Panos vs. Supreme Court of UT

Filing 920060821

Opinion

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United States Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit UNITED STATES CO URT O F APPEALS FO R TH E TENTH CIRCUIT F I L E D August 21, 2006 Elisabeth A. Shumaker Clerk of Court CLIFTO N W . PANOS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SUPREM E COURT OF UTAH, a governmental entity; CHIEF JUSTICE CHRISTINE DURHAM , in her individual and official capacity; ASSOC. CH IEF JUSTICE M ICH AEL J. W ILKINS, in his individual and official capacity; JUSTICE M ATTHEW B. DURRANT, in his individual and official capacity; JUSTICE JILL N. PA RRISH , in her individual and official capacity; JU STICE RONALD NEHRING, in his individual and official capacity; SPECIAL M ASTER JUDITH S. ATHERTON, in her individual and official capacity, Defendants-Appellees. No. 06-4000 (D.C. No. 2:05-CV-950-TC) (D. Utah) OR D ER AND JUDGM ENT * * After examining the briefs and 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 This order and judgment is not binding precedent, except under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel. The court generally disfavors the citation of orders and judgments; nevertheless, an order and judgment may be cited under the terms and (continued...) Before TA CH A, Chief Judge, O'BRIEN, and M cCO NNELL, Circuit Judges. Plaintiff-Appellant Clifton W . Panos filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights complaint in the federal district court against the Supreme Court of Utah, all of its Justices, and a Special M aster of the Court, individually and in their official capacities, seeking to enjoin enforcement of certain orders issued against him. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. M r. Panos appeals, and we affirm. The Supreme Court of Utah issued an order in April 2005 (the "Sanctions Order") imposing certain filing and contact restrictions against M r. Panos, and it has twice cited M r. Panos for contempt of court. M r. Panos then filed his 1983 complaint in federal district order claiming that the Sanctions Order and the contempt citations violate his federal and constitutional rights to court access, free association, free expression, and equal protection. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the Utah Supreme Court and the defendants from enforcing the contempt citations and the Sanction Order. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, ruling that M r. Panos' challenge of the U tah Supreme Court's orders was barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See D.C. Court of Appeals v. * (...continued) conditions of 10th Cir. R. 36.3. -2- Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983); Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923). W e review de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Kiowa Indian Tribe of Okla. v. Hoover, 150 F.3d 1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 1998). W e construe M r. Panos' pleadings liberally because he appears pro se. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars "cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U .S. 280, 284 (2005). This doctrine is based upon an inference that follow s from 28 U.S.C. 1257(a), which provides that "[f]inal judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a State in which a decision could be had, may be review ed by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari." Because appellate jurisdiction over state court judgments has been vested exclusively in the Supreme Court, "no court of the United States other than [the Supreme Court] could entertain a proceeding to reverse or modify the judgment" of a state's highest court. Rooker, 263 U.S. at 416. M r. Panos' 1983 complaint complains of an injury caused by state court judgments, here the contempt citations and the Sanction Order, and he seeks review and rejection of those orders. Although he is nominally seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, M r. Panos is seeking to reverse the Utah -3- Supreme Court's contempt citations and Sanction Order. See Stern v. Nix, 840 F.2d 208, 212 (3d Cir. 1988) (ruling that Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprived district court of jurisdiction over 1983 complaint seeking to enjoin enforcement of state court disciplinary disbarment order because suit effectively required review of the state court's order). M r. Panos contends that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is inapplicable because the state court, in imposing the contempt citations and the Sanctions Order, w as acting in an administrative, not a judicial, capacity. See Feldman, 460 U.S. at 479 (holding that Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply when proceedings before the court are not judicial in nature, but legislative, ministerial, or administrative). W e disagree. The Utah Supreme Court was not engaged in general rulemaking; both the contempt citations and the Sanctions Order involved judicial inquiries, and were clearly judicial in nature. See In re Chapman, 328 F.3d 903, 904 (7th Cir. 2003) (holding that imposition of filing restrictions are judicial in nature, not administrative); Crooks v. M aynard, 913 F.2d 699 (9th Cir. 1990) (holding that judge's contempt citation, even against a non-litigant, is clearly a judicial act). -4- The district court correctly ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over M r. Panos' complaint pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRM ED. M r. Panos' motion for appointment of counsel is DENIED, and his second renewed motion for injunctive relief pending appeal is DENIED as moot. Entered for the Court Deanell Reece Tacha Chief Circuit Judge -5-

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