Som v. Supreme Court of Alabama et al (JOINT ASSIGN)(MAG+)
ORDER Construing 16 Second Amended Complaint as containing an Objection to Report and Recommendation; ORDERING that: (1) plf's 16 objections are OVERRULED; (2) the 15 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge is ADOPTED; and (3) this case is dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B). Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 2/17/16. (djy, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ERIC M. SOM,
SUPREME COURT OF
ALABAMA, et al.,
CASE NO. 2:15-CV-519-WKW
On January 22, 2016, the Magistrate Judge filed a Recommendation (Doc.
# 15) that Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (Doc. # 14) be dismissed because
the court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claims under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine and the Eleventh Amendment. Plaintiff filed the first amended complaint
after the court dismissed his original complaint for lack of jurisdiction and allowed
him an opportunity to amend. (Doc. # 13.) However, the Recommendation found
that the first amended complaint failed to correct the jurisdictional defects in the
original complaint. (Doc. # 15, at 2–3.)
On February 5, 2016, the deadline to object to the Recommendation,
Plaintiff filed a document titled “Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint.” (Doc.
# 16.) In this pleading, Plaintiff again argues for an exception to the Rooker-
Feldman doctrine and adds an argument against Eleventh Amendment immunity.
(Doc. # 16, at 2–5.) Plaintiff also amends the ad damnum clause of each count to
“respectfully request this Honorable Court to issue injunctive and declaratory
relief against the defendants.”
(See Docs. # 14, 16, Counts 1–4 ad damnum
clauses.) The court construes this Second Amended Complaint as containing an
objection to the Recommendation and has conducted an independent and de novo
review of those portions of the Recommendation to which objections are made, see
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). For the reasons that follow, the Recommendation is due to
be adopted, and the case will be dismissed.
The Recommendation on Plaintiff’s original complaint, as adopted by the
court, determined that “the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars plaintiff’s claims for
declaratory and equitable relief as to his application for admission to the Alabama
State Bar.” (Doc. # 9, at 11.) In an attempt to overcome the Rooker-Feldman bar,
Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint requested compensatory and punitive
damages in the ad damnum clause for Count 1. (Doc. # 14, at 2–4, 14.) The
Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of the amended count, and Plaintiff now
attempts to change the requested relief back to declaratory and injunctive relief.
He also amends his Rooker-Feldman argument and insists that an exception to the
Rooker-Feldman bar applies because “the state mandamus proceeding failed to
provide plaintiff with [a] reasonable opportunity to litigate his claim.” (Doc. # 16,
Whether Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages or declaratory
and injunctive relief is inconsequential. That is because Count 1 is barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine not based on the requested relief, but because of the
claim’s relationship to the issues involved in the state court proceeding.
Goodman ex rel. Goodman v. Sipos, 259 F.3d 1327, 1333 (11th Cir. 2001). A
district court does not have jurisdiction over a claim that is “inextricably
intertwined” with a state court proceeding so that the claim only succeeds to the
extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues before it. Id. at 1332. The
Eleventh Circuit recognizes an exception to the Rooker-Feldman bar when a
plaintiff has not had a “reasonable opportunity to raise his federal claims in the
state court proceedings.” Dale v. Moore, 121 F.3d 624, 626–27 (11th Cir. 1997)
(citing Wood v. Orange Cty., 715 F.2d 1543, 1547 (11th Cir. 1983)). It has held,
however, that a “frustrated bar applicant” bringing a challenge “based on
constitutional or other grounds, that a state court’s judicial decision in a particular
case has resulted in the unlawful denial of admission to a particular applicant” does
not fall within that exception. Id. As both Recommendations of the Magistrate
Judge make clear, Count 1 only succeeds if the state court determination of
Plaintiff’s mandamus petition was incorrect. (Doc. # 9, at 11–12; Doc. # 15, at 6.)
Therefore, the Rooker-Feldman bar applies to Count 1 of the first and second
amended complaints, and Plaintiff’s objection is without merit.1 To the extent that
Plaintiff argues that Eleventh Amendment immunity does not bar his claims, the
Magistrate Judge considered the exceptions to immunity and found that they did
not apply. Plaintiff’s objection is without merit.
Counts 2–4 of the Second Amended Complaint are not substantially
different from those in the First Amended Complaint. Plaintiff’s objections to
dismissal of these counts are without merit.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED that:
Plaintiff’s objections (Doc. # 16) are OVERRULED;
The Recommendation (Doc. # 15) is ADOPTED; and
The case is dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
A separate final judgment will be entered.
DONE this 17th day of February, 2016.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff also asserts that because the state action was a writ of mandamus and thus an
exceptional remedy, the Rooker-Feldman bar should not apply. The court considered and
rejected the argument that a writ of mandamus is not a judicial proceeding during the review of
the first Recommendation. (See Doc. # 9, at 10 n.10; Doc. # 12, at 9–10.)
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