754 F.2d 1243 (5th Cir. 1985), 84-1635, Thompson v. Betts

Docket Nº:84-1635
Citation:754 F.2d 1243
Party Name:Wordy Jack THOMPSON, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Judge Charles O. BETTS, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:March 11, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 1243

754 F.2d 1243 (5th Cir. 1985)

Wordy Jack THOMPSON, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Judge Charles O. BETTS, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 84-1635

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 11, 1985

Page 1244

Herbert Green, Jr., Dallas, Tex., for plaintiff-appellant.

Jim Mattox, Atty. Gen., Scott Lyford, Austin, Tex., for defendant-appellee Judge Charles O. Betts.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before RUBIN, RANDALL and TATE, Circuit Judges.

RANDALL, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant Wordy Jack Thompson, Jr., appeals an order of the district court dismissing all claims against Judge Charles O. Betts, a visiting judge of the 256th Judicial District Court of Texas. Judge Betts is one of two defendants named in this civil rights action brought by Thompson to redress alleged violations of his constitutional rights resulting from the institution of contempt proceedings against him and his subsequent incarceration in the Dallas County Jail. The district court dismissed the claims against Judge Betts on the ground of absolute judicial immunity. Because we conclude that the dismissal of a single codefendant on the basis of judicial immunity is not an appealable order absent certification by the district court under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), we dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I.

This case arises out of a domestic relations suit instituted by Betty Dean Thompson in state court to enforce certain temporary orders of support against her husband, Wordy Jack Thompson, Jr. (Thompson). Judge Charles O. Betts (Betts), presiding over the case, found that Thompson had failed to pay his daughter's tuition and $2,000 in attorney's fees as previously ordered by the court. As a result, Betts held that Thompson was in contempt of court and ordered him confined to the Dallas County Jail until he paid the amounts but, in any event, for a period not less than six days. Thompson subsequently sought and

Page 1245

obtained habeas corpus relief in state court.

On October 7, 1983, Thompson brought the instant action in the District Court for the Northern District of Texas under 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1981-1985 against Betts and Linda S. Aland (Aland), the attorney who represented Thompson's wife in the state enforcement proceeding. In his complaint, Thompson alleged that Betts and Aland had conspired to and did in fact deprive him of various constitutional rights by prosecuting him for contempt of court and incarcerating him in the county jail. Thompson sought money damages and attorney's fees as well as an FBI investigation under 18 U.S.C. Secs. 241-244.

In response to the complaint, Betts moved to dismiss on the ground of absolute judicial immunity. The district court granted this motion, finding that Betts at all times had acted within his judicial capacity. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967). From this order, Thompson appeals. We must assume from the lack of any indication otherwise in the record that the case against Aland is still pending in district court.

II.

It is, of course, axiomatic that, as courts of limited jurisdiction, we are obliged to examine the basis of our own jurisdiction. Thus, although both parties assert that this court has jurisdiction over this appeal, we must on our own motion address whether the order is appealable. See, e.g., United States v. Garner, 749 F.2d 281, 284 (5th Cir.1985); Koke v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 730 F.2d 211, 214 (5th Cir.1984).

Under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291, courts of appeals have "jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States." As a general rule, an order is final only when it "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment." Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 467, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 2457, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 (1978) (quoting Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 65 S.Ct. 631, 89 L.Ed. 911 (1945)). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) provides that, when an action, such as the one here, involves multiple parties, any decision that adjudicates the liability of fewer than all the parties does not terminate the action unless the district court (1) expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay and (2) expressly directs the entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). 1 It is well established that, "[i]n the absence of a certification by the district court that...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP
55 practice notes
  • 908 F.2d 1218 (5th Cir. 1990), 89-3133, Kelly v. Lee's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Inc. (Lee's Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New Orleans, Inc.)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 31 July 1990
    ...appealable as a final judgment. See, e.g., Borne v. A & P Boat Rentals No. 4, Inc., 755 F.2d 1131 (5th Cir.1985); Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243 (5th Cir.1985). Our decision in Thompson v. Betts illustrates this approach. In that case, the plaintiff appealed the dismissal of one defen......
  • 868 F.2d 139 (5th Cir. 1989), 88-1532, Matter of Wood and Locker, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 9 March 1989
    ...of Rule 54(b) then, the bankruptcy court's order granting summary judgment is not final, but remains interlocutory. Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, 1245 (5th Cir.1985); Hobbs v. Teledyne, 632 F.2d 1238, 1240 (5th Cir.1980). Consequently, under our decision in Phillips, we have no jurisdic......
  • Burgo v. Burgo, 111214 LAWDC, 6:14-3078
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Western District of Louisiana
    • 12 November 2014
    ...762 F.2d 1295, 1297 (5th Cir. 1985), Mergist v. Multi-Chem Group, L.L.C., 2012 WL 1493750, *1 (W.D. La. 2012). and Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, 1245 (5th Cir. Diversity Jurisdiction The removal statute for diversity cases provides in pertinent part: A civil action otherwise removable s......
  • 802 F.2d 830 (5th Cir. 1986), 86-4113, McNeil v. Blackburn
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 20 October 1986
    ...this is a court of limited jurisdiction and this court must, on its own motion, determine if jurisdiction is present. Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, Page 832 (5th Cir.1985). As noted above, the first notice of appeal filed by petitioner, although timely, 1 was returned to petitioner by t......
  • Free signup to view additional results
55 cases
  • 908 F.2d 1218 (5th Cir. 1990), 89-3133, Kelly v. Lee's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Inc. (Lee's Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New Orleans, Inc.)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 31 July 1990
    ...appealable as a final judgment. See, e.g., Borne v. A & P Boat Rentals No. 4, Inc., 755 F.2d 1131 (5th Cir.1985); Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243 (5th Cir.1985). Our decision in Thompson v. Betts illustrates this approach. In that case, the plaintiff appealed the dismissal of one defen......
  • 868 F.2d 139 (5th Cir. 1989), 88-1532, Matter of Wood and Locker, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 9 March 1989
    ...of Rule 54(b) then, the bankruptcy court's order granting summary judgment is not final, but remains interlocutory. Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, 1245 (5th Cir.1985); Hobbs v. Teledyne, 632 F.2d 1238, 1240 (5th Cir.1980). Consequently, under our decision in Phillips, we have no jurisdic......
  • Burgo v. Burgo, 111214 LAWDC, 6:14-3078
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Western District of Louisiana
    • 12 November 2014
    ...762 F.2d 1295, 1297 (5th Cir. 1985), Mergist v. Multi-Chem Group, L.L.C., 2012 WL 1493750, *1 (W.D. La. 2012). and Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, 1245 (5th Cir. Diversity Jurisdiction The removal statute for diversity cases provides in pertinent part: A civil action otherwise removable s......
  • 802 F.2d 830 (5th Cir. 1986), 86-4113, McNeil v. Blackburn
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 20 October 1986
    ...this is a court of limited jurisdiction and this court must, on its own motion, determine if jurisdiction is present. Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, Page 832 (5th Cir.1985). As noted above, the first notice of appeal filed by petitioner, although timely, 1 was returned to petitioner by t......
  • Free signup to view additional results