Segler v. The Ross Management Group, Inc.
ORDER of Dismissal. Complaint and the action are dismissed without prejudice. Leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal is denied. Denying as moot 4 Emergency Motion for Immediate Stay of Eviction Pending Disposition of Plaintiffs Complaint Asserting Violation of Civil Rights Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 6 Append of Emergency Motion for Immediate Stay of Eviction Which is now Set for Monday, June 11, 2012, by Judge Lewis T. Babcock on 6/7/12.(gmssl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 12-cv-01440-BNB
SYLVIA A. SEGLER,
THE ROSS MANAGEMENT GROUP, INC., and
MARY CELESTE, In her official capacity as County Court Judge of Denver County
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
Plaintiff, Sylvia A. Segler, is a resident of Denver, Colorado. Acting pro se, Ms.
Segler initiated this action by filing a Complaint and a Motion and Affidavit for Leave to
Proceed Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. On June 5, 2012, Magistrate Judge Boyd N.
Boland granted Ms. Segler’s request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
The Court must liberally construe the Complaint because Ms. Segler is not
represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). If the Complaint reasonably can be
read “to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, [the Court] should do so
despite the plaintiff’s failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal
theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading
requirements.” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. However, the Court should not act as an
advocate for a pro se litigant. See id.
Ms. Segler asserts a violation of her Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. In general, Ms. Segler asserts that Defendant Ross Management
Group, Inc., filed an illegal FED (Forcible Entry and Detainer) action against her for the
purpose of eviction and that the Denver County Court granted possession to the Ross
Management Group without a hearing. Ms. Segler further asserts that the county court
subsequently vacated the eviction ruling and the case was dismissed in October 2011,
but that on May 9, 2012, Ross Management filed a motion regarding the dismissed FED
action. Ms. Segler further asserts that pursuant to the motion the court held a hearing
without notifying her, again placed an eviction notice on her door on May 16, 2012, and
barred her attempt to appeal the eviction. Based on these actions, Ms. Segler contends
Ross Management and Judge Mary Celeste violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights.
She seeks money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3), the Court must dismiss an action if the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The issue of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised
sua sponte by the Court at any time during the course of the proceedings. See
McAlester v. United Air Lines, Inc., 851 F.2d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir. 1988). “The party
seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court must demonstrate that the case is
within the court’s jurisdiction.” United States v. Bustillos, 31 F.3d 931, 933 (10th Cir.
The Court has examined the Complaint filed in this action and finds that the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Ms. Segler may not challenge the Denver Court
eviction proceeding in this action. This is because the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
provides that federal courts, other than the United States Supreme Court, lack
jurisdiction to adjudicate claims seeking review of state court judgments. See District of
Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 486 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity
Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes
“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); see also Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S.
997, 1005-06 (1994) (stating that the losing party in a state court proceeding is
generally “barred from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state
court 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.”). Review of the state court
judgment must proceed to the state’s highest court and then to the United States
Supreme Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1257. See Facio v. Jones, 929 F.2d 541, 543
(10th Cir. 1991).
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars not only cases seeking direct review of state
court judgments; it also bars cases that are “inextricably intertwined” with a prior state
court judgment. See Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482 n.16. “To determine whether a federal
plaintiff’s claim is inextricably intertwined with a state court judgment, [the Court] must
pay close attention to the relief the plaintiff seeks.” Crutchfield v. Countrywide Home
Loans, 389 F.3d 1144, 1147-48 (10th Cir. 2004). “Where a plaintiff seeks a remedy that
would disrupt or undo a state court judgment, the federal claim is inextricably
intertwined with the state court judgment.” Id. at 1148. Furthermore, the RookerFeldman doctrine “precludes not only review of adjudications of the state’s highest
court, but also the decisions of its lower courts.” See Jordahl v. Democratic Party of
Va., 122 F.3d 192, 199 (4th Cir. 1997).
As noted above, Ms. Segler is challenging the judgment entered against her in
Denver District Court Case No. 2011C70140. Review of the claims Ms. Segler raises in
this action would require the Court to review the state court judgment. Therefore, the
Court finds that the Complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Van Sickle v. Holloway, 791 F.2d 1431,
1436 (10th Cir. 1986).
In addition, Defendant Judge Mary Celeste is absolutely immune from liability in
civil rights suits when she is acting in her judicial capacity, unless she acts in the clear
absence of all jurisdiction. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991); Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978); Hunt v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1263, 1266-67 (10th
Cir. 1994). Judge Celeste’s involvement in Ms. Segler’s state court proceeding are
actions taken in her judicial capacity. There is no indication that Judge Celeste was
acting in the clear absence of all jurisdiction. Therefore, the claims Ms. Segler asserts
against Judge Celeste also are barred by absolute judicial immunity.
Nonetheless, the Court will dismiss the action for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The Court also certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal
from this Order is not taken in good faith, and, therefore, in forma pauperis status is
denied for the purpose of appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438
(1962). If Ms. Segler files a notice of appeal he must also pay the full $455.00 appellate
filing fee or file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis in the Tenth Circuit within thirty
days in accordance with Fed. R. App. P. 24. Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that the Complaint and the action are dismissed without prejudice
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). It is
FURTHER ORDERED that leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal is
denied. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that Ms. Segler’s “Emergency Motion for Immediate Stay
of Eviction Pending Disposition of Plaintiff’s Complaint Asserting Violation of Civil Rights
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,” ECF No. 4, and her “Append of Emergency Motion for
Immediate Stay of Eviction Which is now Set for Monday, June 11, 2012,” ECF No. 6,
are denied as moot.
DATED at Denver, Colorado, this
BY THE COURT:
s/Lewis T. Babcock
LEWIS T. BABCOCK, Senior Judge
United States District Court
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