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Vaughan v. Schiano

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 28, 2017

AUSTIN VAUGHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDGE MICHAEL SCHIANO and OFFICER PLOOF, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR., United States District Court Chief Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Austin Vaughan has filed this action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested permission to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF Nos. 1, 2. Also pending before the Court are two applications to supplement the Complaint. ECF Nos. 4, 7.

         Plaintiff's Complaint is a largely disjointed litany of assorted grievances, but read liberally, Plaintiff alleges that (1) Judge Michael Schiano ruled against him during traffic court proceedings in Ogden Town Court; (2) Odgen Police Officer Ploof violated Plaintiff's rights by requiring him to possess a valid driver's license while operating a motor vehicle on public roads, (3) various prosecutors have rebuffed his attempts to persuade them to file criminal charges against other individuals; and (4) his vehicle was seized and later sold by governmental officials.

         For the reasons discussed below, (1) Plaintiff's request to proceed as a poor person is granted, (2) the claims against Judge Michael Schiano are dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii); (3) the claims against Officer Ploof regarding the driver's license allegations are dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i); (4) the claims regarding the failure of prosecutors to bring criminal charges are dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); (5) Plaintiff's claims regarding the unlawful seizure of his care are dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); (6) unless Plaintiff files an amended complaint that cures the noted deficiencies regarding the seizure and sale of his car, those claims will be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); (7) Plaintiff's application to add Judge Murante as a Defendant to this case (ECF No. 4) is DENIED; and (8) the October 24, 2016 application (ECF No. 7) is STRICKEN from the record, and any relief sought by that filing is DENIED AS MOOT.

         DISCUSSION

         Because Plaintiff has met the statutory requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), he is granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis. Title 28, United States Code, Section 1915(e)(2)(B) provides that the Court shall dismiss a case in which in forma pauperis status has been granted if, at any time, the Court determines that the action (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Section 1915 “provide[s] an efficient means by which a court can screen for and dismiss legally insufficient claims.” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Shakur v. Selsky, 391 F.3d 106, 112 (2d Cir. 2004)).

         After reviewing the Complaint, the Court determines that the majority of it must be dismissed under Section 1915(e) because certain Defendants are immune from suit, and most of Plaintiffs' claims are either frivolous or fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Unless Plaintiff files an amended complaint that addresses the problems noted below regarding his claim about the sale of his car, that claim will also be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

         I. Absolute Immunity: Judge Michael Schiano

         Plaintiff's claims against Judge Michael Schiano all relate to actions that he took in his judicial role. As such, Judge Schiano is entitled to absolute judicial immunity from the allegations in the Complaint.

         It is well settled that judges are absolutely immune from suit for any actions taken within the scope of their judicial responsibilities. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 10 (1991). Judicial immunity is not pierced by allegations that the judge acted in bad faith or with malice, Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967), even though unfairness and injustice to a litigant may result on occasion. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 9. Judicial immunity can be overcome only if the court is alleged to have taken non-judicial actions or if the judicial actions taken were “in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.” Id. at 11-12. The United States Supreme Court has expressly applied the doctrine of judicial immunity to actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Pierson, 386 U.S. at 547.

         Plaintiff's Complaint only alleges acts taken by Judge Schiano in his judicial role during a case in Ogden Town Court. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against Judge Schiano are precluded by the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity and must be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).

         II. Right to Drive Without a License

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Ploof conducted a traffic stop on May 20, 2014, and imposed on Plaintiff the allegedly “unlawfull (sic) requirement” that he possess a valid driver's license to operate a motor vehicle on public roads. ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff further alleges that he “was not engaged in transportation (commerce) and that I had a God given right to travel privately without a license (privledge (sic)) that must be paid for which is a tax and a fraud upon the people.” Id.

         Plaintiff's allegations are frivolous and must be dismissed. Despite Plaintiff's pages of protestations to the contrary, it is well settled that requiring individuals to possess a valid driver's license to ...


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