Massachusetts Bar Association and Commissioner’s Office of Judicial Conduct. Finally, she seeks to have this Court recommend that Judge Johnston immediately be removed from his position as a juvenile court judge and recommend that criminal charges be brought against Judge Johnston.

         Incorporated into her Complaint is a recitation of case law supporting her contention that absolute judicial immunity does not apply. Additionally, along with the Complaint, Digon filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 2).

         On June 30, 2016 - - before this Court made any rulings on Digon’s motion and before any summons issued - - the defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 6) along with a Memorandum in Support (Docket No. 7) and a Certificate of Consultation (Docket No. 8). The defendant argues this action must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure of Digon to state plausible claims. To date, no response to the motion has been filed by Digon.

         II. Discussion

         A. The Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Upon review of Digon’s financial affidavit, this Court finds that she lacks sufficient funds to pay the filing and administrative fees of the Court. Accordingly, her Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 2) is ALLOWED.

         B. Standard of Review: 28 U.S.C. § 1915, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)

         Generally, when a plaintiff seeks to file a complaint without prepayment of the filing fee, summonses do not issue until the Court reviews the complaint and determines that it satisfies the substantive requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This statute authorizes federal courts to dismiss a complaint sua sponte if the claims therein are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be ...

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