Haas vs. Stewart

Filing 920070216

Opinion

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United States Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit UNITED STATES CO URT O F APPEALS TENTH CIRCUIT F I L E D February 16, 2007 Elisabeth A. Shumaker Clerk of Court ROBERT B. HAAS, Plaintiff-Appellant, and M ARIAN T. STUM PF (Involuntary Plaintiff), Plaintiff, v. TH E H ON O RA BLE C . JEA N STEW ART, in her official capacity for the Denver Probate C ourt, Defendant-Appellee. No. 06-1421 (D.C. No. 05-CV-02556-M SK) (D . Colo.) OR D ER AND JUDGM ENT * Before KELLY, M cKA Y, and LUCERO, Circuit Judges. After examining the briefs and the appellate record, this panel has determined unanimously that oral argument would not materially assist the determination of this appeal. See Fed. R. App. P. 34(a)(2); 10th Cir. R. 34.1(G ). The case is therefore ordered submitted without oral argument. This order and judgment is not binding precedent, except under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel. It may be cited, however, for its persuasive value consistent with Fed. R. App. P. 32.1 and 10th Cir. R. 32.1. * Plaintiffs are beneficiaries of a trust w ho are dissatisfied with the probate court's disbursement of monies in that trust to a law firm. Appellant filed a 1983 action against the probate court judge challenging various collateral orders but not the award of monies to the law firm. The district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Appellant argues that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not preclude federal court jurisdiction because his 1983 action seeks only prospective injunctive relief and challenges only administrative orders rather than the final judgment. W e review the district court's dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction de novo. See G uttman v. Khalsa, 446 F.3d 1027, 1031 (10th Cir. 2006). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine operates as a jurisdictional limit on federal courts, precluding "cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings comm enced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005); see also Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994) (stating that Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents "a party losing in state court . . . from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of [a] state judgment in a United States district court, based on the losing party's claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser's federal rights"). "To determine whether a federal -2- plaintiff's claim is inextricably intertwined with a state court judgment we must pay close attention to the relief the plaintiff seeks." Crutchfield v. Countrywide Home Loans, 389 F.3d 1144, 1147-48 (10th Cir. 2004). As A ppellant is proceeding pro se, he is afforded liberal treatment. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). The fact that Appellant contends he is challenging only collateral orders does not save his appeal. 1 Under Colorado law, Appellant's right to appeal the probate court's collateral orders merged into the final judgment. See Nw. M utual Life Ins. Co. v. First Interstate Bank of Denver, 703 P.2d 1314, 1317 (Colo. Ct. App. 1985). Appellant has not filed an appeal with the C olorado state court system regarding this case. After his time to appeal expired, Appellant filed the instant action. The jurisdictional question therefore falls within the ambit of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Cf. Federacion de M aestros de Puerto Rico v. Junta de Relaciones del Trabajo de Puerto Rico, 410 F.3d 17, 24 (1st Cir. 2005) (discussing effect of Supreme Court's decision in Exxon M obile on timing of Rooker-Feldman doctrine in relation to interlocutory orders). Accordingly, after reviewing the parties' briefs, the record on appeal, and the district court's decision, we agree with the district court that the 1983 action This contention is specious at best. It is apparent from Appellant's Verified Complaint that he is seeking reversal of these orders in order to challenge the probate court's ultimate award. -3- 1 challenging the collateral orders is inextricably intertwined with the probate court award and we therefore AFFIRM the district court's dismissal of the action. Entered for the Court M onroe G. M cKay Circuit Judge -4-

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