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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge-Stalking Case Belongs in State Court

MEMPHIS (CN) - A dispute over a county judge's request for an order of protection from a serial litigant she claims is stalking her does not belong in federal court, a judge ruled.

Shelby County General Sessions Judge Phyllis Gardner filed a petition for an order of protection against Pamela Moses in September, saying she's felt "terrorized, frightened, intimidated and threatened" by Moses ever since she held the frequent case filer in contempt of court.

"In the petition, Judge Gardner alleged Ms. Moses engaged in a series of activities, including creating a Facebook page that argued against Judge Gardner's re-election, confronting the judge while she was campaigning, handing out flyers at the Shelby County Courthouse advocating for the removal of the judge from her position, and attempting to enter the swearing in ceremony for recently elected judges," according to the ruling.

The Shelby County, Tenn., General Sessions Court granted Gardner a temporary restraining order, but Moses filed a notice of removal on Sept. 15, claiming that the case belongs in federal court because it involves freedom of speech and an elected official.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman adopted a magistrate judge's recommendation to remand the case back to the court in Shelby County.

Moses' objections to the magistrate judge's report "include vague, conclusory statements bereft of any factual or legal support," Lipman ruled.

"Even if Judge Gardner's filing of a temporary restraining order could be considered a state action, which Ms. Moses has failed to demonstrate, this attempt to establish a federal jurisdiction suffers from the same infirmity discussed in the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, specifically that '[c]ounterclaims, even if they rely exclusively on federal substantive law, do not qualify a case for federal-court cognizance'," Lipman wrote. "Because Ms. Moses' amended complaint continues to base her argument for jurisdiction on the purported First Amendment violations found in her counterclaims against Judge Gardner, she again fails to establish this court's jurisdiction."

Moses also failed to demonstrate diversity of citizenship between her and Gardner that would qualify for federal court jurisdiction, Lipman ruled. Both reside in Memphis, according to Moses' own filings.

Moses regularly files pro se complaints in the federal court in Memphis. She calls herself a rapper and community activist and maintains a blog calling for Gardner's removal from office.

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