Unpublished Disposition, 889 F.2d 1096 (9th Cir. 1989)

Annotate this Case
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 889 F.2d 1096 (9th Cir. 1989)

William H. ROGERS, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.Carol C. FITZGERALD, Clerk, United States District Court,District of Nevada, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 88-15720.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Submitted Oct. 26, 1989.* Decided Nov. 28, 1989.

Before ALARCON, O'SCANNLAIN and LEAVY, Circuit Judges.


William Rogers appeals the dismissal of his civil rights action against the clerk and deputy clerk of the district court of Nevada, and the denial of his motion for sanctions against their attorney. He alleges that the clerk and her assistant obstructed the filing of his petition for writ of habeas corpus and that their attorney thereafter in district court fabricated reasons for the obstruction. We agree with the district court that Rogers' action is barred on immunity grounds and that sanctions are not appropriate. We affirm.


Rogers claims that the clerk or her assistant three times wrongly rejected his habeas petition. The district court found that the clerk refused to accept Rogers' habeas filing because Rogers failed to comply with a local court requirement that pro se prisoners seeking habeas relief concurrently submit motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Rogers' writ was accepted for filing when he apparently met the court's filing requirements.

Rogers nevertheless contends that each of his submissions contained the requisite in forma pauperis motion and therefore the clerks acted beyond their authority in rejecting his petition. In support of his contention, he proffered copies of in forma pauperis declarations stamped "received" by the district court. In response, the clerks argue that while the declarations may have been received, it is impossible to now determine whether the forms were complete when received or whether the petitions were in other ways deficient.

We do not resolve that particular issue because we conclude that the court personnel in this instance are immune from Rogers' action. See Mullis v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Dist. of Nevada, 828 F.2d 1385, 1390 (9th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 108 S. Ct. 2031 (1988). In Mullis, we reaffirmed that court clerks "have absolute quasi-judicial immunity from damages for civil rights violations when they perform tasks that are an integral part of the judicial process." Id. There is nothing here to indicate that the clerks were acting outside the bounds of their normal judicial responsibilities. Further, a mistake or an act in excess of jurisdiction does not abrogate such immunity even if it results in " 'grave procedural errors.' " Id. (quoting Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978)). Finally, in Mullis, we held that such immunity extends to shield court clerks from suits seeking declaratory or injunctive relief. Mullis, 828 F.2d at 1394. Mullis thereby serves to shield the clerks in this case from all of Rogers' claims.

We have held that sanctions are available under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 when pleadings submitted to the district court are not " 'well grounded in fact.' " See In re Hawaii Federal Asbestos Cases, 871 F.2d 891, 896 (9th Cir. 1989). There is no merit here, however, to Rogers' contentions that opposing counsel fabricated justifications for the clerks' failure to file his habeas petition. Rather, the clerks' speculation regarding why Rogers' petitions were returned is fully consistent with the usual and normal practices of the clerk's office in processing pro se habeas petitions. We affirm the denial of Rule 11 sanctions and we deny Rogers' request for sanctions to be imposed on appeal under either Fed. R. App. P. 38 or Fed. R. App. P. 46.



The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for submission on the record and briefs and without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a), Ninth Circuit Rule 34-4


This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3