Stone v. Saint Joseph County Board of Commissioners
OPINION AND ORDER: Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and his 2 motion to proceed in forma pauperis is DENIED. The Clerk shall treat this civil action as TERMINATED. All other pending motions in this action are DENIED AS MOOT. Signed by Judge Philip P Simon on 11/6/2017. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(jss) Modified on 11/7/2017, resent to pltf per 11 change of address (jss).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
SAINT JOSEPH COUNTY BOARD OF
) CAUSE NO. 3:17-CV-794-PPS-MGG
OPINION AND ORDER
Kiel Stone, a pro se plaintiff, filed a complaint that seeks relief from a restraining
order entered against him in state court proceedings. [DE 1.] Stone seeks to proceed
with this lawsuit without paying the filing fee. [DE 2.] Because he is trying to file this
case free of charge, I must review the complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous
or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B).
Section 1915(e)(2)(B) applies to prisoner and non-prisoner complaints alike, regardless
of fee status. Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. 1999).
In this case, Stone’s complaint must be dismissed because this Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over it. In Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and District
of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983), the United States Supreme
Court held that federal district courts lack jurisdiction to entertain appeals of the
decisions of a state’s highest court. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine has been extended to
apply to decisions of lower state courts. See Beth-El All Nations Church v. City of Chicago,
486 F.3d 286, 292 (7th Cir. 2007). Under the doctrine, a litigant may not obtain federal
court review of a state court judgment merely by recasting it as a civil rights action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id.
Stone asserts that he is seeking a stay of the St. Joseph Circuit Court’s Order
After Hearing on Petition of Employer for Injunction Prohibiting Violence or Threats of
Violence Against Employee. [DE 1 at 12-16.] But what he essentially is asking me to do
is vacate the restraining order and allow him to do exactly what the order
restricts—contact employees of St. Joseph County and the attorneys and professionals
representing St. Joseph County. Stone argues that the order violates his constitutional
rights because he is unable to do such things as file a lawsuit and call St. Joseph County
police. Because Stone is seeking review of a state court judgment and has merely recast
it as a civil rights action, this Court is without jurisdiction to hear his claims.
Furthermore, the Anti-Injunction Act also potentially leaves this Court without
jurisdiction to hear Stone’s claims. The Anti-Injunction Act bars a district court from
enjoining pending “proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act
of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its
judgments.” 28 U.S.C. § 2283. “The Act is designed to prevent friction between state
and federal courts and to protect state courts from federal interference.” Ramsden v.
AgriBank, FCB, 214 F.3d 865, 868 (7th Cir. 2000). As a result, the three exceptions to the
Act are to be applied narrowly, and “[a]ny doubts as to the propriety of a federal
injunction against state court proceedings should be resolved in favor of permitting the
state courts to proceed in an orderly fashion to finally determine the controversy.”
Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 297 (1970).
Moreover, if the requested injunction does not fall within one of the exceptions, the Act
“absolutely prohibits in such an action all federal equitable intervention . . . regardless
of how extraordinary the particular circumstances may be.” Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S.
225, 229 (1972). Stone’s request for a stay of the enforcement of portions of the St.
Joseph Circuit Court’s order does not fall within any of the exceptions and, as such, this
Court may not intervene in the underlying state court proceedings.
For all of the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and his motion to proceed in forma pauperis is DENIED [DE 2]. The
Clerk shall treat this civil action as TERMINATED. All other pending motions in this
action are DENIED AS MOOT.
ENTERED: November 6, 2017.
s/ Philip P. Simon
PHILIP P. SIMON, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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