Submitted: December 13, 2017
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis
SMITH, Chief Judge, ARNOLD and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
King sued the City of Crestwood, Missouri ("City")
after successfully defending himself in its municipal court
against a charge that he violated an ordinance. Following the
dismissal of the charge, Municipal Judge John Newsham
("Judge Newsham"), who presided over the matter,
denied King's motion for costs and attorney's fees
incurred in his defense. King sought redress by filing suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City and Judge
Newsham. He now appeals the district
court's dismissal of his action. We affirm.
April 2013, King visited a bowling alley in Crestwood, a
municipality located in St. Louis County. At closing time,
several inebriated patrons became rowdy, and a fight
involving two people ensued. King intervened, stopping the
fight by drawing a gun. When police arrived, they brought the
situation under control but made no arrests.
months later, the City filed an amended information in the
Municipal Court of Crestwood, Missouri. It charged King
with violating Crestwood Municipal Code § 16.12, the
City's disorderly conduct ordinance, and stated,
"Upon information and belief, Defendant inserted himself
into the altercation and, at some point, drew his firearm.
Upon information and belief, Defendant pointed his firearm at
[one of the combatants]." Complaint at 7, King v.
City of Crestwood, Missouri, No. 4:16-cv-01383-AGF (E.D.
Mo. Aug. 28, 2016), ECF No. 1.
filed an answer in which he pleaded not guilty and, relying
on Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 563.026, .031, and .074,
asserted the affirmative defense of justification. He filed a
subsequent motion bolstering that defense.
bench trial, Judge Newsham found King not guilty of the
charged violation. However, Judge Newsham did not expressly
rule on King's affirmative defense. Several months later,
King filed a motion pursuant to Mo. Ann. Stat. § 563.074
seeking an award of over $27, 000 for the attorney's
fees, costs, and expenses associated with his defense.
Section 563.074 states:
1.Notwithstanding the provisions of section 563.016, a person
who uses force as described in sections 563.031, 563.041,
563.046, 563.051, 563.056, and 563.061 is justified in using
such force and such fact shall be an absolute defense to
criminal prosecution or civil liability.
2.The court shall award attorney's fees, court costs, and
all reasonable expenses incurred by the defendant in defense
of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds
that the defendant has an absolute defense as provided in
subsection 1 of this section.
Newsham subsequently held that the court did not have
jurisdiction over King's petition for the fees and costs
incurred in mounting his justification defense. He analogized
King's case to Bright v. Mollenkamp, 482 S.W.3d
467 (Mo.Ct.App. 2016). The Bright court held that
municipal courts lack jurisdiction to decide a petition for
expungement. Id. at 468. In reaching that
conclusion, the court considered municipal courts' status
as divisions of circuit courts and that their jurisdiction is
limited to ordinance violations. Id. at 468-69.
of appealing the decision of the municipal court within the
state court system, King filed this case in federal court.
King alleged that the City and Judge Newsham, in his official
capacity, violated his federal due process rights by not
granting him attorney's fees, costs, and expenses
available under state law. Count 1 alleged that Judge
Newsham's order "establish[ed] a policy of 'no
jurisdiction' to award costs and attorney fees under
Missouri 'Justification' statutes" and sought
the costs and fees that he requested from the municipal
court, $250, 000 in damages, and a declaration that the
"policy" is "unconstitutional and void."
Complaint at 13. Count 2 sought a
[j]udgment declaring Judge Newsham's Order of June 2,
2016 unconstitutional and void; that any and all judicial
policies, practices, and customs purporting to avoid
jurisdiction over "Justification" defenses arising
out [of] the Federal and Missouri Constitution, statutes,
rules, ordinances, and case law are Unconstitutional in
violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States
Constitution, together with any further relief and remedy
allowed by law or equity.
King prays Judgment of damages from Judge News[ham], jointly
and severally with Crestwood, as in COUNT 1, acknowledging
the District Court is obliged to follow the law of
"judicial immunity" as expressed in Pierson v.
Ray [, 386 U.S. 547 (1967)], while King ...