McCall et al v. Hardwick et al (JOINT ASSIGN)(MAG+)
ORDER as follows: 1. Plaintiff's 8 Objection is OVERRULED. 2. The 7 Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge is ADOPTED. 3. Plaintiff's 9 Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint is DENIED. 4. This case is DISMISSED without prejudice. A separate final judgment will be entered. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 4/11/2016. (dmn, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
HARRY L. MCCALL, et al.,
JOHNNY HARDWICK, et al.,
) CASE NO. 2:16-CV-80-WKW
On February 29, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered a Recommendation (Doc.
# 7) that this case be dismissed prior to service of process pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). On March 14, 2016, Plaintiffs timely filed an Objection (Doc. #
8) to the Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. The same day, Plaintiffs also
filed a Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint and Stay Proceeding on
Recommendation. (Doc. # 9.)
The Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal for several reasons. First,
because Plaintiffs’ federal claims are inextricably intertwined with a previous state
court judgment,1 this court is without jurisdiction to hear the instant action. See
Federal claims are inextricably intertwined with state claims where (1) the success of the
federal claim would effectively nullify the state court judgment, or (2) the federal claim can
succeed only to the extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues. Casale v. Tillman, 558
F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009). Because Plaintiffs seek a stay of the state court order on grounds
of perceived judicial bias against them in the state court proceedings, success in the instant federal
action would effectively nullify the state court’s judgment.
Casale v. Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing D.C. Court of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983), and Rooker v. Fid. Trust Co., 263
U.S. 413, 415–16 (1923). Second, because Defendant Mortgage Depot is not a state
actor, it cannot be liable under § 1983, which forms the basis of Plaintiffs’ claims.
See Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127, 1130–32 (11th Cir. 1992). Third, to the extent
Plaintiffs seek to recover monetary damages against Defendant Hardwick, the claims
are barred by absolute judicial immunity. See, e.g., Jarallah v. Simmons, 191 F.
App’x 918, 920 (11th Cir. 2006). Fourth, to the extent Plaintiffs seek injunctive
relief against Defendant Hardwick, they have not alleged any facts supporting the
conclusion that Hardwick violated a declaratory decree or that declaratory relief was
unavailable to them. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Fifth, the allegations regarding
Hardwick’s purported bias during the state court proceedings are conclusory, and
thus insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
The Recommendation contemplated the possibility of allowing Plaintiffs to
amend their complaint. The Magistrate Judge reasoned that, because the requested
relief ultimately would result in nullification of an earlier state court judgment, such
an amendment would be futile. Plaintiffs also availed themselves of an opportunity
to address the deficiencies in their complaint when they filed objections to the
Upon an independent review of the complaint, the
Recommendation, the objections, and the motion for leave to amend the complaint,
Plaintiffs’ objections are due to be overruled, the Recommendation is due to be
adopted, and the motion for leave to amend the complaint is due to be denied.
Plaintiffs’ objections to the Recommendation will be overruled. Relying on
the fraud exception to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Plaintiffs contend that the court
has jurisdiction to hear this action. See In re Sun Valley Foods Co., 801 F.2d 186,
189 (6th Cir. 1986). The Eleventh Circuit has refused, however, to adopt this fraud
exception to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Velasquez v. S. Fla. Fed. Credit
Union, 546 F. App’x 854, 859 (11th Cir. 2013); Scott v. Frankel, 606 F. App’x 529,
532 n.4 (11th Cir. 2015).
Even if the Eleventh Circuit had recognized this exception, Plaintiffs’
allegations are insufficient to support its application in this context. Plaintiffs
contend that the court reporter was unable to produce the transcript from a hearing
regarding the state court action. The court reporter later informed Plaintiffs that she
was unable to produce a transcript from that hearing because no hearing in fact took
place on the date in question. (See Doc. # 8-1, at 1–2.) Plaintiffs further contend
that Judge Hardwick was rude during a hearing. These allegations are insufficient
to support the reasonable inference that the state court judgment was procured
Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend the complaint will be denied. Though a
pro se litigant should be given at least one opportunity to amend his complaint, the
court need not allow an amendment where doing so would be futile. Cornelius v.
Bank of Am., N.A., 585 F.3d 541, 542 (11th Cir. 2002). Plaintiffs were afforded an
opportunity to file objections to the Recommendation. They were also afforded an
opportunity to explain, in their motion for leave to amend the complaint, how justice
requires an amendment. Neither the Objection (Doc. # 8) nor the motion for leave
to amend (Doc. # 9) indicates that the complaint seeks anything other than a review
of a previous state court judgment that is inextricably intertwined with the claims
presented here. As noted in the Recommendation, allowing an amendment would
be futile because the claims asserted in this action are barred under Rooker-Feldman.
Even a more carefully drafted complaint could not state a claim for relief because
Plaintiffs ultimately seek federal review and rejection of a final state court judgment.
See Bank v. Pitt, 928 F.2d 1108, 1112 (11th Cir. 1991), overruled in part by Wagner
v. Daewoo Heavy Indus. Am. Corp., 314 F.3d 541, 542 (11th Cir. 2002).
Accordingly, it is ORDERED as follows:
Plaintiffs’ Objection to the Recommendation (Doc. # 8) is
The Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (Doc. # 7) is
Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc. # 9) is
This case is DISMISSED without prejudice.
A separate final judgment will be entered.
DONE this 11th day of April, 2016.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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