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Doe v. Brandeis University

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 26, 2019

JOHN DOE Plaintiff,
BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.


          Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge.

         Now before the court is the pro se plaintiff's amended complaint. For the reasons set forth below, summons will not issue for service of the amended complaint on defendants Flynn and Storms and the new claims are dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on May 6, 2019, by filing a complaint naming as defendants Brandeis University and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Doc. No. 1. By Order dated May 15, 2019, plaintiff was permitted to proceed in forma pauperis and under the pseudonym “John Doe.” Doc. No. 7. The claims against the Commonwealth were dismissed. Id.

         On May 22, 2019, summons issued for service of the complaint on Brandeis University. Doc. No. 12. On June 4, 2019, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Pl. Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”), Doc. No. 14.

         On June 13, 2019, the summons was returned executed. Doc. No. 15. Brandeis University's Answer is due on July 5, 2019. Id.


         Plaintiff is entitled to amend his complaint without leave of the court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1). Because plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the amended complaint is subject to preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Section 1915(e)(2) authorizes federal courts to dismiss a complaint sua sponte if the claims therein lack an arguable basis in law or in fact, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325-327 (1989) (summary dismissal appropriate when the “claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory” or “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.”).

         When examining the sufficiency of the pleadings, the court considers whether the plaintiff has pled “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). The court accepts as true the factual allegations of the complaint, draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff that are supported by the factual allegations, and determines whether the complaint, so read, sets forth a claim for recovery that is “'plausible on its face.” Eldredge v. Town of Falmouth, 662 F.3d 100, 104 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted)). The allegations must be sufficient to identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to harm and the harm alleged must be one for which the law affords a remedy. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Legal conclusions couched as facts and “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action” will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. See also Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011).

         In conducting this review, the Court liberally construes the amended complaint because the plaintiff is proceeding pro se. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Rodi v. New Eng. Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 13 (1st Cir. 2004).


         In addition to asserting claims against Brandeis University, the amended complaint names as defendants a state court judge, in his individual capacity, and a former assistant district attorney. As to these two defendants, plaintiff alleges that they violated plaintiff's constitutional rights and he also asserts claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claims in the amended complaint against Brandeis University remain the same.

         In the amended complaint, plaintiff contends that the state court proceedings were fundamentally unfair and that he was arraigned before Judge Flynn without the presence of his assigned public defender. Am. Compl. at ¶ 188. Plaintiff again complains that after having retained private counsel, the University disregarded plaintiff's protections under the Fifth Amendment and proceeded with its informal Special Examiner's Process. Id. at ¶ 191. Plaintiff alleges that the University conspired with the assistant district attorney by leaking the findings to the assistant district attorney for use in the criminal prosecution of plaintiff. Id.

         To the extent that the plaintiff sues the judge in his individual capacity, the Supreme Court has recognized absolute immunity for judges acting in the performance of their judicial duties. See Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731, 745-46 (1982). “[I]t is an axiom of black letter law that when a judge carries out traditional adjudicatory functions, he or she has absolute immunity for those actions.” Zenon v. Guzman, 924 F.3d 611, 616 (1st Cir. 2019) (citing Goldstein v. Galvin, 719 F.3d 16, 25 (1st Cir. 2013)). Judges are immune from suit for damages resulting from any judicial act unless performed in “the clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). Allegations of bad faith or malice do not overcome judicial immunity. Id. at 11. Because plaintiff has not alleged that the judge acted without ...

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