This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Evelyn C. Wallace,
Judge Marrinan of the Ramsey County District Court
in her Capacity Personally,
Filed September 6, 2005
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John S. Garry, Assistant Attorney General, 1100 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2128 (for respondent Judge Marrinan)
Richard J. Thomas, Bryon G. Ascheman, Burke & Thomas, PLLP, 3900 Northwoods Drive, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55112 (for respondent Ronald Riach)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Nancy C. Lazaryan raised numerous objections to probate proceedings concerning her father’s estate before respondent Judge Margaret Marrinan. Following several adverse rulings, appellant brought suit against Marrinan personally and the estate’s special administrator, respondent Ronald Riach, alleging, respectively, violation of various constitutional rights and fraud. Respondent now appeals from the district court’s dismissal of that suit for failure to state a claim as to both respondents. We affirm.
When reviewing a dismissal
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Minn. R.
Civ. P. 12.02(e), we consider de novo whether the complaint sets forth a
legally sufficient claim for relief. Bodah v. Lakeville Motor Express, Inc.,
663 N.W.2d 550, 553 (
1. Appellant argues that the district court erred by dismissing
her claims against respondent Judge Marrinan as barred by judicial
immunity. The applicability of an
immunity defense is a question of law. Johnson v. State, 553 N.W.2d 40, 45 (
Appellant’s allegations against respondent Judge Marrinan are exclusively concerned with actions taken in the exercise of the judiciary’s statutory authority to administer the estate. See Minn. Stat. § 524.1-302(a) (2004) (providing a district court hearing a probate matter “has full power to make orders, judgments and decrees and take all other action necessary and proper to administer justice in the matters which come before it”). Those actions are protected by judicial immunity. Appellant’s contention that her challenge to the constitutionality of the doctrine of judicial immunity must be decided by a jury has no legal support and is without merit.
2. Appellant argues that the district court erred by dismissing
her claim that Riach made fraudulent statements to the court. The district court concluded that the statements
had legal support and that Riach believed them to be true. See
Specialized Tours, Inc. v. Hagen, 392 N.W.2d 520, 532 (
Appellant argues that the district court was bound to accept as true, for the purposes of the motion to dismiss, her assertions concerning the joint-tenancy ownership she claims her father and mother exercised over certain disputed testamentary property. The existence of a joint tenancy is a legal question not entitled to a presumption of truth in the context of a motion to dismiss. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S. Ct. 2932, 2944 (1986) (observing that in considering a motion to dismiss, the court will consider “all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [but is] not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).
As to appellant’s argument alleging that her mother, defendant Wallace, was a victim of Riach’s fraud, we observe that a special term panel of this court denied a motion filed by Lazaryan and Wallace requesting that Wallace be made a party to this matter. The fraud claim concerning Wallace therefore fails for lack of standing. Appellant did not state a fraud claim upon which relief could be granted.
As to the claim that Riach
violated appellant’s constitutional rights, because Riach is not a state actor,
he is not susceptible to suit for depriving others of their constitutional
rights. See Coller v. Guardian Angels Roman Catholic Church of Chaska, 294
N.W.2d 712, 716-17 (
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.