Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Scope and Limits of Judicial Immunity — District Court Retains Jurisdiction to Impose Sanctions after Notice of Appeal Filed — Vexatious Litigant Injunction

Rodriguez v. Doe, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 24613 (4th Cir. Dec. 11, 2013):

"[J]udicial immunity is an immunity from suit,   not just from ultimate assessment of damages." Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11, 112 S.Ct. 286, 288 (1991). Judicial immunity can be overcome only where: (1) the judge engaged in nonjudicial actions--that is, "actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity"; or (2) there was a complete lack of jurisdiction.   Id. at 11-12, 112 S.Ct. at 288. Allegations of bad faith or malice will not overcome judicial immunity. Id. at 11, 112 S.Ct. at 288. Where state supreme court justices hear an appeal from a lower court's disciplinary decision, they are performing a "traditional adjudicative task." Supreme Court of Va. v. Consumers Union, Inc., 446 U.S. 719, 734, 100 S.Ct. 1967, 1976 (1980), superseded on other grounds by statute, Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-317, § 309(c), 110 Stat. 3847 (1996). ***

"[F]ederal courts [have] the authority to limit access to the courts by vexatious and repetitive litigants."  Cromer, 390 F.3d at 817.   "Such a drastic remedy must be used sparingly," but may be appropriate in cases where a litigant abuses "the judicial process by filing meritless and repetitive actions." Id. at 817-18 (quoting Brow v. Farrelly, 994 F.2d 1027, 1038 (3d Cir. 1993)).

Rodriguez's argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction to impose sanctions after he filed his notice of appeal is without merit. See Langham-Hill Petroleum Inc., 813 F.2d at 1330-31.


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