corruptly." 80 U.S. at 351. A judge's absolute immunity is overcome in only two sets of circumstances. "First, a judge is not immune from liability for nonjudicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity . . . Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction." Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11-12 (citations omitted).
The scope of a judge's jurisdiction "must be construed broadly where the issue is the immunity of the judge." Stump, 435 U.S. at 356. A judge is immune from suit if "at the time he took the challenged action he had jurisdiction over the subject matter before him" and will be subject to liability only when "he has acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction." Id. at 356-57 (internal quotations and citations omitted). A judge is immune from liability for his judicial acts "even if his exercise of authority is flawed by the commission of grave procedural errors." Id. at 359.
Here, the Kampfers do not attempt to show that Judge Scullin lacked jurisdiction to act in their civil case. To the contrary, the Kampfers allege that Judge Scullin had a duty to her their motion but (1) failed to provide a date and time for the plaintiffs to be heard on their motion; (2) failed to rule on that same motion in an ongoing case in which he was the designated trial judge. The Kampfers essentially complain that Judge Scullin failed to take actions which were within his jurisdiction and in fact were his duty to take. Consequently, it is undisputed that the complained-of acts constituted acts within Judge Scullin's jurisdiction as the judge assigned to their case.
Plaintiffs contend instead that Judge Scullin is not entitled to judicial immunity because his acts did not constitute "judicial acts." Plaintiffs argue that because the acts allegedly violated their due process rights, those acts would not normally have been performed by other judges and consequently cannot be construed as "judicial acts." Plaintiffs' argument reflects a misinterpretation of the applicable case law. The factors determining whether an act by a judge is a 'judicial' one "relate to the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity." Stump, 435 U.S. at 362 (emphasis added). The inquiry focuses on whether the judge "was performing a 'function' normally performed by judges . . . [or] taking 'the type of action ' judges normally perform" rather than on whether the challenged action was an act normally performed by a judge. Id. at 362, n. 11 (emphasis added). "If only the particular act in question were to be scrutinized, then any mistake of a judge in excess of his authority would become a 'nonjudicial' act, because an improper or erroneous act cannot be said to be normally performed by a judge." Mireles, 502 U.S. at 12. The fact that a court exercises its jurisdiction in an erroneous manner, violates a party's procedural due process rights, or commits other "grave procedural errors" does not make an act any less judicial act or render the judge liable for the act. Stump, 435 U.S. at 359.
Here, even accepting plaintiffs' allegations as true for purposes of deciding this motion, plaintiffs' complaint encompasses only judicial acts. First, the Kampfers' allegations relate only to functions normally performed by a judge. As noted above, the complaint alleges that while conducting the Kampfers' case, Judge Scullin failed to provide a date and time for plaintiffs to be heard on their motion and failed to rule on their motion. Nothing could be more clearly within the judicial function than conducting motion practice associated with a case. Plaintiffs' allegations that their motion was handled improperly does not render its handling any less a judicial function. Second, as explained above, plaintiffs dealt with Judge Scullin in his capacity as a judge. The complaint states that plaintiffs filed the contested motion before Judge Scullin as part of an ongoing civil action in which he was the designated trial judge.
Because plaintiffs (1) allege that Judge Scullin acted erroneously, rather than in the absence of jurisdictional authority and (2) complain of acts clearly within the judicial function, the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity bars any action for monetary damages.
See Young, 41 F.3d at 51 ("the absolute immunity of a judge applies 'however erroneous the act may have been, and however injurious in its consequences it may have proved to the plaintiff'") (quoting Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 199-200, 88 L. Ed. 2d 507, 106 S. Ct. 496 (1985)).
3. Claims for Injunctive Relief
Although the doctrine of judicial immunity provides that a judge is not liable for monetary damages for acts performed in the exercise of his judicial functions, the Supreme Court in 1984 held that "judicial immunity is not a bar to prospective injunctive relief against a judicial officer acting in her judicial capacity" or to costs and attorney's fees associated with the action. Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 541-42, 80 L. Ed. 2d 565, 104 S. Ct. 1970 (1984). After Pulliam, a case involving a § 1983 action against a state judge, some courts have also held that the Pulliam exception to absolute judicial immunity applied to Bivens actions against federal judges. See e.g., Neville v. Dearie, 745 F. Supp. 99, 102-03 (N.D.N.Y. 1990) (McCurn, C.J.) (citing Dorman v. Higgins, 821 F.2d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 1987)).
However, on October 19, 1996, Congress enacted the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996 ("FCIA"), Pub. L. No. 104-317, which restored absolute immunity and legislatively reversed Pulliam in several important aspects. Section 309 provides the following:
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no judicial officer shall be held liable for any costs, including attorney's fees, in any action brought against such officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, unless such action was clearly in excess of such officer's jurisdiction.