The lawsuit against Charlevoix 33rd Circuit Judge Richard M. Pajtas was recently dismissed by United States District Judge Robert J. Jonker of the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.
According to court documents filed on Sept. 13, Albert Frost’s $3 million lawsuit against Pajtas—which stemmed from Frost having lost his two log homes, land and church after allegedly violating an agreement on the use of those properties—was dismissed for several reasons.
“Even accepting as true all of the facts plaintiff (Frost) has alleged, plaintiff’s claims against defendant Pajtas are barred for multiple reasons,” Jonker stated in his opinion on the matter. “First, judicial immunity insulates judge Pajtas from plaintiff’s claims, all of which challenge judge Pajtas’ judicial acts…. Judicial immunity is immunity from suit, not just from ultimate assessment of damages.”
Jonker quoted the case of Brookings vs. Clunk of 2004 when he further stated, “Accordingly, judicial immunity applies to acts performed maliciously and corruptly as well as acts performed in bad faith or with malice.”
“I knew it was going to get turned down,” Frost said in a Sept. 29 interview with the Boyne City Gazette. “This week I am sending him (Pajtas) a request for new trial. The new evidence is he was terrible in judging the case.”
Frost said he would also be appealing Jonker’s decision.
According to Jonker, judicial immunity is only overcome in two sets of circumstances.
Judges are not immune from liability for nonjudicial acts.
Judges are also not immune for actions taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.
“Neither of those exceptions is present in this case,” Jonker stated. “All of plaintiff’s claims arise out of judge Pajtas’ conduct of the state court litigation, a classical judicial function. Plaintiff has not suggested that judge Pajtas lacked jurisdiction over the state court litigation, and the record reveals no basis to question judge Pajtas’ jurisdiction over the state court litigation.”
He added, “Accordingly, judicial immunity bars plaintiff’s claims in this lawsuit.”
According to the opinion, Eleventh Amendment immunity also precludes Frost’s claims for money damages.
“Accordingly, plaintiff’s damages claims against judge Pajtas in his official capacity fail,” Jonker stated.
Jonker cited the Rooker-Feldman doctrine in his dismissal of Frost’s desire to appeal Pajtas’ decisions in the 2010 and 2011 cases that ultimately resulted in Frost losing his properties.
“The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents ‘a party losing in the state court … from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment (in federal district court) based on the losing party’s claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser’s federal rights,’” Jonker stated…. “Where Rooker-Feldman applies, a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff seeks appellate review of the state court litigation in federal court—which is precisely what Rooker-Feldman prohibits.”
Frost owned two neighboring properties on Lake Charlevoix that he had bought in 1981. Two of his neighbors sued Frost concerning his maintenance and use of the properties, which were used as vacation rentals. According to court documents, Frost repeatedly violated the order regarding the use of his properties and, as a result, Pajtas ordered the closure of the Frost rental properties and appointed a receiver who subsequently sold the properties.
Frost was awaiting appeal on the first case when the second case, where he lost everything, was decided.
In his suit, Frost had claimed his properties had an actual cash value of $2,550,000 but that he only received a check for $50,000 after his property was liquidated by the receiver. He also claims a loss of nearly $500,000 in rental revenue since the business was shuttered, in addition to the loss of priceless Robert Frost family heirlooms which were allegedly stolen during receivership.