Edmonds v. Clarkson, CIV. A. 2:97CV364.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
Writing for the CourtPayne
Citation996 F.Supp. 541
PartiesLuther C. EDMONDS, Plaintiff, v. John E. CLARKSON, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. CIV. A. 2:97CV364.,CIV. A. 2:97CV364.
Decision Date11 March 1998
996 F.Supp. 541
Luther C. EDMONDS, Plaintiff,
John E. CLARKSON, et al., Defendants.
No. CIV. A. 2:97CV364.
United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division.
March 11, 1998.

Page 542

Luther C. Edmonds, Pro Se.

Mary Elizabeth Shea, Attorney General's Office of Virginia, Richmond, VA, for Defendants.

Page 543


PAYNE, District Judge.

This action was filed by a former state court judge alleging the deprivation of federal constitutional rights and asserting claims under Virginia common and statutory law. The defendants are Virginia's judicial review board, its former chairman and former counsel, several state circuit court judges, and a state court clerk. For the reasons set forth below, the action is dismissed.


Luther C. Edmonds, a former judge of the Circuit Court for the City of Norfolk, filed this action against (i) eight of his former judicial colleagues (collectively, the "Norfolk Judges");1 (ii) the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk, Albert Teich; (iii) the Commonwealth of Virginia Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission ("JIRC"); (iv) the Honorable Paul F. Sheridan, a state circuit court judge and the former Chairman of the JIRC; and (v) Reno S. Harp, III, former Counsel for the JIRC.2 The principal focus of the Complaint is the institution and prosecution of charges brought by the JIRC against Edmonds. Each of the eight counts presents a claim based on the motivation and conduct of persons who brought certain matters to the attention of the JIRC, who testified in its proceedings, or who conducted the JIRC proceedings.

The saga recited in the Complaint began on March 20, 19963 when a black bondsman complained about the suspension of his bonding privileges by the Norfolk Judges, acting pursuant to Va.Code § Ann. 19.2-152.1 (Michie Supp.1997). The review and suspension of bonding privileges under the auspices of that statute are judicial functions which are entrusted only to state court judges Battle v. Whitehurst, 831 F.Supp. 522, 527 (E.D.Va. 1993). After receiving the bondsman's complaint, Edmonds decided to review the files of all bondsmen certified by the Norfolk court. In furtherance of that mission, Edmonds directed Teich to assemble the files of all certified bondsmen. After consulting with the Chief Judge of the Norfolk court and counsel in the office of Virginia's Attorney General, Teich made the requested files available and Edmonds reviewed them.4

According to the Complaint, Edmonds' review disclosed numerous deficiencies and irregularities in the files of many, if not most, of the bondsmen certified by the Norfolk court. Edmonds prepared a memorandum outlining his conclusions and presented it at a meeting of the Norfolk Judges on April 3 ("April 3 memorandum"). The Norfolk Judges discussed a procedure for considering the deficiencies which Edmonds had disclosed and Edmonds and Judge Rutherford were designated to further investigate the matter. However, Edmonds and Judge Rutherford had different understandings respecting the procedure which had been discussed. This led to friction between Edmonds and Judge Rutherford, and Chief Judge Taylor called an emergency meeting of the Norfolk Judges on April 12 to discuss the issue.

During the April 12 meeting, Edmonds called Judge Rutherford a liar, thereby prompting criticism of Edmonds by other judges in attendance. In addition, there were discussions about previous actions which had been filed against the Norfolk Judges in federal court by a black bondsman,

Page 544

Sherry Battle ("Battle"), in which Battle alleged that the suspension of her bonding privileges was discriminatory. In the colloquy about Battle, Judge Morrison "stated that he had heard rumors that Edmonds had an affair with Sherry Battle." Although the Complaint alleges that rumors to that effect had been circulating for years, Edmonds apparently was offended at the remark and promptly left the meeting.

Thereafter, Edmonds continued to review the bondsmen's files, including Battle's; and, from time to time, he conversed with several of the Norfolk Judges about his findings and the April 3 memorandum. On April 15, Edmonds approached Judge Morrison to discuss the topic of the Norfolk bondsmen. During that discussion, Judge Morrison allegedly called Battle a "black son-of-a-bitch" and asked Edmonds why he was so "fired up about this bonding thing?" Further discussion ensued, during which Judge Morrison is alleged to have said that the Norfolk Judges had the JIRC and a state lawmaker "on their side."

On April 26, Edmonds formally requested the Supreme Court of Virginia to exercise its supervisory power and to conduct a review of the files respecting bondsmen certified by the Norfolk court. The Supreme Court of Virginia declined Edmonds' request on May 7 because the matter was under consideration by the Norfolk court.

Then, in early May, Edmonds presided over two bond forfeiture proceedings as to which Battle was the bonding agent. This prompted complaints that Edmonds had violated ethical rules respecting judicial conflicts of interest by deciding a case involving a person with whom he allegedly was romantically involved. The record is unclear who first raised this issue, but Edmonds' pleadings suggest that the Norfolk Judges brought the issue to the attention of the JIRC.

