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Emerson v. Garcia

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

October 6, 2015

ANTHONY-ERIC EMERSON, Plaintiff/Appellant,
JEANETTE GARCIA and KAREN L. O'CONNOR, Defendants/Appellees.

Not for Publication – Rule 111(c), Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV2014-006807 The Honorable Robert H. Oberbillig, Judge

Anthony-Eric Emerson, Tucson Plaintiff/Appellant

O'Connor & Campbell, P.C., Phoenix By Lisa M. Hemann Counsel for Defendants/Appellees

Presiding Judge Donn Kessler delivered the decision of the Court, in which Judge Andrew W. Gould and Judge Patricia K. Norris joined.



¶1 Appellant, Anthony-Eric Emerson ("Emerson") appeals the trial court's order dismissing his complaint against Judge Jeannette Garcia ("Garcia") and Judge Karen L. O'Connor ("O'Connor") of the Maricopa County Superior Court (collectively, the "Defendants") for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's ruling.


¶2 Emerson is incarcerated at the Arizona Department of Corrections. Judges Garcia and O'Connor had presided over prior criminal proceedings in which Emerson was convicted of a number of felony offenses.[1] In his complaint against the Defendants, Emerson alleged that during two separate sentencing hearings on April 17, 2013, and March 28, 2014, Garcia and O'Connor, respectively, ordered deputy sheriffs to take his fingerprints "by any means necessary." Emerson argues that the Defendants thereby authorized the subsequent use of excessive force by deputy sheriffs to obtain his fingerprints, allegedly resulting in physical injuries and mental anguish for which Emerson seeks compensatory damages.

¶3 Defendants moved to dismiss Emerson's complaint pursuant to Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure ("Ariz. R. Civ. P.") 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, invoking two separate grounds for dismissal. First, Defendants argued that absolute judicial immunity precluded liability for the allegations set forth in Emerson's complaint. Second, Defendants argued that Emerson failed to file timely notices of claim in accordance with Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") § 12-821.01.[2] Emerson opposed the motion to dismiss, arguing that judicial immunity was inapplicable because his claims were not based on actions taken by the Defendants in their judicial capacity; rather, Defendants' orders for Emerson's fingerprints to be taken constituted non-judicial acts. Moreover, Emerson alleged that his notices of claim were timely filed and attached to his response two notices of claim to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss on both the judicial immunity and the notice of claim arguments, certifying the judgment under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 54(c). Emerson timely appealed and we have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(1)(West 2015).


¶4 While Emerson's opening brief is not a model of clarity, we understand him to be arguing that the trial court erred in granting the Defendants' motion to dismiss because: (1) the trial court was biased and failed to consider his pleadings and evidence in ruling on the motion to dismiss, including evidence showing that the Defendants' treatment of him was "of such a shocking nature that no reasonable man could have believed that it was constitutional"; (2) the Defendants fraudulently misrepresented facts which would have entitled Emerson to a default judgment; and (3) Defendants were not entitled to judicial immunity because their acts were of non-judicial character, constituted "clearly unconstitutional conduct, " and because Emerson is a sovereign citizen not subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Arizona.

¶5 On review of a trial court's decision granting a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, we assume the truth of all adequately pled material factual allegations in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lerner v. DMB Realty, LLC, 234 Ariz. 397, 401, ¶ 10 (App. 2014) (internal citations omitted). Dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) will be upheld if, as a matter of law, the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any interpretation of the facts susceptible of proof. Fid. Sec. Life Ins. Co. v. State Dep't of Ins., 191 Ariz. 222, 224, ¶ 4 (1998).

¶6 We review orders dismissing a complaint pursuant to Ariz. R. Civ. P. 12(b) de novo. Coleman v. City of Mesa, 230 Ariz. 352, 355-56, ¶ 7 (2012). The existence of judicial immunity is a question of law which we review de novo. Widoff ...

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