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Larson v. Payne

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 21, 2019

JOY LARSON and ROGER DOLE, Plaintiffs,
DOUGLAS P. PAYNE, Defendant.




         The Court has before it Defendant's motion for summary judgment and motion to strike. Plaintiffs Joy Larson and Roger Dole, who have appeared pro se, have sued Defendant Douglas Payne, a Magistrate Judge for the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, claiming he violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Payne argues that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the grounds of judicial immunity, lack of jurisdiction, and abstention. Payne contends also that Roger Dole lacks standing to sue.

         The Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motion will be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument. The hearing set for March 21, 2019, will be vacated. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d). Having carefully considered the record and relevant authority, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and will deny the related motion to strike as moot.[1]


         Plaintiffs filed the Complaint against Payne on August 24, 2018. A 15-page Affidavit with Exhibits A - L[2] accompanied the two-page complaint. Plaintiffs state they “bring this suit pursuant to Title 42 U.S. Code § 1983 for violations of certain protections guaranteed to us by the First, Fifth, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution, ” and name Payne as the only defendant. Plaintiffs allege that, while Payne was acting as a Judge for the county of Benewah, he acted “unconstitutionally or outside of his jurisdiction.” Plaintiffs allege that the “wrong began on July 19, 2017, and continues to this day.” They seek an injunction “commanding defendant to restore [their] rights; and return what is lawfully ours Our children E.S. and C.S.” They also seek damages in the amount of $1, 000, 000.00.

         Payne filed a motion for summary judgment on December 27, 2018, and a motion to strike directed at Plaintiffs' affidavit. The Court conducted a telephonic scheduling conference on January 8, 2019, staying discovery until resolution of the pending motions. Plaintiffs did not file a response to the motions.[3] The Court finds the following facts undisputed.

         Defendant Douglas Payne is a Magistrate Judge for the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho. His chambers are in St. Maries, Idaho, and he serves Benewah County.

         As part of his official duties, Judge Payne handles Child Protective Proceedings for Benewah County. On June 22, 2017, Payne was the magistrate judge assigned to handle a Benewah County Child Protective Proceeding identified as Benewah Case No. CV-2017-225, which involved the minor children of Plaintiff Joy Larson. Plaintiff Roger Dole became the children's step father upon his marriage to Ms. Larson. The parties to the Child Protective Proceeding included minor children EMS and CMS, and the children's biological parents, Joy Larson and Jeremy Shuman.

         The proceedings were initiated upon the filing of a petition by Brian Thie, the Benewah County Prosecutor, on June 22, 2017. Aff. of Payne Ex. A. (Dkt. 17-1.) Judge Payne conducted hearings and issued orders related to Case No. CV-2017-225, beginning June 22, 2017, through and including November 21, 2018.

         On June 23, 2017, Joy Larson was personally served with the following: (1) Order appointing Guardian Ad Litem; (2) Notice of Hearing and Summons; (3) Petition Under Child Protective Act; and (4) Affidavit in Support of the Protective Supervision. An adjudicatory hearing was set for July 19, 2017. Aff. of Payne Ex. B, C. (Dkt. 17-1, 17-2.)

         At the hearing conducted on July 19, 2017, the following individuals appeared: prosecuting attorney Brian Thie; Jeremy Shuman, represented by counsel; Samantha Ellis, a representative from Health and Welfare; and Sue Sottin, a CASA worker. Joy Larson did not attend the hearing. Aff. of Payne Ex. D. (Dkt. 17-3.)

         Based on the evidence presented at the hearing on July 19, 2017, Judge Payne issued Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order for Legal Custody. The court's findings of fact included a finding that the minor children had been neglected, and that their continued residence in either of the homes of their biological parents, Larson and Shuman, would be contrary to the welfare of the children. Accordingly, Judge Payne ordered that the minor children be placed in the legal custody of the Department of Health and Welfare for an indeterminate period not to exceed the eighteenth birthday of each child. Id.

         On August 16, 2017, Joy Larson, through her attorney, filed a motion and affidavit to set aside the court's July 19, 2017 order. Larson testified in her affidavit that she received copies of the documents served upon her on June 23, 2017. However, she requested another opportunity to present evidence and argument against the removal of her children from her custody. Aff. of Payne Exs. E, F. (Dkt. 17-4.)

         On August 16, 2017, the matter came before Judge Payne for a case plan hearing. Joy Larson was present with her attorney. Based upon the pleadings, evidence presented and arguments of counsel, Judge Payne denied Larson's motion to set aside his July 19, 2017 order. Judge Payne also approved the case plan, which plan sought reunification, or if unsuccessful, adoption of the minor children. Aff. of Payne Ex. G. (Dkt. 17-5.)

         On September 27, 2017, Larson, through her attorney, appealed the court's August 16, 2017 order denying the motion to set aside the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order for Legal Custody, and the Order Approving Case Plan. Aff. of Payne Ex. H. (Dkt. 17-5.)

         In October of 2017, Judge Payne held a hearing on Larson's attorney's motion to withdraw as legal counsel.[4] Judge Payne granted the motion and issued an order permitting Larson's attorney to ...

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