Shortly thereafter, the JIRC began an inquiry into the conflict of interest complaints and other charges. Edmonds alleges that, from May 30 to June 11, a state lawmaker, a state court judge from Portsmouth, and another person, purportedly acting as "messengers for Defendants," encouraged Edmonds to resign rather than to face a formal inquiry by the JIRC. Edmonds refused these entreaties.

On June 12, the JIRC filed a formal complaint against Edmonds alleging that he had violated judicial ethics by hearing cases involving Battle while he was romantically involved with her and by assaulting his wife and son with a pistol. A formal hearing on these charges began on September 10 with Judge Sheridan presiding. Harp, the JIRC's counsel, presented the case against Edmonds. Although it is not entirely clear from the pleadings, it appears that Harp also had been in charge of the JIRC investigation which preceded the hearing.

At the September 10 hearing, counsel for Edmonds opposed the calling of Edmonds' wife as a witness because she was recovering from heart bypass surgery. Judge Sheridan denied the request and held that Edmonds' wife would be required to testify during the hearing. According to the Complaint, Edmonds resigned his judgeship to avoid the necessity of his wife's testimony.

The Complaint sets forth other miscellaneous charges against one or more of the defendants. However, the foregoing core allegations comprise the basis of the eight counts in which Edmonds seeks compensatory damages of $40 million, punitive damages of $10 million, an injunction requiring that he be reinstated as a state court judge, and an award of attorneys fees and costs.

Count I alleges that the defendants retaliated against Edmonds for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech respecting the situation involving the Norfolk court bondsmen. Count II alleges that the defendants affirmatively abused their power. Count III sets forth a claim for the denial of a property interest in the judicial position which Edmonds resigned. Count IV alleges racial discrimination because a white jurist investigated by the JIRC in the fall of 1996 allegedly was treated differently than Edmonds, albeit with respect to charges which did not remotely resemble those brought against Edmonds.

Count V asserts a state law claim of defamation, but does not identify the allegedly

Page 545

defamatory words. Count VI is a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Count VII purports to assert a claim for "capricious and arbitrary action."5 Count VIII charges a conspiracy to injure another in his profession under Va.Code Ann. § 18.2-499.

The Norfolk Judges, the JIRC, Judge Sheridan, Harp and Teich have moved to dismiss the action for various reasons. Each also presents a threshhold challenge to the Court's jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action.


It is somewhat difficult to understand the legal predicate for most of Edmonds' claims, and it is even more difficult to understand the reasoning employed by Edmonds in response to the motions seeking dismissal of the action. Ordinarily, courts are obligated to construe leniently pleadings prepared by pro se litigants. However, as one trained in the law and supposedly skilled enough in it to be a judge, Edmonds is not entitled to the measure of leniency accorded to other pro se litigants.

Having sought to discern the basis for Edmonds' claims, the Court concludes that they are highly suspect, if not entirely lacking in merit. However, it is not necessary to reach the merits of Edmonds' federal claims because the Court is without jurisdiction to entertain them.

A. Jurisdictional Issues: Applicability of the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

1. The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

The defendants assert that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over any of Edmonds' federal constitutional claims by virtue of what has become known as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine clearly establishes the rule that federal district courts lack jurisdiction to hear constitutional claims that have been adjudicated by state courts or that are "inextricably intertwined with the merits of a state court judgment." Suarez Corp. Indus. v. McGraw, 125 F.3d 222, 228 (4th Cir.1997); see also Jordahl v. Democratic Party of Va., 122 F.3d 192, 199 (4th Cir. 1997).6

In Rooker, the Supreme Court held that the only federal...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • Kemler v. Poston, Civ.A. 3:00CV146.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 11 Agosto 2000
    ...District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); see also Edmonds v. Clarkson, 996 F.Supp. 541 JEAC Formal Opinion No. 99-6 And The Plaintiffs' Action On November 15, 1999, JEAC issued Formal Opinion No. 99-6 ("Opinion No. 99-6") which r......
  • Pickens v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., CIVIL CASE NO.: 5:14-CV-00166-RLV-DSC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • 12 Mayo 2016
    .... . . of federalism" by acting as a complete bar to a federal court's authority to hear certain claims. See Edmonds v. Clarkson, 996 F. Supp. 541, 546 (E.D. Va. 1998), aff'd by 165 F.3d 910 (4th Cir. 1998); see also Alder v. James, 238 F.3d 410, 2000 WL 1825422, at *2 (4th Cir. 2000) ("The ......
  • Pejepscot Indus. Park, Inc. v. Maine Cent. R.Co., Civil No. 99-112-P-C.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • 26 Julio 1999
    ...89 F.3d 1244, 1255 (6th Cir.1996); Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187 (2d Cir.1996); Edmonds v. Clarkson, 996 F.Supp. 541, 552 (E.D.Va.1998). As one commentator has if the federal claim was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a district court has no......
  • Hurdle v. Com. of Va Dept. of Environ. Quality, CIV.A. 3:01CV259.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 25 Septiembre 2002
    ...U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923); Brown & Root, Inc. v. Breckenridge, 211 F.3d 194, 198 (4th Cir.2000); Edmonds v. Clarkson, 996 F.Supp. 541, 545 (E.D.Va.1998). A claim is inextricably intertwined with the state court decision if: (1) the party had a reasonable opportunity to rai......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT