Stauffer et al v. Blair et al
ORDER For the reasons stated in Judge Watanabes recommendation, this Court (1) DENIES Plaintiffs subject motion ECF No. 3 , overrules their objections ECF Nos. 9 , 11 , 12 , & 17 . (2) DISMISSES this action sua sponte under the doctrines of Rooker-Feldman and res judicata, by Judge Raymond P. Moore on 1/15/2015.(evana, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge Raymond P. Moore
Civil Action No. 13-cv-03256-RM-MJW
HANNAH SHELBY STAUFFER,
COLORADO MEDICAL BILLING CORPORATION,
STAUFFER SCHOOLS, INC. and
KIDS CAMPS, INC. (nonprofit corp.),
JOLENE C. BLAIR,
KAREN E. HAYES, D.O.,
A WOMAN’S PLACE OF FORT COLLINS, P.L.L.P.,
MONTGOMERGY, KOLODNY, AMATUZIO & DUSABEK, L.L.P.,
J. BRADFORD MARCH, III,
MARCH, OLIVE, & PHARRIS, L.L.P.,
CHERYL TRINE LAW FIRM, LLC,
CHRISTINE SKORBERT, and
A WOMAN’S HEALING CENTER, LLC.,
ORDER ADOPTING RECOMMENDATIONS (ECF No. 8) AND OVERRULING
PLAINTIFFS’ OBJECTIONS (ECF Nos. 9, 11, 12, 17, 18, & 19)
This matter is before the Court on United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe’s
recommendation (the “Recommendation”) (ECF No. 8) that this Court deny Plaintiffs’ Fed. R.
Civ. P. Rule 60(b)(4) Motion Collaterally Attacking Void Colorado State Court Judgment for
Lack of Jurisdiction Over Plaintiffs (ECF No. 3); that Plaintiffs’ Complaint be dismissed sua
sponte, and final judgment enter dismissing this action and all claims therein with prejudice; and
that the Court consider imposing a sanction upon the Plaintiffs pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id.). Plaintiffs have filed numerous documents containing objections
to Judge Watanabe’s Recommendation. (ECF Nos. 9, 11, 12, & 17) (collectively, the
“Objections”). For the reasons below, the Objections are OVERRULED and the
Recommendation is ADOPTED.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
Review of Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation
When a magistrate judge issues a recommendation on a dispositive matter, Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3) requires that the district court judge “determine de novo any part of
the magistrate judge’s [recommendation] that has been properly objected to.” In conducting its
review, “[t]he district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive
further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b)(3). An objection is proper if it is filed timely in accordance with the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and specific enough to let the “district judge…focus attention on those issues—
factual and legal—that are at the heart of the parties’ dispute.” United States v. 2121 E. 30th St.,
73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996) (quoting Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985)).
Pro se plaintiff standard
Plaintiffs are proceeding pro se; thus, the Court must liberally construe their pleadings.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520–21 (1972). The Court, however, cannot act as advocate for
Plaintiffs, who must still comply with the fundamental requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991).
Res judicata bars the re-litigation of cases dismissed with prejudice
A dismissal with prejudice is a decision on the merits and is a bar to a further action
under the doctrine of res judicata. Mars v. McDougal, 40 F.2d 247, 249 (10th Cir. 1930).
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is a jurisdictional prohibition based on 28 U.S.C. § 1257
which holds that federal review of state court judgments may be obtained only in the United
States Supreme Court. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); Dist. of Columbia
Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies to bar
“a party losing in state court . . . from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the
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.” Johnson v. DeGrandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005–06
(1994). In other words, it applies to “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).
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND ANALYSIS
On November 29, 2013, Plaintiffs filed “Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 60(b)(4) Motion
Collaterally Attacking Void Colorado State Court Judgment for Lack of Jurisdiction Over
Plaintiffs.” (ECF No. 3). In that motion, Plaintiffs state they are collaterally attacking a state
court judgment dated December 19, 2007, in District Case No. 03-cv-1729 in Larimer County.
They assert, among other things, that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine (hereinafter, “RookerFeldman”) is inapplicable “to this and all other actions by Plaintiffs/Nonparties” and that the
doctrine of res judicata is also inapplicable. (See ECF No. 8 at 2). In addition, they contend that
two prior actions in this court, civil action Nos. 12-cv-01702-WYD-MJW and 11-cv-02389WYD-MJW, are null and void. (Id). Judge Watanabe recommended denying this Motion.
Since Judge Watanabe issued his recommendation, Plaintiffs have filed six documents
that one can interpret as stating objections: a corrected motion collaterally attacking void
Colorado State Court judgment (ECF No. 9); the objection to the Recommendation filed by
Plaintiff Hannah Shelby Stauffer (ECF No. 11); the objection the Recommendation filed by John
Stauffer (ECF No. 12); the objection to the Recommendation filed by Plaintiffs Hannah Shelby
Stauffer, John Stauffer (ECF No. 17); the Request for a Ruling from Judge Moore on the motion
collaterally attacking void Colorado State Court judgment (ECF No. 9) by Plaintiffs Hannah
Shelby Stauffer, John Stauffer (ECF No. 18); the supplement/amendment to the motion
collaterally attacking void Colorado State Court judgment (ECF No. 9) for Order by Plaintiffs
Hannah Shelby Stauffer. (ECF No. 19). Plaintiffs set forth their objections comprehensively and
most intelligibly in John Stauffer’s Objection (ECF No. 12, hereinafter the “John Stauffer
Objection”). The other filings by Plaintiffs do not raise novel claims that are both germane to the
Recommendation and distinct from the John Stauffer Objection. (ECF No. 12).
The John Stauffer Objection lays out the following enumerated objections: (I) that the
Colorado state court judgment dated December 19, 2007 is void for lack of subject matter and
personal jurisdiction over the parties; (II) Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment “due process” right to be
represented by an attorney of their choice has been violated since December 19, 2007; (III)
Plaintiffs may raise the “state court void judgment issue” collaterally until the district court rules
on it; (IV) the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is “completely inapplicable” to this and all other actions
by Plaintiffs; (V) res judicata is “completely inapplicable” to Plaintiffs’ action because its three
requirements were not present; (VI) the prior civil actions involving these Plaintiffs (Nos. 12-cv1702 and 11-cv-2389) are void; (VII) there was not the required prior notice and hearing before
deprivation of Plaintiffs’ property; and (VIII) claim preclusion/res judicata applied to
Defendants’ asserted claims in the state court post-judgment proceeding.
Having carefully reviewed the record, the controlling case law, and the Objections, the
Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Watanabe’s Recommendation. The Court will analyze each
objection raised in the John Stauffer Objection. (ECF No. 12). As objections I, II, III, VI, VII
and VIII, deal with the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Court will address them together.
Objection V deals with res judicata and the Court will address it separately. The Court will not
address the trusteeship argument raised within objection VI, as it is not specific to any finding in
Judge Watanabe’s recommendation
Objection four and related Rooker-Feldman barred objections
(one, two, three, six, seven, and eight)
For the third time before this Court, Plaintiffs allege the Court’s misapplication of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine to their claims. In the Recommendation and in the previous cases
Rooker-Feldman was correctly applied. Plaintiffs are now “rehashing the same [RookerFeldman] claims” that Judge Daniel dismissed a year ago in 12-cv-01702 (See Docket No. 16 in
that case, Order on Recommendation to Dismiss Case) and 11-cv-02389. The essential point
Plaintiffs seem continually incapable of grasping is that federal courts below the Supreme Court
are not appeals courts for state court decisions. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413
(1923); Dist. of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). Plaintiffs’
Rooker-Feldman arguments have “been thoroughly considered and rejected in the earlier-filed
cases,” the Court will not entertain Plaintiffs’ Rooker-Feldman arguments again. This Court
previously ruled upon them correctly, and now adopts the Recommendation, and overrules
Relatedly, a ruling by this Court on objections one, two, three, six, seven, and eight
would all violate Rooker-Feldman. This Court can address these objections only if it has subject
matter jurisdiction over this case. Inquiring into whether Plaintiffs’ due process rights were
violated at the state court level, the validity of the judgment, and whether res judicata applied at
the state level would necessarily implicate the merits of the state court’s decision. (See ECF No.
126 at 10 in 11-cv-02389-WYD-MJW “[i]f the court were to consider plaintiffs’ arguments, the
court would be forced to directly consider the merits of actions taken by the state trial court”).
As established in Plaintiffs’ two previous cases, Rooker-Feldman bars the Court from doing that
here. Thus, in addition to objection four, objections one, two, three, six, seven, and eight are also
Objection five—res judicata is inapplicable with respect to plaintiffs’ first
Plaintiffs also allege that since their earlier case, number 11-cv-2389, was dismissed
without prejudice, res judicata is inapplicable in the present case. (ECF No. 12 at 2). However,
they neglect to mention that 12-cv-1702, which raised “the same” (by the Plaintiffs’ own
admission) claims as 11-cv-2389, was dismissed by Judge Daniel with prejudice. (See ECF No.
16 at 2 in 12-cv-1702). Claims dismissed with prejudice are barred under the doctrine of res
judicata. Mars v. McDougal, 40 F.2d 247, 249 (10th Cir. 1930) (A dismissal with prejudice is a
decision on the merits and is a bar to a further action under the doctrine of res judicata); see also
Mitchell v. KDJM-FM, 405 Fed. App’x 267, (10th Cir. 2010) (citing Semtek Int'l Inc. v.
Lockheed Martin Corp., 531 U.S. 497, 506 (2001) “[T]he effect of the ‘adjudication upon the
merits' default provision of Rule 41(b) ... is simply that, unlike a dismissal ‘without prejudice,’
the dismissal in the present case barred refiling of the same claim in the [same court]”) (case was
dismissed with prejudice)). Plaintiffs’ second case (12-cv-1701) makes the same allegations as
the first (11-cv-2389) and was dismissed with prejudice. As Plaintiffs are now again making the
same arguments a third time after a dismissal with prejudice, res judicata bars the claim and the
objection is overruled.
Plaintiffs’ trusteeship claim (within objection six) will not be considered by
Plaintiffs allege that in 12-cv-1702 trustees could not bring that action on behalf of
minors and business entities on appeal in the Tenth Circuit. (ECF No. 12 at 13). This objection
is not specific to any finding in Judge Watanabe’s recommendation, and the Court will therefore
not consider it. See United States v. 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996) (An
objection is proper if it is filed timely in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
and specific enough to let the “district judge…focus attention on those issues—factual and
legal—that are at the heart of the parties’ dispute”). This objection is overruled.
Judge Watanabe’s recommendation that this court impose Rule 11 sanctions
Judge Watanabe recommended that this Court direct the Plaintiffs to show cause as to
why they should not be sanctioned based on a violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(2). Judge
Watanabe calls Plaintiffs filings in this matter as “groundless and frivolous.” (ECF No. 8 at 3).
Specifically, Judge Watanabe points out that after Plaintiffs’ appeal of 12-cv-0172 was dismissed
by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for lack of prosecution, Plaintiffs simply filed the instant
action six months later rather than prosecuting the appeal. (Id.). Judge Watanabe is right to say
that “such a tactic should not be tolerated.” (ECF No. 8 at 3). However, at this stage, the Court
declines to impose sanctions. Though, this is not to say that Plaintiffs have done nothing wrong.
They should consider themselves warned that filing these repetitive claims again in this Court
will likely lead to sanctions.
For the reasons stated in Judge Watanabe’s recommendation, this Court
(1) DENIES Plaintiffs’ subject motion (ECF No. 3), overrules their objections (ECF Nos.
9, 11, 12, & 17).
(2) DISMISSES this action sua sponte under the doctrines of Rooker-Feldman and res
DATED this 15th day of January, 2015.
BY THE COURT:
RAYMOND P. MOORE
United States District Judge
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